"Lovest Thou Me?"
That is a new kind of mastery. There has been service to the Lord, but this is something new, this is maturity. You notice that Paul said the very same thing in another way in 1 Corinthians 13, "A more excellent way show I unto you. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal." and on he goes with what might be, yet without love, and of it all being nothing, and then he goes on to the positive unfolding of the nature of true love. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own ..." and then, without a break, it is to another chapter on another subject, he says, "When I was a child I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things." Oh, love, mature love, true love, this love is not childish in its thoughts and ideas and ways, seeking its own. But mature grownup love, the love now of the man as against the child, is a different thing altogether from that. This is the love of the mature man that Paul is talking about, and it is his way, his lovely way, I was going to say - his clever way of just letting the Corinthians see that it was all childishness, this that was going on in Corinth. "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas" (1 Corinthians 1:12). It is childishness and it is not love, and when you come to mature love, when you grow up, all that sort of thing will go. You will not be selecting your favorites, you will not be doing any of those things the Corinthians were doing.
When thou shalt become a man, thou shalt be under another mastery, and, although you will not like it, your flesh will shrink from it, you will even go to the cross. No man chooses that for his own fleshly comfort, he would shun it; but you will go to the cross. "Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God." He would be so mastered that he would stretch forth his hands - Peter according to tradition was crucified - he would stretch forth his hands, he would be carried not the way he would like, but another way because of another master, the mastery of love, mature love, grownup love.
Now this brings me to this point. The Lord does really need men and women to serve His ends. In may ways there is a need for more young men to come on in the ministry of feeding and tending. A lot of people have interpreted that "Feed My lambs" as Sunday School work. I do not believe the Lord meant that at all. The lambs in this case are not little children, although that may be your ministry and it may be included. You know, one of the most difficult things is to tend and minister to the immature, the spiritually delayed in their growth. But whatever it is, the Lord does need those who will serve Him in ministering to His own. Young men, He does! He needs you to preach the Gospel. He needs you to teach His people, to feed His people. There is a great need. Perhaps you have thought about it and perhaps you have desired it. Perhaps that is your will or your hope. But listen - the need is very great in all phases and directions of the Lord's work, He needs you; but the fact that the Lord needs you does not mean that you can do it, or that He can come now and call you into it and open the way for you. His need may be very great, and yet He may not be able now to open the way for you to come in to serve him in meeting it. Why? It might be that you would come in on some other ground - to be a minister, to be a teacher, to be something; to study up the Bible and then pass on the fruits of your study. All sorts of things you might begin to do, and the Lord is waiting until your heart is broken over this whole situation, and it is such a heart-matter that you come to the place where you say, 'Lord, the only justification of my life is that Your interests are served.' It must be a matter of heart-love for the Lord and for what is His, and not for the work, the ministry, not for anything but for your Lord and what is His. When you get there, and you are found upon your face before the Lord breaking your heart because you see He is not getting what He ought to have, when this becomes the travail of your soul, you will find the Lord will begin to do something. This is the necessary basis for the Lord to bring out His servants. That is what is here. You may come in the way to the place where you find it painful and not likable at all, but that basic grip of the master-love will keep you going when everything would make you run away. When I see young men with ambition to be ministers, I quietly say inside, 'The Lord have mercy upon them.' This is something to be guarded against unless the Lord puts you in and hold you in. Do not have natural ambitions in the Christian realm, but ask the Lord for this love that will hold you in when you would give anything to run away.
The Concentration of Love
If I were to add another word, it would be this - connected with Peter's seemingly superficial reaction to this terrific thing. Suddenly seeing John following on he turned around. The Lord has said, "Follow Me," and he immediately turns around, sees John and says, "Lord, and this man, what?" What I am going to say about it is not all it contains, but it is this, that you are going to be called, appointed, to your particular ministry. Others will be called to theirs and theirs may be in another realm altogether from yours. The Lord's servants are often characterized by a specific ministry. They have to recognize what that is and keep to it.
Effectiveness depends upon concentration and avoidance of either distraction, diversion, or divided interest. There is something in the nature of rebuke in the Lord's rejoinder to Peter - "What is that to thee?" The whole statement seems clearly to mean that the Lord has sovereign rights to dispose of His servants as He wills, and they must not allow themselves to be diverted from what He appoints for them severally.
Love for Him must work out in giving oneself wholly to the thing to which they have been called. Superficially turning therefrom to what is not their calling is itself contrary to love, it is fickleness.
Well, Peter learned this lesson, did his job, and glorified his Lord. He became a true shepherd. No one can read his letters without feeling his love for his Lord above all dividedness of heart. Love works out in faithfulness to the particular function, and faithfulness thereto unto the end - the long last proves the love.