Printable PDF: Thanksgiving 2017 Sermon
Thanksgiving – November 23, 2017 – John 21:15-17 – Pastor Clark
DO YOU LOVE ME?
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Are you thankful? A simple answer is to say, “Yes.” When are you thankful? Are you thankful right now? Will you be more thankful after you leave? How thankful will you be after you eat, or when the company goes home?
It’s easy to say we are thankful, but what does that mean? Jesus himself asked this question. He had risen, appeared on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, made breakfast for his disciples when he asked Peter if he was thankful. He just used different words. He used words that define thankfulness in a better way than the question, “Are you thankful?” He asked: DO YOU LOVE ME?
It also seems like a harmless question. But if someone asks you that question, why do they ask it? If your child asks you, you are quick to answer. But why did the child need to ask? If your spouse asks the question, why did they need to ask? Certainly, it can be asked by someone who is a little insecure, but it’s a question that reflects doubt. I don’t know if anyone wants the people who love them to be uncertain about whether you love them. I do know this: It was a crushing question for Jesus to ask Peter.
- Painful repetition
Remember it was Peter who had boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16). Peter had cut off a man’s ear (John 18:10) to keep Jesus from being arrested in Gethsemane. It was also Peter who denied knowing Jesus with curses when a servant girl asked him if he was with Jesus.
Jesus knew the answer, but do you think Peter knew? Jesus didn’t want him to just pass it off as simply as you do when people ask you how you are. “I’m fine,” we say, even when it isn’t true. Peter wasn’t fine. He had denied Jesus, and he needed to think deeply about Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” especially when he had vowed to love Jesus more than anyone else. Jesus’ question could easily have been, “You vowed to love me more than anyone else. Then you denied me. So, do you love me?”
I heard about a young man who bought a diamond for a girl and asked her to marry him. She looked at the ring and asked him, “Do you love me?” His words said one thing, his actions said something very different.
So now I ask you the same question? Do you love Jesus? You have made vows, too. Baptismal vows, confirmation vows, marriage vows, vows of service. How has that gone? This is about more than just words. Have you been faithful in a way you feed your faith through Word and Sacrament? Have you been faithful to your marriage vows by putting your spouse first? Do your offerings say you love Jesus more than your internet provider or your cell phone company? And if they don’t, can you really claim to be thankful?
Jesus asked this question of Peter because he wished to restore a denying Peter into a confessing Peter. Jesus is asking you for the same reason. Repentance is needed! Does he need to ask you repeatedly? Those questions hurt! They hurt Peter, and they hurt us. Are you thankful? Do you love Jesus?
- Privileged direction
The mouth that poses that question is the same mouth that says to you and me, “I love YOU.” The hands that reach out to you and me are the hands still scarred with nail holes that turned him into a sacrifice. The arms that reach out to us as beloved sheep are arms by which he hung on the cross for all the times when we should have loved him, but loved ourselves instead.
Each time Jesus asked Peter this question, he directed Peter to service. The word he used for love the first two times is not the word that describes love as an emotion. It is the word which describes love as an action, a sacrificial action, an action which puts love into deeds. The third time is the love that describes such an emotion and yet Jesus still urges him to feed his sheep and keep on feeding them, and that’s what Peter did for the rest of his life.
Jesus did not ask this of the other disciples. He didn’t ask Pontius Pilate or Herod or Caiaphas or the Roman Soldiers. He asked Peter and then gave Peter a direction to show his love.
Maybe that is the best lesson for all of us here this morning. Your Savior speaks to you personally. Do you love me? Then go and carry out that love. The name for that is thankfulness.
For Peter that meant teaching others, adults and children, about Jesus. What form does that thankfulness take in your life? As you ponder this today, after you eat your feast but before you answer him, I suggest you see what Peter saw: A scarred but risen Savior reaching out to you asking, “Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, you know I love you! Let me show you by my thankfulness in my life.” Amen.