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Lovest Thou Me?

Waiting times can often be testing times, and many great men have broken down in the test of frustration and inactivity which such times can bring. Intentionally of unintentionally they have repudiated solemn commitments and have deranged true priorities. In spiritual experience it is wise to wait on the Lord and to wait for the Lord; to wait for the assurance of the divine will and purpose, and to wait for the divine leading as to response. Such waiting times should not be frustrating.

After His resurrection the Lord Jesus intermittently visited His disciples, strengthening their faith and instructing them in His will for them. The intervals between His visits were obviously testing times. During these intervals Christ was physically absent from His disciples and doubtless this brought to them a feeling of emptiness. They missed their Saviour and Lord. He was so loving, so gracious, so gentle and so authoritative that when He withdrew from the disciples the void seemed unbearable. Empty indeed is the life from which Christ is absent.

It was in one of these breaks that Simon Peter exclaimed, "I go a fishing". Perhaps he had heard the lapping of the waves. This would be music to his ears. He may have gazed wistfully at the boats setting off for the fishing grounds. Here was activity that attracted him. The pull of the sea was strong. For a vigorous person like Peter inactivity meant boredom. He could bear it no longer. "I go a fishing". There was nothing wrong with the respectable, honourable and beneficial occupation of fishing, but one day Peter had heard a voice which said, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men". The Speaker was the Lord, the Christ, and Peter's heart had been won. He left all and followed Him. When, therefore, he said, "I go a fishing" had his vision become blurred, had the impression of his commitment been erased, had his priorities been disturbed?

Peter was a leader, and as a forceful man he had the ability to influence others. The effect of his declaration of intent was immediate. The six

other disciples said, "We also come with thee". Without suggesting that Peter had in his mind any purpose of drawing the other disciples away from what was right we may, perhaps, in this meditation draw attention to two things which impress us. (1) Persons who have influence on others should be responsibly concerned as to what they influence other people to do. This is a most serious matter for consideration. (2) On the other hand, we need to be careful about those under whose influence we place ourselves. There are persons with strong minds and strong wills, but who are themselves subject to the Lord's authority. Under their influence we may find the direction in life and may receive encouragement to spiritual purpose and determination. Others of similar natural character may be guilty of spiritual licence and lawlessness. Under their influence disciples of the Lord may be misled to accept and to engage in things which are contrary to God's will. Such persons may be blatant or they may be suave. We need to be on our guard. Paul said, "Be not deceived: Evil company doth corrupt good manners" (1 Cor. 15:33). Many senior disciples have deeply regretted that in their early years they placed themselves in the dangers of wrong influence:,

As dawn broke over Tiberias seven disappointed and crestfallen men made for the shore. How miserable these physically and spiritually hungry men must have felt! Their Lord and Master was missing. And they had no fish. Perhaps they reflected on the occasions when the lovely Man had been with them in the boat. Memory is a remarkable faculty and memories may be sweet, but they can be painful. They may also deepen our longings for those whose companionship and fellowship we have lost. We are trying to think of the state of mind in which the disciples may have been as they neared the beach. In the light of early morning they saw a lone Figure standing on the land, but they did not recognize Him. The Stranger spoke first. "Children, have ye aught to eat?" Concern, sympathy and love were revealed in this question. "Cast the net on the right side of the boat". These were words of authority and command. Why without question the disciples responded may be difficult to explain, but at least those disconsolate men seemed to feel an irresistible influence in the command of the Stranger. The Lord whom they had lost was back with them to work in their hearts. A great work of grace was taking place. As the fishermen towed the fish-crammed net John looked again at the Stranger. "It is the Lord", he said to Peter. He might have used other titles to identify the Man on the beach, but do not let us miss the significance of the one he did use. "It is the Lord -the One who called us, the One who owns us, the One to whom we are committed, the

One for whose sake we left all that we might follow Him and serve Him in loving obedience. Their blessed Lord was coming right back into the centre of their lives, and with what amazing grace did He do so! One feels persuaded that He came to the very place from which they had set out on their abortive fishing expedition. But there was no rebuke. On the beach the disciples saw a kindled fire, bread and fish. What a welcome! What affectionate understanding ! "Come and break your fast", said the gracious Lord. Here was communion of a very practical kind, and here was assurance that the disciples were in the presence of One who not only loved them but who also knew their needs, and was fully able to supply them.

Many disciples of Christ have at times felt that they have lost their Lord. Things of time and earth, perhaps things which in themselves are quite legitimate, move in to fill our lives. We obey the dictates of worldly interests. Friendships, the demands of employment, the cares of this life, earthly pleasures, personal ambitions - any or all of these we may attempt to substitute for the Lord. Then the vanity of these things depresses us. Our very unhappiness is but proof of what in happier days we sang with sincere appreciation, "Now none but Christ can satisfy". From stricken hearts we may have cried with Mary Magdalene, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him". But there He is ready to reveal Himself, waiting to draw us back to Himself, desirous of restoring fellowship which brings Him into the centre of our lives. How gracious He is! How forgiving!

After the men had broken their fast there came for Simon Peter the searching climax of that remarkable day. Perhaps in the minds of the disciples there was the query, What are we going to do now? On a later occasion they asked the Lord, "Dost Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" But there were other great matters which the disciples had to learn and some of these things emerge from Peter's experience. Turning to him the Lord said, "Simon, son of John, lovest thou Me more than these?" Profound must have been the impact of this question on the rugged Peter and on each of the disciples present. Just prior to the crucifixion of Christ Peter had averred, "Although all shall be offended (caused to stumble) yet will not I" (Mark 14:29). Three times the searching question enters the heart of Peter. Three times he gives an affirmative answer. The deep inner searching which he was experiencing revealed itself in the words wrung from the heart of Simon Peter, "Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee".

It has been pointed out that the word for 'love' which the Lord used in

the first and second questions was different from the word which Peter used in each of his three replies. In the third question the Lord adopted Peter's word. Of the significance of these two words one has said: "The first (agapao) expresses a more reasoning attachment, of choice and selection... from a seeing in the object upon whom it is bestowed that which is worthy of regard; or else from a sense that such is due toward the person so regarded, as a benefactor, or the like; while the second (phileo), without being necessarily an unreasoning attachment, does yet give less account of itself to itself; is more instinctive, is more of the feelings or natural affections, implies more passion" (Dr R. C. Trench). Three times Peter used the second word.

Responsibility in divine service is based on personal love for Christ. A man may have acute and profound knowledge. He may possess a burning zeal for activity. But if love for Christ is lacking all this profits nothing. On his acknowledgment of love for Christ Peter was commissioned for very important service.

Would we serve the Lord? Would we work for Him? These are healthy desires. But perhaps we need the experience of the Tiberias beach. Have we in the Lord's presence heard from Him the enquiry, Lovest thou Me? Never mind what the Lord has in His purpose for other disciples. Here is something for me. Can I say, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. I love Thee because of who Thou art, because of the greatness of Thy Being and the perfection of Thine attributes, because of the wondrous things which in unspeakable grace Thou hast done for me. And as I have by that same grace come to know something of the beauty and sweetness of Thy character, Thy loveliness in its many manifestations, I find my heart stirred and moved by warm affection. Thou knowest.