“If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”—Proverbs…oops!
Oh yeah, this isn’t a scripture reference, it’s one of those pithy sayings that you know is true the moment you hear it, whether you’ve ever chased a rabbit or not. Ask Elmer Fudd and he’ll tell you that chasing one rabbit is enough to keep you busy for a lifetime.
(Permit me to start with a personal confession, if you will. I’ve owned a rabbit, two of them, actually, just not at the same time. I know that chasing one rabbit alone is a challenge, they’re quick and they turn on a dime. And I’ve actually chased multiple rabbits at once, given that once upon a time I worked as an attendant for an Easter promotion called Bunnyland. I’m guessing you can figure that one out.)
John 21:15-21 isn’t about rabbits. The passage recounts Jesus’ conversation with Peter after the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. Take a listen—
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The 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. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
Jesus is very specific with Peter. Loving Jesus is an all-consuming activity that shapes a person’s whole life.
There is no looking for success (although there were successes in Peter’s life). There is no looking around at other people to compare your life with theirs. There is no room for self-promotion.
There is only loving Jesus so much that your life begins to be shaped by the things that are central to Him—loving God and serving others on the Father’s behalf.
How has your love for Jesus reshaped your focus in life?
From the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 through His final talks with the disciples before the cross, Jesus speaks of living life with the single focus of loving God and serving others. (See Matthew 6:19-24; 31.)
In Matthew 22, Jesus inseparably links loving God and loving others.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus gives them a new command—
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."—John 13:34, 35
Jesus’ words cut across our very human and self-centered natures. He asks us to take all the energy we spend on our own lives, focusing on our personal needs and wants, and aim it upward to God and outward to others, as He did.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:45
New Testament writers continue this theme—
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love….You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.—Galatians 5:13
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.—1 John 3:18
Where is your faith and love for God spilling over into action so that others actually experience God’s love through you?
Serving others took Jesus into the messy reality of people’s lives. Serving others took His first followers out of their comfort zones. Servants don’t get to chose the who, what, when, and where of serving.
While serving others on Jesus’ behalf is a noble cause, it is often less than glamorous. Even Jesus’ most noble and significant moment of serving us on the cross was filled with agony, sweat, pain and tears.
Jesus’ servants serve as He did, where God sends them, as He needs us to serve.
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”
How does your love for God enable you to keep serving when the going gets tough?
Keep your focus on the single focus that Jesus calls us to—loving God and loving others as an expression of our love for God. Allow Him to pour His love into you so that you can draw from the inexhaustible wells of His love.
People are difficult to love. Jesus knows that. You aren’t limited to loving and serving others out of your own supply of self-centered love. As you allow God’s love to permeate your life, it will begin to reshape you, to saturate you, and to overflow from you into the lives of those closest to you.
How are you deepening your love relationship with God, to allow His love to permeate your life, so that He can love others through you?
Who do you need God’s Spirit to empower you to love? What would that look like?
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:17-19
Jesus is asking—Do you love me?
Who are you serving and loving in Jesus’ name?
To see the worship celebration linked to this Bible study, go to http://www.touchandchange.com/artman/publish/article_1562.shtml.