There was a moment before Nina and Rosie when I was worrying about our previous spaniel, Fidget. Now I was travelling the world and Frances was busy with boys and studying so I proposed that we should look for a dog walker to keep Fidget exercised. Patrick, who was then about eight or nine said “Oh no don’t do that, because if you do then Fidget will not have enough love left for us.”
Of course we laughed, but it does bring us to Jesus’ question: “Simon, son of John do you love me more than these?” It is unclear who the these are? Does Jesus mean do you love me more than you love these friends and companion fishermen or do you love me more than they love me? Either way it sets up the question “(How much) Do you love me?”
Peter says “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” A second time Jesus asks “Do you love me?” and Peter replies again “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” And then the third time …..
How we feel for Peter here, he must have felt a terrible stab of pain and guilt as only a few days before he had three times denied even knowing Jesus, of ever having been with him and at that third denial he realised, he discovered, deep within himself, all the things Jesus had said. And now here is another third time and so Peter needs to declare with and from all his being that he loves the Lord. So the third time Peter rests his affirmation not on himself but on Jesus: “Lord you know everything, you know (how much) I love you.
For Jesus’ question, the real question , is what is love? Ever since the beginning God has been showing his love for us in creation, incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. Each of these has a completeness, a totality of giving which is beyond us. This is much more than our feelings of spontaneous, natural affection, fondness or admiration usually described by our word “love.” Each of these, creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, is an act of WILL - God intended creation to show a glimpse of beauty, perfection and wonder, meant incarnation to show his love for us despite our brokenness, crucifixion willingly surrendered to loving sacrifice and resurrection to show us the ultimate loving gift of eternal life.
Jesus showed us loving without limit and in doing so he revealed a fundamental and essential quality of God which is a model for human imitation.
Which is very scary. For we will always fall short. We will be a little like Patrick’s view of Fidget, that she has a tank of love which will run out. It is clear that God’s immeasurable unending love for us is something we can only but poorly emulate but still we need to remember that as well, as a response, our loving God is an act of WILL and with that will we must at least be sure to empty the tank that we have.