“The cross is the price of true love. Lord, give us the strength to accept and carry our crosses!”
Earlier this month, we recalled the dark hours leading to Christ’s crucifixion on the cross. Jesus was acutely aware of what was to come. He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray to God the Father. His prayers were filled with anguish, though he remained dedicated to the mission before him. We remembered the betrayal of Judas, the other apostles, the high priest, the chief priests, the elders, the Roman leaders, and others. Jesus experienced great emotional pain as members of his inner circle scattered in fear the moment he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus endured mocking, taunting, physical assault, and immense pain for people that did not request or deserve his sacrifice. He was stripped of his clothing and hung between criminals. Yet, he offered grace and mercy to many that would never return his affection or appreciate his gift. That crucifixion was the ultimate display of his amazing love.
Romans 5:8, 10 states
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus warned Peter that he would deny him three times before daybreak. Peter swore that he would be imprisoned or die before such a betrayal would ever happen. Peter failed miserably. I have little doubt that Peter suffered great shame any time that he recalled his betrayal of Jesus. He remembered his hubris. He remembered that he denied any knowledge of Jesus not once, but three times. He remembered the look of disappointment in Jesus’ eyes after his final angry betrayal. He remembered weeping bitterly. He felt hopeless and he did not understand what would happen next.
Jesus arose and he remained on earth forty days after his resurrection. One day, he appeared on the shore of Galilee where some of the disciples were fishing. Peter had returned to fishing when he believed there was nothing more for him to do. Jesus began a fire and invited them to prepare some fish and bread to eat. It was during that appearance that Jesus directly confronts Peter.
“When 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.” Again 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.” 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. Very truly I tell you, 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.”” John 21:15-18 NIV
This encounter with Jesus was a painful reminder of how Peter had failed. At first glance, it may appear that Jesus’ intent was to condemn Peter but a deeper look leads to a different conclusion. Each time that Peter answers “yes, Lord, you know I love you,” Jesus responds by given Peter a command; Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep. Jesus wanted Peter to know that true love is not simply declared. It must be demonstrated. Peter was to show his love for Christ by lovingly caring for God’s people. Just as importantly, Jesus wanted Peter to know that true love is costly. Ultimately, Peter would die sacrificially because of allegiance to and love for Christ.
Many Christians are unaware of the ways that they deny Christ with behavior that is unkind, vengeful, mean-spirited, and selfish. True Christian love requires disciples to overcome their fears, insecurities, preferences, conveniences, and their priorities. After all, Jesus warned that one cannot be a disciple and follow him without taking up one’s cross (Luke 14:27).
Today, I am challenging each of you to count the cost of being a loving follower of Christ. I pray that through the power of the spirit you may be living witnesses to the power of Christ’s love in you and through you. Commit to preach the gospel every day through the life that you live. Whenever necessary, speak the words. After all, Jesus commanded his disciples to “love each other as I have loved you.” He proved it by his death on the cross. This is the true cost of love.