What a question. We have all probably asked it of someone, but exactly what does it imply? As a child, one might ask a parent just before appealing for something. In that case, it shows that the answer will be believed based upon the parent's permission. If he says yes, he loves me; if he says no, he does not. And not just children think that way. Often, we in a marriage judge the sincerity of our spouse's answer based upon getting our way. Perhaps the most obvious example is when a child of God questions Him. God, if You really love me, You will give me the desires of my heart, and oh, by the way, You said You would in Your Word (Psalm 37:4). Most Jews and Christians know the promise well, but how many take it in the context of our doing good (v. 3), our delight in the Lord (appreciation, gratitude, worship - v. 4), and our obedience to His direction (v. 5)? In other words, God's answer is not based upon His loving us, but it is based upon our love for Him.
Jesus only asked one person if he loved Him. After Peter denied knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75), he was so sure that he no longer would be used of Jesus that he decided he might as well return to his old job and go fishing (John 21:3). Jesus had said, "But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father, Who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33). Jesus loved Peter so much that He went to the sea shore to minister to all His disciples, but especially to Peter (John 21:1-17). He asked Peter, "lovest thou Me?" three times. Most students of the Bible believe that Jesus was giving Peter the opportunity to publicly proclaim his love for Him. Three times he had denied Jesus, and now he humbly declared his love three times. Jesus knew the answer, but He loved Peter and wanted him to forgive himself. Jesus had taught them earlier that if they really loved Him. they would show it by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). Now, Jesus gave Peter a commandment: Care for My sheep.
Notice, Jesus didn't say he should go find sheep. All of the sheep were in the fold. One becomes part of the sheep when he or she becomes a Christian. No, Peter was to feed the sheep he had. A great deal of the church's attention has been focused upon the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20, and rightly so. But unfortunately, as is usually the case, Christians tend to focus upon one part of God's Word, declaring it to be God's will, and ignore the rest. Those same verses do say go teach the world about Jesus and baptize those who accept Him. The Church has done a remarkable job of spreading the Gospel through the media, missionaries, and personal witnessing. Where the Church has failed miserably is in the area of making disciples and teaching them. "Baby Christians" need the "milk of the Word" (1 Peter 2:2). Mature Christians need the meat of God's Word (1 Corinthians 3:2). The idea of discipleship involves teaching and mentoring in the disciplines taught by the Lord. 2 Timothy 2:2 calls for mature Christians to focus upon teaching the faithful so that they are able to teach others. What about the lost? If the Church focuses upon training Christians, who will win the lost? Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will try to answer that. In the mean time, pray for me.