After Jesus rose from the grave He visited the disciples many times. The third time is where we will focus today when Jesus restores Peter.
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah (John), do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah (John), do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah (John), do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” - John 21:15-19
Why did Jesus ask Peter three times if Peter loved Him?
One reason is that Peter had denied he knew Jesus Christ three times, so this was in essence blotting out each denial for Peter to see that Jesus forgave Him. Another reason is that Jesus was stressing the importance of agape love, an unconditional and sacrificial love. As we know Peter died by being crucified on a cross similar to Jesus. He would be killed because of his unconditional and sacrificial love for Jesus Christ. Peter was crucified in Rome, but he requested to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Christ.
Note from the Scofield Study Bible, NKJV: In vv. 15-17 "two different Greek verbs are used for "love": agapaó, to love deeply, used of divine love in 14:21, and of the love which the law demands (Luke 10:27); and phileó, to be fond of, a love of lesser degree than agapaó, as between friends. In the first two instances, where the Lord asks Peter, "Do you love Me?" He uses agapaó; but Peter, remembering his three denials of the Lord and aware now of his own weakness, does not dare to reply with as strong a word as agapaó. Instead, he employs phileó in his reply, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." When the Lord inquires the third time, "Do you love Me," He uses the lesser word, phileó. And again the humbled disciple replies: "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love [phileó] You." love Me more than these. That is than the other disciples do.
If you died today and Jesus asked you "did you love me?" what would your honest response be? Would you be able to state clearly that you love Jesus and your life proved this? Or would you be filled with sorrow over your lack of love for Christ? If you answered the first, then how does your life show you love Jesus? Have you planted or watered seeds of the Gospel? Would those around you know you are a disciple of Jesus Christ? It isn't enough to say we love Jesus, to truly love Him you have to live it out. If persecution came to you, and you had to either die because of your belief in Christ or deny Him, what would your choice be? Answer these honestly and if your answers sadden you, seek God's Word to grow your faith and love in Christ. We all must answer this question, and we all must be ready to die for our belief if the time comes. As we see even in America, Christians are now being persecuted, rejected, and discriminated against. God is weeding out the false believers from the true ones, which side are you on?
Everything on Earth has a time limit, both our sorrows and our happiness. Don't give up or live in bitterness because of disappointments or lost dreams but remember that these too will pass. Don't forget God and put other idols on the throne of your heart during "good times" and accomplished goals, but remember that these too will pass. The only thing that will remain will be your choice to accept God's gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, God's Son, and what you did with the time God gave you on this earth that glorified God and fulfilled the tasks He had for you.
Just as when Jesus asked Peter three times "Do you love me?" What is your response? If you died today, would your life show that you loved Jesus? What have you done to lead those who are lost and heading to hell to Christ? What seeds have you planted or watered to help others learn and know their Creator and Savior? What tasks have you obeyed God in doing? What opportunities have you ignored or rejected that God called you to do? If you were fired because of your faith, would you still claim to be a Christian? If you were shunned from your community, would you still pray and read your Bible? If you were arrested and put in jail, would you still follow Christ? Do YOU love Jesus?