Not long after he had risen from the dead, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Then he asked the same question again, “Do you love me?” Then a third time he asked, “Do you love me?”
Each time Peter said, “Yes, I love you, Lord.” Now Peter and Jesus were best friends. Despite his flaws, Peter was always trying to do whatever Jesus asked of him. He was always hungering after more of the Lord. During the three years that he spent with Jesus, Peter was taught, tested, and sifted, and through it all he became a true friend of the Lord. Still, Jesus chose to question Peter’s love—and three times! Why? Some say it was so that Peter could undo the three times he denied Jesus on Holy Thursday. Some say it was Jesus’ way of reinstating Peter as the head of the church after Peter ran away. But maybe there is another reason as well.
Perhaps Jesus questioned Peter three times as a way of bringing him to a greater humility and showing him that Jesus’ ways are always better than his ways. You can imagine Jesus saying to Peter: “I know life better than you do. I know the human heart better than you do. When I say that you will deny me three times, believe it.” At the Last Supper, Peter announced that he was prepared to die for Jesus (Luke 22:33). But only a few hours later, he failed the test. By denying Jesus and abandoning him, Peter damaged his high standing among the apostles. What’s more, he himself was filled with guilt and shame. Jesus was right, and Peter couldn’t see it. But now Jesus was bringing Peter reconciliation, peace, and renewed joy.
The point is, if we hunger and thirst for Jesus, he will tell us the same thing he told Peter—that his ways are superior to our ways. And he will tell us this over and over again, not just once. Just as he made this point to Peter at every opportunity, he will also take advantage of every opportunity to convince us that he knows best. Some of these lessons may hurt our pride. But there is no other way to holiness. As the psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build” (Psalm 127:1).
Brothers and sisters, we can be Jesus’ friends. We can be a people that he can call his own. Yes, it means that we need to be taught and tested, stretched and refined, transformed and recreated. But like any close friendship, the rewards far outweigh the challenge.
Jesus wants to be with us because he loves us so much. He wants to tell the saints and angels in heaven that he has formed us for himself (Isaiah 43:21). He also wants us to tell those six billion people on earth that we are his church, his best friends.
Jesus is always standing at the door of our hearts, always asking us to open the door and let him in (Revelation 3:20). He wants to bless us and fill us with “every spiritual blessing,” including the peace, confidence, and strength we need to proclaim his love to the world (Ephesians 1:3). He simply asks us to come to him and say, “Lord, I come to seek your face. My heart is thirsting for you, as if in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Jesus, I have seen you in the sanctuary of your altar; I have witnessed your power and your love in my family and in my heart. I know that your love is better than life, so I want my lips to glorify you. Come, Lord, and show yourself to me even more. Jesus, I want to be your friend.”