How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
From the throne: an invitation
Peter do you love Me?
I love you-
Things said in triplicate.
Thought question – name some consistently repeated messages in the Bible. You know, ideas or themes that run through all 66 books. Take your time and consider it.
What was creation all about? Who was Job? What about Noah and the ark? Abraham? Isaac? Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt? Moses’ last message to the Israelites? What about the lives of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel? And Ruth, Esther and Bathsheba? The prophets, miracles, 10 commandments, plagues?
Why Mary and Joseph? Elizabeth and Zachariah? Who were the disciples? Why did Jesus come to earth? Who was Nicodemus? The blind man? The woman at the well? Why do their stories matter? What about Mary, Martha and Lazarus? What are miracles and what do they mean? Why did Jesus have to die? When did He rise again? When is He coming back? Who was Saul-Paul? Virgin birth, sacrificial death, resurrection? Justification, salvation, sanctification? Grace and mercy?
Don’t panic if you don’t know all these people or their stories or the events. Even some of the words can be confusing, but they can be understood. That’s not the point here. (That’s just an opportunity for further study!) The point here is that all of the people and events, the miracles and the trials are all part of one big story: His story.
Throughout the Bible God is repeating His message of love to His people, to us. All of the 66 books of the Bible share the same overarching theme: God loves. This is a message He repeats over and over again. He is intent on driving home the point.
Before the disciples went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter told his master that He was willing to die with Him. Jesus then predicted Peter’s denial. Peter, passionate, rash Peter.
Upon the initial threat of Jesus’ arrest, Peter draws his sword in an effort to defend Jesus, but instead of decapitating Malchus, Peter only manages to remove the man’s ear. Jesus asks Peter to sheath his sword, then proceeds to miraculously restore Malchus’ ear.
As the evening progresses, Jesus is tortured and questioned. Peter loiters in the courtyard just outside. And just as Jesus predicted Peter, strangers confronted him three time with questioning Peter’s association with Jesus. Peter flatly denies Him. In fact his denials become more and more vehement and indignant.
The rooster’s crow reverberated through the cool, stillness of the early morning.
Three times asked. Three times denied.
Peter wasn’t at the foot of the cross, only John and Jesus’ mother. Where was Peter?
At dawn on the third day, the glorious day of our Lord’s resurrection, we get to see Peter again. This time we see him running to see the empty tomb for himself. In the days that followed, Jesus made a point of restoring Peter, communicating love and forgiveness.
Jesus began, “Peter, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes Lord; You know I love You.”
“Tend my lambs.”
“Peter, do you love Me?”
“Yes Lord; You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep.”
“Peter, do you love Me?
“Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
“Tend My sheep.”
Listen to the grace here. Jesus is driving home a point. His question is the same each time, but He wants to make sure that Peter gets the point. The question is simple enough and it seems Peter answers casually, flippantly merely glancing Jesus’ way at first. In response, the disciple’s tone of voice communicates more than his words. His tone says, “Yeah, yeah, of course I love you.” But then Jesus asks again.
The second time Peter again answers emphatically, almost agitated, impatient, but the Lord seems to want Peter to be less passive with his answer. Jesus wants Peter’s total attention. Peter after being asked the same question and given two different, but similar answers, turns to the Lord, facing Him, eyes locked. By the time the Lord Jesus asks the third time He has Peter’s total attention. Jesus is charging Peter with leading, pastoring, and caring for the flock.
Jesus could have said, “How many times do I have to tell you Peter? Feed My sheep!” But He didn’t. He could have grown impatient with Peter’s disinterest. He could have become frustrated with Peter’s thoughtlessness, with his apathy. But He didn’t. Jesus had a message he wanted to communicate with Peter directly and clearly. He didn’t want Peter to miss it. Jesus knew that He was going to have to say what needed to be said more than one time.
This isn’t the only place in the Bible where the same phrase is said over and over. There are several themes and one overarching messages. In His grace our God knows the power of telling us over and over. God is constantly displaying His glory in creation. His message from Genesis through Revelation is the same: “I love you!”
And He patiently says it over and over.
Several years ago I had a friend who shared this story. She and her son were having another rough day. He wasn’t listening. With a desire to vent, she called her husband and recounted the frustrations of the day. As she was wrapping us her story she asked her husband, “I keep telling him over and over!” Calmly her husband responded, “That’s your job.” He’s right.
Here are a few of the phrases worth studying further which are throughout scripture: stand firm, do not be afraid, take courage, love one another, but God and remember. These are admonitions that God wants to make sure we hear, take seriously and act on. How many times does He have to tell us? Lots. To be honest these are things we simply cannot hear too many times. Our ears, our hearts need the comfort and confidence these words offer. I’m glad He tells me over and over aren’t you?
God grants us the opportunity to patiently repeat ourselves to our children every day. May we choose wisely those phrases and words which echo in our homes. May they be words of life, encouragement and hope. May we reiterate with love and patience. And may we never grow weary of our Father’s voice telling us about Himself, His grace, mercy and love many, many times!