Jesus above All?

For the disciple of Jesus, Jesus defines all.

The Christian’s Calling (2) 

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” John 21.15

The question
Jesus’ question to Peter is deliberately vague: “Do you love Me more than you love these things?” Peter might have thought within himself, “What things?” But I suspect that thought, if it did occur to him, didn’t last very long. Peter knew what Jesus was asking.

Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him more than any of these things – the fishing, the friends, the fire, the food, all the trappings of life in the world – and if he loved Him more than all these things. Because, as we know, Peter had not that long ago clearly demonstrated that, no, in fact, he did not love Jesus enough to own up to being one of His disciples. He loved his life, his freedom, his safety, his being unhindered and unharmed more than he loved Jesus.

Jesus’ question, therefore, was eminently fair and necessary, given the background.

As we consider the requirements of following Jesus, the same question comes to you and me as His disciples: Do we love Jesus more than anything and everything else? Are we willing to renounce everything, to sacrifice all, to give whatever is required of us to love Jesus and follow Him? This is a question inviting us to examine our affections – the longings, desires, aspirations, and hopes that motivate everything we do. We recall that it was their misguided and self-serving affections that caused the Corinthians to lose sight of Jesus, lapse into sin, and break into schism and in-fighting (2 Cor. 6.12). Our affections matter; they are the foundation of everything else in life (Prov. 4.23). We should take continuous stock of our affections, to make sure they are focused on Jesus above all.

Unless we can discipline our heart to love Jesus above all, we have no hope of growing as disciples of the Lord. And we won’t have much zeal for helping others grow as disciples either, nor much to share with or teach them. For discipleship begins in a willing and eager soul – a heart, mind, and conscience completely devoted to Jesus Christ in love. Jesus’ question to Peter was meant both to confront him, so that he would face up to the condition of his soul, and to restore him, so that he could move on from past failures into a new life of true discipleship.

Examine yourself
At the end of two very difficult letters to the Christians in Corinth, the apostle Paul proffered a challenge not unlike that which Jesus put before Peter. In the light of all he’d seen of the Corinthian church – its schisms, immorality, lack of spiritual maturity, self-centeredness, and all the rest – Paul had reason to question the genuineness of the Corinthians’ confession of faith. These people talked a good game when it came to Christianity, but they sure didn’t live the faith that Jesus taught. In 2 Corinthians 13.5 Paul sternly instructed the believers in Corinth, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” 

He might just as well have asked them, “Do you love Jesus more than these – all these squabbles, all this complacency, this lackadaisical attitude toward sin, this spiritual tribalism, this vaunting of pseudo-spirituality, this taking advantage of one another, this flouting of God’s plan for worship? Do you love Jesus more than these?”

This is the question, and this is the challenge to every one of us: Examine yourself! We call ourselves disciples, but do we love Jesus more than the thousand-and-one distractions that would divert us from our upward calling every day?

The soul that loves Jesus
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,/I will not, I cannot desert to his foes.”  So wrote Robert Keen in his 1787 hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” The soul that rests on Jesus is completely at home in Him, finds its security and joy in Him, desires above all to be with Him and in Him forever, and turns a blind eye to anything that might distract or divert him from the companionship of His Lord. This is the soul of a true disciple of Jesus, one who loves Him above all.

Make up your mind to be such a disciple. The soul that rests on Jesus grows from a mind set on Christ, a mind devoted to studying Him in the gospels, meditating on Him in His glory, and seeking Him in all the ways He reveals Himself day by day.

Daily devote your heart to following Jesus. The soul that rests on Jesus involves a heart captivated by the loveliness of Jesus, in awe of His majesty and strength, delighting to see and participate in Him, and eager to love Him more.

Make sure that Jesus defines all your values and priorities. The soul that rests on Jesus has Jesus, and pleasing Him, as its priority in all things. Its conscience is tuned to the priorities of God’s Law and the agenda of the risen Christ, and nothing is more important than what Jesus wants at any moment.

The soul of a disciple is a soul set on Jesus, leaning on Him for repose, and following Him where He leads. With their Christ-focused mind, heart, and conscience, disciples reach forward to Jesus, to know Him better, love Him more, and serve Him more faithfully in everything they do. And they reach out to their fellow believers to help them grow in loving Jesus above all.

The soul that thus loves Jesus will be eager to prove its love for Him in words and deeds of complete and ungrudging obedience (Ps. 119.1-6). And it is in obedience that the rewards of such love will be known, chief among these, the unfailing Presence of Jesus. Though it cost us everything to be disciples of Jesus, we will begrudge no loss, postpone no commitment, nor shrink back from any opportunity to know Him and make Him known.

And Jesus will not desert us; He will never fail us nor forsake us; He will be with always, and through us, He will be with our fellow believers, to encourage and lead them into greater heights of our upward calling in Him.

Do we love Jesus above all? Examine yourself: Is there anything in your life that you love more than Jesus? Anything more important than growing in Him? Anything more enjoyable than knowing Him and making Him known? Jesus asks us every day, “Do you love Me more than these?” The true disciple answers as Peter did: “You know that I do, Lord” and then goes forth each day to rest in and serve Him in all things.

For reflection
1. What kinds of things typically get in the way of Christians following Jesus more consistently?

2. Is fear of other people a hindrance to following Jesus? Why?

3. What’s involved in keeping your mind, heart, and conscience focused on following Jesus?

Next steps – Preparation: What can you do each day to make sure your heart, mind, and conscience repose in Jesus and go forth to love and serve Him?

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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