“If you love me, you will follow my teachings.” What were Jesus’s teachings? Trust in God. Trust in Jesus. Love your neighbor, love your enemies, love each other. Trust and love. Do the right things that are in the welfare of your neighbor, your enemy, and each other.
This text reminds me of what Jesus asked Peter later in the Gospel of John. It was one of the last things he said in his last appearance after the resurrection: “If you love me, Peter, (1) feed my lambs (2) tend my sheep (3) feed my sheep.”
Since I enjoy researching words in the ancient languages, this is what I found about the Aramaic descriptions of “love:”
Aramaic (rehem) – From the old Hebrew word for “womb”: compassion, warmth that can pour from the depths of oneself. The roots suggest the radiating forth of light and heat (RA) from an interior place. Aramaic dictionary – the deliberative exercise of the judgment; the giving of a decided preference to one object or person out of many. It frequently implies regard and satisfaction, rather than affection.
Aramaic (huba) is related to the verb meaning to speak. This relates to the ancient Hebrew idea that a “word” spoken is not complete or full until it finds its fulfillment in action. So to “perfect” love means to take a process to its completion, from beginning to end, to allow it to be fully formed. Aramaic dictionary – to regard [respect/honor] (Latin, diligere) esteem [good opinion, appreciate, value, approve] (the principle of internal feeling of delectation [enjoyment, delight, appreciation] and kindliness).
If you love Jesus, there will be evidence that you love Jesus. You will have done something. You will have carried his teachings out to their fulfillment. What is that evidence?
“Do you love me?” Jesus asks Peter. It’s nice to know if someone loves you. It’s nice to hear it. Yet, I think Jesus had much more in mind than just to hear it for himself. I think Jesus was trying to teach Peter, and us, what he wants of us if we truly love him. Peter said the right words three times. We know the right words to say as his disciples. “Yes, we love you Jesus. We confess you as Lord and Savior.” And he says, “Okay, if you love me, then this is what I want you to do. Feed and tend my sheep. Take care of them.” Love is more than words. Love is verb. Love is an action. Love is a commitment of time, money, and energy to feed and tend the sheep.
One of the major recurring themes in Martin Luther’s sermons was his emphasis that we love God best, most directly, when we love our neighbor. The book of James tells us “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27
Jesus asked Peter: Peter do you love me? If you do, show it. Don’t just keep saying the words. Show it. If you have love in your heart, it isn’t perfect love until you bring it to completion by feeding a hungry person, a prisoner, a homeless person, a sick person, to your brother or sister. It’s not love until you give it away. Your actions will be the proof. Keep giving your love away. Feed his sheep.