by DanWolgemuth on November 19, 2021

“The greatest of these is love.” Then, and now… and for eternity.

Lisa Johnson.

That was the name that quickened the pulse of nearly every 8th grade boy that walked the halls at Edison Junior High. She was poised, mature and lovely.

I didn’t know very much about her… just that she lived with her Aunt and Uncle, and that she had a cousin who was also in our 8th grade class. Although I never asked her directly, the story was that her parents had been killed in an accident and consequently, she had moved to Wheaton to live with extended family. Enough pain and loss to make her more serious and settled than any of the rest of us.

Lisa was in my “home room” class which afforded me the opportunity of seeing her every school day. The counterbalance to Lisa’s posture and appearance was… well, me. I was undersized, reserved, and seemingly invisible, at least to the likes of Lisa.

One day, a wave of courage swept over my 75-pound frame and I scratched a note on a small piece of paper. It simply read,

Lisa, I like you. Do you like me?


I folded it and somehow slipped it to her at the conclusion of a class session. And then I waited.

Within a day, Lisa dutifully and punctually slipped me a reply note.


Here is a list of all of the boys that I like.

Ten names completed the note. Ten.

My eyes scoured the list, like I had done as a 7th grader in a locker room, straining to see my name on the list of players who would be dawning the Panther black as basketball players.

I feared the same disappointing, absent name result. But alas, there I was. Nestled neatly into the middle of the pack, my name. Fourth, actually. A tick above average. Oddly, I felt a surge of comfort. I had made Lisa’s list. Fourth. I could live with that…

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

This was not the anxious question of an awkward 14-year-old. This was the final exam at the conclusion of a three-year internship. Jesus to Peter.

Do you love me?

Not, “Are you ready for what’s ahead?”

Not, “Can you remember everything I taught you?”

Not even, “Will you promise to tell other people about me?”

No, Jesus dropped Peter’s anchor on the bedrock of our hope. This was not the inquisition of an insecure leader, it was the calibration of a transformed, resilient and secure soul.

Do I love him?

Dear Jesus –

Here is a list of the ten things I love…

My list has good things. Important things. Noble things. And somewhere on the list… is Jesus. Sure, the list I would write and distribute would have Him in His rightful place, but my life would often position Him elsewhere. Maybe fourth.

But unlike me, Jesus wasn’t comforted to just make the list. Fourth is not why He came. Fourth is not why He endured humiliation and injustice. Fourth is not why He was crushed and ridiculed. Fourth is not why He hung on a cross. Fourth was not a part of His commissioning speech or His exit plan.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Love is not extra credit. It is our defining mark as followers of Christ.

And fourth is not good enough. But it’s often my reality.

Do I love Him more than these? More than the other nine things on my list? More. Not nestled safely in the pack with other good things… but more. First. Foremost.

This is the only anchor that holds. For Peter. For me. For you.

Jesus knew. He still does. If I don’t love Him, I can’t really love others. And if I do love Him, I will love others… and when I do, the world will know that He is who He said He was.

Confessing.  Repenting.  Embracing… love, in the only order that matters.

“Do you love me more than these?”

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