“Three times we find the apostle saying, ‘Thou knowest that I love thee.’ Once we are told that he said, ‘Thou knowest all things.’ Once we have the touching remark made that he was ‘grieved to be asked the third time’. We need not doubt that our Lord, like a skillful physician, stirred up this grief intentionally. He intended to prick the apostle’s conscience and to teach him a solemn lesson. If it was grievous to the disciple to be questioned, how much more grievous must it have been to the Master to be denied!
The answer that the humbled apostle gave is the one account that the true servant of Christ in every age can give of his religion. Such a one may be weak and fearful and ignorant and unstable and failing in many things, but at any rate he is real and sincere. Ask him whether he is converted, whether he is a believer, whether he has grace, whether he is justified, whether he is sanctified, whether he is elect, whether he is a child of God-ask him any of these questions and he may perhaps reply that he really does not know! But ask him whether he loves Christ and he will reply, ‘I do.’ He may add that he does not love him as much as he ought to do, but he will not say that he does not love him at all. The rule will be found true with very few exceptions. Wherever there is true grace, there will be a consciousness of love towards Christ.
What, after all, is the great secret of loving Christ? It is an inward sense of having received from Him pardon and forgiveness of sins. Those love much who feel much forgiven. He that has come to Christ with his sins and tasted the blessedness of free and full absolution, he is the man whose heart will be full of love towards his Saviour. The more we realize that Christ has suffered for us and paid our debt to God and that we are washed and justified through His blood, the more we shall love Him for having loved us and given Himself for us.”
“Our Lord left the disciples in a remarkable manner (vv. 50-51). He left them in the very act of blessing. We cannot doubt for a moment that there was a meaning in the circumstance. It was intended to remind the disciples of all that Jesus had brought with Him when He came into the world. It was intended to assure them of what He would do after He left the world. He had come on earth to bless and not to curse, and blessing He departed. He came in love and not in anger, and in love He went away. He came not as a condemning Judge but as a compassionate Friend, and as a Friend He returned to His Father. He had been a Saviour full of blessings to His little flock while He had been with them. He would have them know this even after He was taken away.
Forever let souls lean on the gracious heart of Jesus, if we know anything of true religion. We shall never find a heart more tender, more loving, more patient, more compassionate and more kind. To talk of the Virgin Mary as being more compassionate than Christ is a proof of miserable ignorance. To flee to the saints for comfort when we may flee to Christ is an act of mingled stupidity and blasphemy and a robbery of Christ’s crown. Gracious was our Lord Jesus when He lived among His weak disciples, gracious in the very season of His agony on the cross, gracious when He rose again and gathered His sheep around Him, gracious in the manner of His departure from this world. It was a departure in the very act of blessing! Gracious we may be assured He is at the right hand of God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), a Saviour ever ready to bless, abounding in blessings.
There is something very touching in the fact that our Lord’s ascension took place close to Bethany. It was a small village bordering on the Mount of Olives. But it was the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.”
-From J.C. Ryle’s (1816-1900) Expository Thoughts; Found in Daily Readings From All Four Gospels Published by Evangelical Press Auburn, MA 2001 December 25 and 27 Devotions.