DO YOU LOVE ME? FEED MY SHEEP
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:17
I know that we have already touched on the idea of love and the ability of sheep. But I am excited to really see the power of putting these two concepts together. Beginning today, I want to go back and set the stage of our scripture. Jesus has been crucified, buried and risen from the dead. Peter had denied Jesus three times and ran away in total despair. The disciples were waiting for the next stage of what was to come, and after denying Jesus three times, Peter and many of the disciples have returned to the normalcy of their old lifestyles waiting to see what was to come next. The scenery has changed but the reality of his actions continues to be baggage that is weighing down Peter's heart. After fishing all night, they have not caught a single fish, and then a familiar voice directs them to do something that is totally unheard of for fishing. The voice says for them to cast their nets on the RIGHT side of the boat. Following the direction of the person on the shore, they did the unthinkable and to their surprise, they were unable to haul in the nets because of the amount of fish that were caught. John proclaims that it is the Lord, and Peter jumps out of the boat and goes as fast as he can to the shore. Arriving on the shore, Jesus has a fire where he is cooking some fish and has some bread for them to eat. They break bread, the first time since the Last Supper, and Jesus has an intimate conversation with Peter asking him three times if Peter loves him and responding with an action to live out this love he professes.
Whew, that was a long introduction, but I needed to get us all on the same page and paint a picture of what actually is happening in the story. See the story is not just about Peter, but is an example of True Love in Action. Remember Jesus told them that he was going to make them fishers of men. The struggle was the disciples thought that all was lost. Now that all of this has happened, many people were no longer going to believe all that came to pass. And realize for a second... Pentecost has still not happened so more is yet to come. Jesus knew that this moment was a pivotal point in faith of the disciples. Yes, they had seen him die and
miraculously walk back into a room alive. For me, this would be enough to go and do ANYTHING. But strangely for the disciples it was a point that could make or break the next steps of the story. Jesus had to reengage Peter and restore the ROCK on which he had proclaimed His church would be built. He had to show Peter the grace, love and mercy that it was going to take to fight through the battles that were yet to come. So Jesus had an intimate conversation and asked three times, Peter do you love me. And of course Peter is going respond YES. All of us would respond YES, but it is in the commands that follow that really tell the story and challenge us to live a life that is set apart.
In each of Jesus' commands there is an action that is associated with the love that Peter proclaimed. Action 1: If you love me FEED MY LAMBS. Here we see the intentionality of Jesus' words. Feeding the lambs was calling Peter to go and share the Gospel with those who were young in their beliefs. There were many who were brand new to the faith and in desperate need of guidance. Jesus was passing the teaching torch to Peter. Yes, Peter. The one who was definitely not well educated and the one who reacted irrationally most of his life. But Jesus saw the strength in his heart and the determination to follow through even though he had failed in the past. The second action: Take Care of My Sheep. Jesus is now relinquishing the teaching authority of the disciples to Peter. I know that there was always a question of who shall sit at the right hand of Jesus. This is a very powerful position but it was in humility that Peter took the role. Only after he had been at his lowest point and realized the ramifications of his actions. Jesus was very intentional and that leadership position will be evident in the days ahead when he speaks at Pentecost. Final action: Take Care of My Sheep. I know that this may seem a little redundant with the similarity to the first action, but it has a different command all together. Peter has now been given the authority to be the first Pastor/Shepherd of the first church which will be birthed at Antioch after his anointing by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It was a progression of authority that Jesus was bestowing on Peter's life.
Jesus was also very intentional to ask Peter three times if he loved him. Jesus already knew the answer, but with each question, he hoped to help Peter understand the power of restoration. See we will all make mistakes, but God still has a bigger plan that will be revealed down the road. The true tell is how we respond to the moment. Peter could have easily jumped in the water and swam the other way, but that was not what was in his heart. His heart was still consumed with Jesus. His desire was to once again walk, learn and find ways to express this love to the world. So, Jesus gave him the opportunity. Jesus saw inside his heart and knew how humbled he came before Him and how powerful Peter's action would be in building the foundations of the church. So today, I really hope that you recognize the power of the question that Jesus raising, Do You Love Me? Because based on
your REAL answer, Jesus is not going to allow you to sit and stay where you are. God is going to use every ability that you have to go and become a shepherd to the sheep. God is going to ask you to meet the needs of those who are around you and find a way to feed and take care of them. Do you really love me? Do you really with all of your heart profess that I am the LORD of your life? It is part of a bigger struggle and battle that we all face every day, but it can only be answered by us. Only we know the truth that lies in our hearts, and even if we deny Him, please realize that we can still be called to shepherd. Restoring our relationship with God and realizing that the simplest of questions can frustrate us is a part of the journey. It is ONLY when we are humble and honest will the question truly be asked of us. If you are ready to answer the question, Go to the Father in humility and be ready for your call into action.