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John 21:15-19, NIV15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord, he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of 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. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
June 19, 2012According to this gospel, it is the third time Jesus appeared before his disciples in his resurrected body. This one is on Peter's turf and for Peter's benefit, on the shore around the fishing boats where Peter was most comfortable.
After breakfast, Jesus and Peter walked away from the others to speak with each other alone. Is this their first private conversation since Peter denied knowing Jesus? And why does Jesus revert to the old name of Simon, as he was known before he became Peter, the rock?
Peter knows he has failed Jesus. After boasting he would never abandon Jesus, he denied he ever knew him! So he must have felt some shame. But what's done is done and there was nothing he could do to change the past. Sorry doesn't help. Shame and regrets get in the way and tarnish relationships. How would these two get past the damage that had been done?
Before Peter had the chance to ask for forgiveness, Jesus began their conversation with a surprising question - Do you love me more than anything else? Now that was a question Peter did not have to think about twice. He knew the answer immediately. "Yes, Lord, you know I love you."
Scholars tell us the Greek word for love which Jesus used is agape, which is the kind of love God gives to us, unconditionally. When Peter answered he used the Greek word philios, which is a brotherly love. Peter knows himself too well by now. He will not promise anything he knows he might not deliver on.
Jesus repeated the question a second time and Peter gave the same answer. The third time Jesus asked the question he used the word philios, as though he was willing to accept what Peter could offer at the moment. Jesus did not reject what was in Peter's heart and what he could honestly commit to that day. Peter is being cautious. He is still hurting from his failure to do right by Jesus. He probably could not explain how it had happened. He hurts too, because Jesus asked the question three times. Three denials - I do not know him. Three queries - Do you love me? They were both remembering the same incident. They were both wanting to erase the past from the slate.
I like this story very much, because the important issue for discussion was not Peter's sin and failure, his remorse and shame, or the bewilderment over how it had happened. Jesus simply wanted to know, "Do you love me?" Peter responded, "Yes, I do. I do, I do." To me this implies - if you love me, all else is forgiven.
June 20, 2012What better way to restore Peter's confidence that he was still a valued disciple than to give him an important job to do! To regain his sense of purpose and accept that although he failed Jesus, he can still be counted upon to lead the others once again. Maybe that's a lesson for all of us. The best way to accept the grace and forgiveness of God is to get busy for God.
Peter's occupation suddenly changed from fisherman to shepherd. Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep. Jesus was never a fisherman, yet he did at times refer to himself as a shepherd. Early in the gospel accounts, Jesus told his disciples they would become fishers of men. Now they would become shepherds of the flock. Initially Jesus had called them to believe and receive eternal life. This second call to follow him is a summons to serve.
It's interesting that Jesus appeared to the disciples just as their lives were returning to normal. After all the excitement of Easter morning, it had not changed their lives. What do they do? They went back to fishing just like usual. But Jesus had something much grander in mind. The usual (fishing) is out. Shepherding will be the new normal. Jesus has redefined their intentions. They will continue to follow Jesus even when he is not physically present with them!
What does it mean to feed and care for the sheep? Jesus described them as "my sheep." Peter's job was to care for the sheep of Jesus as Jesus would if he were present to do so. It's one thing to say that God so loved the world, it's another thing entirely to look at "the world" and see individuals whom God loves so dearly that he gave up his son to save them and give them eternal life.
Loving Jesus comes first. Shepherding is done because we love Jesus. Loving the world, loving the flock of God is no easy task. It's possible only when and if we love Jesus.
June 21, 2012Why would Jesus divulge the information about Peter's future? Did he think it was only fair to warn Peter? Was Peter eager for the chance to redeem himself by suffering for the sake of Jesus? Peter would get many "second chances" to prove that he was no coward, but instead could stand up and take the heat.
The kind of shepherding Jesus was talking about is not for someone who needs to control their own life. We see a different picture of maturity in these verses. We think of the young as dependent and going wherever they are led. Jesus shared an alternate vision with his trusted disciple Peter. Immediately after Jesus told Peter to be a shepherd, he told him his life would not go on as usual. He would become powerless. And humbled. He would be led where he did not want to go. These words deter most of us. But not Peter.
Follow me! There's a huge gap between reading about the resurrection in the Bible and experiencing resurrection power in our own lives. Peter intended to experience that power. It's all about love, and trust, and saying "yes" when Jesus says "Follow me!" That's "Follow me!" with an exclamation point.
Peter stopped his remorseful thinking and focused instead on what Jesus had for him to do. I have a lot to learn from Peter.
These verses contain another instance wherein death and glory are mentioned in the same sentence. There is honor in sacrificing one's life on behalf of another. Jesus glorified God in his death. Peter would too. It's what a good shepherd does for his sheep.