How do we show truly our love for Jesus. Is it in eloquent words of a sermon or poem or in prayer or worship? Jesus defined it here as taking care of the needs of his sheep. Sheep are exotic to us in the city, but to Peter there could have been nothing more ordinary. Feed them, guide them, heal their wounds, defend them, know them by name, be with them constantly. That is how you take care of sheep.
In the first part of chapter 21 Peter was frustrated with waiting, and so he and 6 others went fishing. We see that they were just killing time, because when Jesus appeared, they forgot all about fishing.
After Jesus had cooked bread and fish for their breakfast, he turned to Peter and addressed him three times formally.
First he said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Peter had once pledged to give his life up to death to serve Jesus. So Jesus was asking if Peter truly loved him. Did Peter love him more than the other disciples, because that is what Peter had implied. Did Peter love Jesus more than his fishing boat, and nets, and the Sea of Galilee?
Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus replied, “Feed my lambs.”
Ministry is not about raising the sword in battle for the glory of Jesus, it is being a shepherd. Peter would need to overcome his hero-complex. He would need to quit thinking of himself in heroic terms, but to think in terms of a shepherd.
Second Jesus said, “Simon Son of John, do you truly love me?”
Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
Third Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt this time wondering why Jesus keep asking him this question. So he said, “Lord you know all things; You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, ”Feed my sheep.”
Three times Peter denied Jesus (ch 18). Despite his vow of courage and loyalty, Peter denied Jesus before an unarmed servant girl and the other bystanders outside the house of the High Priest. The rooster crowed and Peter went out weeping and defeated into the night.
Three times Jesus questioned Peter. Peter’s denial was public. It was the scandal of his life. When he put his foot in his mouth by being too eager, that was not so bad. But to deny and then run in the face of trouble. Who could forgive Peter, and accept him as a leader? Could Peter even accept himself? Maybe that is why he tried returning to fishing.
Three times Jesus said “Feed my sheep.”
Pastors are Shepherds. Pastors are supposed to feed and care for the sheep. The people of God are sheep. We are in need of guidance. We need to be led to the green pastures and to the clear waters. We need to be protected from wild beasts. When we stray, someone needs to leave the 99 and come and find us. Moses was a shepherd of sheep before he shepherded Israel through the desert and to the Green Pastures of Israel. David was a shepherd, before he was anointed as the future King and Shepherd of the Nation.
Jesus went on to tell Peter that he would die a death to glorify God. V. 18, 19. This wasn’t to be the death of the sword wielding defender of Jesus, but the death of a shepherd who gives his life for the sheep.
After telling Peter the good news, that after a life of service to the sheep, he would be able to fulfill his boast and die for Christ, then Jesus re-issued the challenge that Peter had heard before, “Follow me.”
In chapter 1 of John, some of John the Baptist’s disciples left to follow Jesus. One of these was Andrew, who went to get Peter, who also followed Jesus. We see in this that the first quality of a disciple of Jesus, of a Christian, is to be a follower of Jesus.
In Luke 5, Peter and the others were out fishing and had caught nothing. Jesus came and taught the crowd from Peter’s boat. He then asked Peter to cast the net over the side. Peter at first objected, but then complied. They caught such a large catch that the nets burst with the weight.
Peter felt at Jesus feet and said, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter knew he was in the presence of a Holy Man.
Jesus said….”Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”
As Moses the shepherd was called to shepherd Israel, so Peter the fisherman was called to fish for men.
In I Peter 5:1-4 we see the mature reflection of Peter upon his calling. This book is written long after this account in John, when Peter was a leader of the Church. The call to Peter to feed the sheep is gathered up here and passed on as instruction to other leaders. Elders are to be good shepherds
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be Shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
The Seventh and final word to pastors is John 21:17:
“Take care of my Sheep.”
Feed my sheep…and die.
Follow me…not the other guy.
John was following after Jesus and Peter during this conversation. And Peter, having received his commission, was curious about John. So he said to Jesus,
“Lord, what about him?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
Maybe Peter wanted to have some comfort. He wanted to know what Jesus call was to another servant. Would John also have to die? Would John also have to be a Shepherd.
Jesus answer really is this: ”Peter, this is none of your business.”
This word is the cure for three sins that besiege the church today.
The first is comparison. It was not for Peter to compare his calling to John’s. How we love to compare!
Pastors make comparisons. We compare the size of our flock with the size of others. And either we get proud or we are ashamed. We compare other things too. We say, If only I had a style like Billy Graham or a mind like Walter Kaiser or a warm personality like Jill Briscoe or organizational ability like Bill Bright, ad infinitum. This is a sin.
Churches make the same comparisons. If only we were big like Church X or had a staff like Church Y or had powerful worship like Church Z, then we would really have something. This is a sin. If we don’t repent there we will fall into two other worse sins
Envy is next. It has absolutely nothing to do with faith, hope or love. If we envy what another servant of Christ has, then we have no faith in God’s provision for us. If we envy, we show that our hope is not in the Lord, but in what we possess. If we envy, we are not loving. For the envious would love to take from the other whatever they have.
Judgment is third. When we compare, we might rather decide that we are superior to Church X or Y or Z. If I compare, I might decide that I am superior to Pastor A or B or C. This also is sin.
Who am I to Judge the Lord’s servant?
If there is a fault, I should go to my brother in Christ, aware of my own tendency to sin, and point out the error. I should pray, and seek the best of God’s blessing for him and his ministry