When Jesus died, so did Peter’s dreams of ever making it right with his Lord. Can you imagine – letting someone down you loved so much and never wanted to disappoint? And so, with the cross came Peter’s final opportunity to have that last conversation, to tell Jesus how very sorry he was for denying him.
And then…the resurrection…a second chance.
So this was the mindset of Simon Peter when Jesus showed up on the shore one day, His third appearance after the resurrection. We don’t know all the details of those previous appearances, but from John 21, it doesn’t seem that Peter has had a chance to talk it all through. And he had likely replayed the denials over and over again in his mind – could’ve…should’ve…would’ve: his constant mantra, again and again. Now, finally, he would have a chance to stop, look Jesus in the eyes and say how sorry he was.
And what did he really want to tell Jesus – he really wanted to affirm his love for his Lord. “I know how this looks,” he would say, “but I really do love You. I really feel so sorry for all that I did.”
And then after breakfast, to Peter’s relief, Jesus approached him.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17 (ESV)
In this little exchange Peter gets an opportunity to express his heart, and Jesus leads him every part of the way. And that is where it gets interesting. You see, Peter clearly wants to proclaim his love for Christ, and yet it may seem hollow in light of his failure. So Jesus leads him, asking him the question three times, and hearing Peter’s response, telling him, “Feed my sheep (lambs),” two times, and, “Tend my sheep” once.
Love Christ By…
So, for the rest of us, if we want to express our love for Christ, we must shepherd those in our care. Love them by feeding them. One way a mother loves Christ is by feeding her children physically and spiritually. And a Pastor loves Jesus by faithfully giving people the Word of God and caring for their souls. For all Christians given the charge over or the responsibility for others – it is the way we show our love for Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and as a shepherd, his overriding concern is the care of His sheep.
How We Know This Is True
Aside from this passage, here’s how we instinctively know this is true: Would you like to know perhaps the best way to love me? Love and bless my children. There is not much in this world nearer and dearer to my heart. Bless them and you bless me. Hurt them and you hurt me.
And so, would you like to know the best way to love Jesus?
Feed His sheep.
For Tuesday, November 3: James 1