1) A simple question: Just before Jesus left this earth to heaven, He instructed Simon Peter to care for the dearest of His ministry on earth---His sheep. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter gave the same answer, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Three times, Jesus added to his questions by saying, “Feed my sheep.”
2) A simple reason: Was Jesus unaware of Peter’s love for Him? Of course not. His three-fold question was not for Himself but for Peter. Jesus asked the same question 3 times to underscore the close relationship between loving the Lord and caring for His sheep. Love to the Lord needs to be demonstrated in caring and serving of His people. Love to the Lord is also the source of power to sustain our caring and serving ministry.
“DO YOU LOVE ME?”
1) Who needs to love the Lord? This is a question not just for Peter but for all of us. If Peter needed to love the Lord as a follower, all of us, as followers of the Lord, need to love Him as well. Instructing the early Christians on love, the Apostle John said, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Consider how the Lord has loved you and me and how much he has paid the price to love us, we are all in debt to love him.
2) Why do we love the Lord? Jesus was very serious about if his disciples loved Him. In answering a question raised by a scribe, Jesus quoted from Law of Moses, (Deut. 6:4) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Loving the Lord God is never an option like many might want to think. It is the Law of God and the demand of Jesus that we love Him.
3) How do we show our love? No one may list all the things to show our love to the Lord. Jesus gives us a simple guideline in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obey them, he is the one who loves me.” The Bible in general and the gospels in particular records many direct and indirect command of the Lord no one may deny or blush away. Commands like love God and our neighbors, forgive one another, worship and praise Him and many others. Jesus wants us to obey His commands to show Him we truly love Him.
4) How may we show our love? First and foremost, we show our love to the Lord in His house, the Church. The Bible, especially in the O. T. Law, specifies many commands on how we love God by worshipping Him, listening and studying His Words, give tithes and offerings to His House and serve Him in His ministries. We may also show our love to Him by loving people, family and friends. We are also instructed to show our love to our enemies so they may be moved to repentance and be saved.
“FEED MY SHEEP.”
1) Who are His sheep? There are two different definitions on the sheep of the Lord. The first one is universal which includes all the people in this world. The Jewish people loved to be seen as exclusive sheep of God but Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.” (John 10:16) The second one is those who know Him and follow Him, believers. In John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Either way, Jesus loves all the people of the world, especially those in His flock, His church.
2) Why feed His sheep? Feeding the sheep means meeting the needs of His sheep. It also means protecting them from going astray into danger. It also means correcting them, leading them back to the flock when they have gone strayed. Sheep have little sense of direction and may be easily led strayed. They need leadership of a shepherd to keep them on the right track. Caring and provision for their needs are essential of feeding. If sheep of God refers to believers, they need constant supervision, care, spiritual food and guidance. Jesus placed these responsibilities on the shoulders of Peter in the ancient time and the shoulders of pastors, teachers and leaders of His church today.
3) Power to feed His sheep: Why did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Him before He asked him to feed His sheep? Why didn’t Jesus ask if Peter loved His sheep? Anyone who has experience in shepherding the sheep of God in various positions know that many of God’s sheep are not that lovable and often times it is very difficult to love them and feed them. If we serve God’s people based on their qualities, our love to them may run out very fast. We need to build a strong love to the Lord that will sustain our power and commitment to care for His sheep.
4) Supply to feed His sheep: No one may have all the supplies to feed the sheep of God if he tries to provide them by himself. The source of supplies of feeding God’s sheep comes from the Great Shepherd, the Lord Himself. The best we may do is to be channels of supplies from the Lord to His sheep. That’s why we need to keep a constant connection with the Lord to draw His supplies so we may be able to care, feed, direct and shepherd his sheep. No human resource is enough to provide their needs.
LESSONS FORM THE CALL: (John 21:15-17)
1) Plans of a retreat: “I am going out to fish, Simon Peter told them and they said, we will go with you.” (John 21:1-3) This is a plan of retreat by Peter by and echoed by all others, to go back to his old trade---what he was good at doing, fishing. When the hope of a revival of Israel vanished, the most logical future was back to where he came from. This meant the end of their following Jesus, the Messiah, and their hope in Him. It is on this setting Jesus appeared to them the third time. (21:14)God will not allow His disciples to retreat from their commitment just because things did not happen the way they had expected.
2) Their plans won’t work: “So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (21:3)These were seasoned fishermen and they were confident to catch what they need. But their previous experience didn’t work this time because that was not what God has in mind for their life in the future: they were fishers of man, not fishers of fish any more. (Mark 1:17)Giving up on your commitment to follow Jesus, returning to your old trade, is never the way Jesus will allow you to do. God cannot and will not bless your change of plan from serving Him.
3) Jesus won’t leave you alone: “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (21:4)You may run away from the Lord, but He won’t leave you alone. He will come to you to restore your faith, commitment and hope so you may be an important partner in His Kingdom business. You may not realize how much Jesus loves you and wants to hold you up but He is there for you always.
4) Listen to Jesus, not Peter: “Jesus said, throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. When they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (21:6)Even a seasoned fisherman like Peter couldn’t do a job as good as Jesus did in fishing. In whatever you do, listen to Jesus, not to the advice of men and your path will be straight.
5) He knows our every need: “Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” (21:13)Before Jesus gave Peter His command to feed His sheep, He fed him and all the disciples with Peter. He knows our exact needs and will provide us with His abundant grace. Peter won’t be able to feed the sheep of Jesus if Jesus didn’t feed him first. We need to be fed regularly by Jesus before we are able to feed others.
6) Love me more than these? “Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (21:15)With all the possible interpretation of “these,” the most reasonable refers to the bread and the fish, the practical and immediate needs of life. If Peter loved these more than his Lord he may not be ready to feed His sheep. All followers of the Lord must make a choice: who or which is your primary object of love?
7) Our affirmative answer: “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know that I love you.” (21:15-17)Peter’s three-fold answers to the three-fold question of Jesus represented his complete commitment to His Lord. The fact that Jesus asked Peter the same question three time not because He didn’t know Peter’s heart but Peter needed to know his own heart more clearly in answering the question three times. A three-fold commitment is a definite commitment, a commitment that will never change.
8) Here is the assignment: “Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep and feed my sheep” (21:15-17) are three different ways to say the same thing: “take care of my people, the young, the old and the vulnerable.” How do we show our love to the Lord? We do it by loving His sheep, the young, the old and the vulnerable, the lovely and the not that lovely. Some may respond to you better than others. Some may never like your leadership. Others may never appreciate what you have provided or done to them. Paul described his attitude in serving the people, “If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the charge committed to me.” (1 Corinthians 9:17) Either way, we need to do our trust faithfully for a reward.
1) The supreme law of all: When asked what is the most important of all the laws, Jesus quoted Deut. 6:4 as the answer: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. Love God is the supreme demonstration of a true believer. Ask yourself: How much do I love God?
2) The supreme act of all: The best way to demonstrate our love to God is to care, serve and help God’s people, His sheep. Start from those in your family, then your church, your school, your office and your community. Look for ways to do some good to them. Use your time, energy and resource to meet their needs.
3) The supreme need of all: Among all the needs of anyone, the most important need is salvation of his soul because it is the essence of a person. You will be saved by confessing your sins to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you. Then invite him into your heart to be your Lord and Savior. Ask and you shall be given. Do it today and do it now.