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.”
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.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time,”Do you love me.” He said,”Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you’” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!” (John 21:15-17, and 19b
It grabs me that Simon Peter is not only being reminded of his first call from Jesus to follow him, (Matthew 4:19), he is being given a new occupation. Peter has been a fisherman all his life, and Jesus is now telling him that he is to follow Jesus by becoming a caregiver of sheep. What’s more, Peter is going to be caring for Jesus’s own sheep.
Peter would have known from Jesus’s frequent references to sheep and shepherds, including his calling himself, “The Good Shepherd,” exactly what Jesus was talking about. Peter’s call was to follow Jesus in caring for people the same way Jesus had and the only way he could do it would be to stick close,continue to lean on, and learn from Jesus.
Because we have access to the events coming up for Jesus and the disciples, we can turn over a few pages to Acts 2 and know that the Holy Spirit descends and empowers the followers with persevering power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own.
Something else that grabs me about, “feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep,” is that it means in all stages of growth from first believing in and putting our faith in Jesus, through the long process of growing to maturity in Christ, to preparing for home going in Christ. Peter was called to continue to teach, influence and prepare those Jesus told him to care for.
What about us? Each of us is called by Jesus to follow him in the way we relate to and influence people with and for him. I have been soaking in 1st and 2nd Peter as a reminder of how Peter carried on with his following and his caregiving. Those letters are just as fresh and refreshing for us right now as they were when first written.
Join me in reading them this week. They aren’t long, but they are beautifully rich in what we need to encourage us in growing and persevering.