Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep

John 21:15-22

A Great Commission Christian is someone who shares the gospel of Christ with unbelievers, what God has done in their lives, then helps those who commit their lives to Christ to grow as His disciples. If you are a Christian, a Christ follower, then you are called to be an instrument of outreach and ministry for God. God has given us powerful news that He does not intend for us to keep to ourselves.

That’s why as a church, we are jump-starting your outward focus with the Pray & Go Challenge. The goal is to think more about the people outside this church. It’s to set our minds on all of those who do not know Jesus. The goal is to set the cultural of this church as such so that when you think of this church, the first thing that comes to your mind is reaching others to know Christ.

As we learn to be Great Commission Christians, we’re going to look at one more account of the disciples seeing Jesus face to face here on earth after His death and Resurrection. You may recall me saying Jesus appeared to over 500 people in at least 10 different times during the 40 days He was on earth until He ascended to Heaven. These accounts show and prove that Jesus rose and actually is alive, that He is who He says He is.

The account we looked at a few weeks ago was when Jesus gave what we call the Great Commission to His disciples and all generations after them just before He ascended to Heaven. These were His last words on earth, meaning they were important words. We call them great because of the importance of the message and commission because it represents marching orders for Christians.

We are commissioned to go and to share the gospel, to be witnesses of what Jesus has done in our lives. We hopefully gladly do so because we are grateful for what Jesus has done for us on the cross and in our lives, but I also want to suggest there is another reason why we share the Good News.

In the scripture today, we’re backing up to a story just before the Great Commission was given. It’s a love story. Not a sappy boy meets girl kind of love story, but an even deeper kind of love story.

SET THE SCENE FROM JOHN 21:1-14
Most of the disciples have seen Jesus twice so far, Peter three times. But they are still in this waiting, holding time to find out what Jesus’ plans are for them and what part they will have in the future of God’s ministry and Kingdom.

Peter, still feeling a bit like a failure decides one night that he’s going to go fishing, and six of the other disciples say we’ll go too. Why not? They’re all just waiting. But do you see what they’re doing? When we feel discouraged and don’t know what to do, we tend to fall back on what we do know. Not always a bad thing, but not always a good thing either.

They fished at night to get the best catch, so the men are out all night fishing doing what they know all so well, as it was how many of them made a living before Jesus recruited them to be His disciples, yet they caught absolutely nothing. Not even one little fish.

By the time dawn breaks, they are ready to quite and a man from the shoreline says, “Have you caught any fish?” Not recognizing the man, they reply, “No.” Now since many of you know the end of this story and for those of you who don’t, I’ll give you a spoiler alert – the man is Jesus. But they don’t realize that just yet. It’s quite a distance to the shore so it would be hard to see, and let’s remember that Jesus looks a bit different in His new body. Mary didn’t even recognize Him right in front of her until He said her name.

Knowing they don’t recognize Him, Jesus does a Jesus-kind-of-miracle. He hollers throw your net on the other side of the boat. I imagine the men thought, what? Like that is going to make a big difference just moving the net less than 10 feet in the same depth of water. But maybe because they have seen this kind of craziness before.

In Luke 5:1-7, Jesus, early in His ministry, gets in Peter’s boat to preach to a crowd who has pressed Him to the shoreline. But Peter has been up all night again catching nothing, he is tired and ready to go home, and Jesus says take us out further and through in your net. Peter reluctantly does it, and his net is so full he has to call two other guys to come help him pull the fish in.

So they’ve see this before, and let’s not forget they are looking for Jesus around every corner, and they know His style and likely wondered, “Could it be?”

So they threw the net on the other side of the boat, and they catch 153 large fish that are stretching their net to its limits. Immediately, it registers with John and he shouts, “It’s the Lord!”

As soon as Peter hears this, he throws on his long tunic because he had stripped to his skimpies for work, and jumps in the water and swam for the shore about 100 yards to get to Jesus as quick as he could, leaving the others to pull in all the fish. To say Peter was excited to see Jesus is an understatement. He had every reason to be excited, as well as the others.

When they arrive to shore, they found breakfast waiting for them (fish and bread). Here Jesus is once again serving them. I love how Jesus was purposefully showing up in their every day lives. In an instance where they felt like failures, Jesus stood on the shore still helping, still empowering, still teaching – but from a distance this time. Maybe this was to get the disciples used to listening from a distance seeing how Jesus would soon ascend to heaven.

The first lesson in this meeting was to help them understand that their work yielded nothing because they had done what they were not asked to do, and done it without Jesus. With Jesus, they catch 153 large fish.

Then after breakfast, we see the next lesson. Jesus has something to ask Peter.

John 21:15-22
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

So basically, don’t worry about him, I want you to focus on your choices. How many times did Jesus ask Peter do you love me? Three times. How many times did Peter deny Jesus on the night of Jesus’ betrayal? Three times. Jesus asked Peter the same question three times, a number painfully familiar to Peter.

Jesus told Peter at the Last Supper that he would soon deny Him three times, and when he did a rooster would crow. Peter defended himself and said he would never do such a thing. “Even if I have to die, I will never deny you.” But that is exactly what Peter did.

At this point, Jesus has likely already given Peter His forgiveness. We don’t have the recorded conversation, but it’s likely that’s why Jesus appeared to Peter alone on the day of His resurrection. In Luke 24, when the two from Emmaus told their account of seeing Jesus alive, the disciples responded that they knew it was true because Peter saw Him too.

There are two things that are happening here. First, Jesus is leading Peter through an experience that would remove this cloud of guilt. How many here are your own worst critic? That often leads us to not forgiving ourselves very easily. I remember a time when I asked Jesus for forgiveness for an entire year, and it wasn’t because Jesus didn’t forgive me the very first time I asked, it was because I didn’t forgive myself for an entire year. Secondly, Jesus is asking Peter to recommit his life to the ministry of Christ.

Jesus starts by taking Peter back to the beginning by calling him by his birth name, Simon. Jesus had changed Simon’s name which basically means pebble, to Peter which means rock.

Then Jesus asked the same question three times, but take notice each time is a bit different. The Greek language has many variations on the word love, where English is unfortunately limited to one, so we lose some of the meaning when translated to English.

The first time Jesus asked, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” The Greek word He used for the word ‘love’ is agape, which means an unconditional, sacrificial love. “These” in this question is this life you know, like your fishing trade for instance. So in other words, will you sacrifice for me and choose to give up the life you know? Will you leave the security of your fishing trade to go into ministry with me full-time?

Peter replies, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.”

Agape is understood to be a general meaning of the word love. This love is not based on merit of the person loved, there is nothing they could do to earn it. This love is kind and generous. It continues to give even when the other is unkind and unworthy. It only desires good things for the other and is compassionate.

The second time Jesus ask the question, He uses the word agape again, but this time focuses the question on Peter alone. “Simon son of John, do you love me?” In other words, “Do you chose to love me? Will you give me a self-sacrificial love? Will you offer yourself?”

When we celebrate Holy Communion, one of the commitments we make to Jesus is “we offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice.” That’s what Jesus was asking Peter. Will you offer yourself? Peter again answers, “Yes, Lord. You know I love you.”

But the third time that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He uses the word phileo, which speaks of affection, fondness and liking the other. This love is relational. It’s brotherly and friendship love.

While agape is the more universally understood meaning of love that is shown to a person from no doing of their own, I’m intrigued that Jesus chose to use the word ‘phileo’ as a way to force Peter to think deeper. He wanted to know if Peter loved Him not just because of who He is in God, but rather that they had built a deep and intimate friendship. He wanted to know that Peter cared about Him as a brother. He wanted Peter to know what true reconciliation looks like, and that it requires both kinds of love.

Even though Peter messed up, Jesus wasn’t done with him. Just like He’s never done with you or me. Instead, He knew what was in Peter’s heart. He knew Peter truly did love Him and Jesus walked Peter through getting rid of doubt and guilt, just like He will do with us. He walked him through recognizing Jesus’ forgiveness, forgiving himself. and recommitting his life to Jesus.

Peter’s three confessions of love for Jesus counteracted Peter’s three denials of Jesus. Jesus was in a sense, restoring and reinstalling Peter as His disciple.

Something to note is that each time Peter answered the question, he used the word phileo, meaning affectionate, brotherly love. So that tells us Peter was sincere, that he was serious about his love for Jesus, not just because of who Jesus is but because of their relationship as friends, brothers.

Jesus says, then if you love me (phileo me), then follow me and feed my lambs, take care for my sheep, meaning tend to those who also follow me. And that’s exactly what Peter does. There is no doubt in Peter’s mind that that is what he will do. After everything that has happened, Peter has such a deep love for Jesus that there is no way that he wants to not do what Jesus is asking him to do.

Peter went from being a fisherman to an evangelist; from being impulsive to a rock. Once Peter was restored by Jesus, he was able to deeply embrace the grace of God and become the powerful yet tender leader his Lord had called him to be. This experience of denial and forgiveness is what Peter was able to use to relate with all the people he preached to.

After this conversation, Peter’s life and ministry, as seen in the book of Acts, proved that he was a changed man. Peter, once so thoughtless and impulsive ultimately lived to glorify the Lord he had once denied. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he glowed with new power and urgency for the mission Jesus had given him.

He loved Jesus more than anything else. He chose to love Jesus. From my own experience, I can say choosing to love Jesus gets more and more beautiful as you go. Jesus says, “If you love me, then follow me by making disciples,” Matthew 28:18-20. Share the good news of Jesus Christ, the only way to salvation. Share what Jesus has done for you. Be Jesus’ witnesses so that He can have more of His creation with Him for eternity.

Tell your coworker, your friend or family member you want to walk with them in Heaven.

This relationship we have with Jesus should be like falling in love, every day. If you love Jesus will all of your heart, how can not say yes.

We need to become Great Commission Christians and a Great Commission Church. Outreach needs to be placed at the forefront of every ministry in this church and in our lives. It’s our calling, our purpose, our duty, it’s the response of a grateful heart for all that Jesus has given to you. It’s a response to being in love with Jesus.

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