John 21:15-19, NIV
15 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." 16 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."

17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you
love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third
time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things;
you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.
18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed
yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old
you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress
you and lead you where you do not want to go."

19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which
Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

June 19, 2012
According to this gospel, it is the third time Jesus appeared
before his disciples in his resurrected body. This one is on
Peter's turf and for Peter's benefit, on the shore around the
fishing boats where Peter was most comfortable.

After breakfast, Jesus and Peter walked away from the others
to speak with each other alone. Is this their first private
conversation since Peter denied knowing Jesus? And why does
Jesus revert to the old name of Simon, as he was known before
he became Peter, the rock?

Peter knows he has failed Jesus. After boasting he would never
abandon Jesus, he denied he ever knew him! So he must have
felt some shame. But what's done is done and there was
nothing he could do to change the past. Sorry doesn't help.
Shame and regrets get in the way and tarnish relationships.
How would these two get past the damage that had been done?

Before Peter had the chance to ask for forgiveness, Jesus began
their conversation with a surprising question - Do you love me
more than anything else? Now that was a question Peter did
not have to think about twice. He knew the answer immediately.
"Yes, Lord, you know I love you."

Scholars tell us the Greek word for love which Jesus used is
agape, which is the kind of love God gives to us, unconditionally.
When Peter answered he used the Greek word philios, which is
a brotherly love. Peter knows himself too well by now. He will
not promise anything he knows he might not deliver on.

Jesus repeated the question a second time and Peter gave the
same answer. The third time Jesus asked the question he used
the word philios, as though he was willing to accept what Peter
could offer at the moment. Jesus did not reject what was in
Peter's heart and what he could honestly commit to that day.

Peter is being cautious. He is still hurting from his failure to
do right by Jesus. He probably could not explain how it had
happened. He hurts too, because Jesus asked the question
three times. Three denials - I do not know him. Three queries -
Do you love me? They were both remembering the same incident.
They were both wanting to erase the past from the slate.

I like this story very much, because the important issue for
discussion was not Peter's sin and failure, his remorse and
shame, or the bewilderment over how it had happened. Jesus
simply wanted to know, "Do you love me?" Peter responded,
"Yes, I do. I do, I do." To me this implies - if you love me,
all else is forgiven.

June 20, 2012
What better way to restore Peter's confidence that he was
still a valued disciple than to give him an important job to do!
To regain his sense of purpose and accept that although he
failed Jesus, he can still be counted upon to lead the others
once again. Maybe that's a lesson for all of us. The best way to
accept the grace and forgiveness of God is to get busy for God.

Peter's occupation suddenly changed from fisherman to
shepherd. Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my
sheep. Jesus was never a fisherman, yet he did at times refer to
himself as a shepherd. Early in the gospel accounts, Jesus told
his disciples they would become fishers of men. Now they
would become shepherds of the flock. Initially Jesus had called
them to believe and receive eternal life. This second call to
follow him is a summons to serve.

It's interesting that Jesus appeared to the disciples just as their
lives were returning to normal. After all the excitement of
Easter morning, it had not changed their lives. What do they
do? They went back to fishing just like usual. But Jesus had
something much grander in mind. The usual (fishing) is out.
Shepherding will be the new normal. Jesus has redefined their
intentions. They will continue to follow Jesus even when he
is not physically present with them!

What does it mean to feed and care for the sheep? Jesus 
described them as "my sheep." Peter's job was to care for the
sheep of Jesus as Jesus would if he were present to do so. It's
one thing to say that God so loved the world, it's another
thing entirely to look at "the world" and see individuals whom
God loves so dearly that he gave up his son to save them
and give them eternal life.

Loving Jesus comes first. Shepherding is done because we
love Jesus. Loving the world, loving the flock of God is no easy
task. It's possible only when and if we love Jesus.

June 21, 2012
Why would Jesus divulge the information about Peter's future?
Did he think it was only fair to warn Peter? Was Peter eager for
the chance to redeem himself by suffering for the sake of Jesus?
Peter would get many "second chances" to prove that he was
no coward, but instead could stand up and take the heat. 

The kind of shepherding Jesus was talking about is not for
someone who needs to control their own life. We see a different
picture of maturity in these verses. We think of the young as
dependent and going wherever they are led. Jesus shared an
alternate vision with his trusted disciple Peter. Immediately
after Jesus told Peter to be a shepherd, he told him his life
would not go on as usual. He would become powerless. And
humbled. He would be led where he did not want to go.
These words deter most of us. But not Peter.

Follow me! There's a huge gap between reading about the
resurrection in the Bible and experiencing resurrection power 
in our own lives. Peter intended to experience that power.
It's all about love, and trust, and saying "yes" when Jesus says
"Follow me!"  That's "Follow me!" with an exclamation point.

Peter stopped his remorseful thinking and focused instead
on what Jesus had for him to do. I have a lot to learn from Peter.

These verses contain another instance wherein death and
glory are mentioned in the same sentence. There is honor in
sacrificing one's life on behalf of another. Jesus glorified God
in his death. Peter would too. It's what a good shepherd does
for his sheep.

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