Feed My Sheep
Updated: May 11
St. Philip Lutheran Church
1 May 2022 + 3rd Sunday of Easter
Rev. Robert Biekman
Do You Love Jesus?
This text focuses on the post-resurrection call of Jesus’ core team; the disciples. In calling the disciples Jesus commissions them to change the world. However, lets focus on the character of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Seems to me Christians spend way more timing trying to figure out who is a disciple rather than what is a disciple. So today let’s rather than focus on who has Christian character let’s focus on what is Christian character. And thank God we don’t have to look far to find the characteristic of a Christian. In John 21:17 Jesus gives us insight the character of a Hid followers when He says, “Feed My Sheep.” Let Us Pray!
In John 21 we have a post-resurrection appearance Jesus. Jesus goes back to the place where He first called the disciples and gives them a practical lesson in the abundance of God’s grace. After fishing all night and “catching nothing”, Jesus instructs the disciples to let down their nets on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish that the Bible records, “they could not haul it in.”
Jesus performs a simple act of hospitality by preparing a barbecue fish breakfast for them and then inviting them to the table. Can you smell the charcoals burning? The sound of the fish crackling on the fire? The satisfaction in eating fish and bread after working all night?
Peter Do You Love Me?
After breakfast, Jesus calls Peter out with a question. Jesus asks, Peter, “Do you love me?” Tradition teaches us that Jesus asks Peter, “Do You Love Me?” 3 times because Peter denied Jesus three times when he was questioned by the authorities if he knew Jesus.
Tradition also teaches us that this is Peter’s pastoral and apostolic commission. You’ll remember what Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus’ command to Peter to feed my sheep is a model of what it means to live out ones love for Jesus. Now Jesus does not ask the same thing 3 times for emphasis. Jesus asks Peter 3 different questions and instructs Peter to do three different things. You see this is as one Biblical commentator puts it, “Peter’s Reinstatement.” This is similar to Paul’s re-orientation by Jesus in the today’s reading from the Book of Acts.
A Radical Re-Orientation
You see, Paul and Peter were not as much converted as they were re-oriented by Jesus. Both Paul and Peter had a particular way of life. Peter returns to his old life prior to meeting Jesus. Paul wants to maintain his old way of life. But both have an experience of the Riz! The Risen Jesus and they experience a radical reorientation of their lives. Have you met the Riz?
Jesus asks, “Peter do you have divine (agape) love for me?” And Peter responds. You know I am your friend (Phileo). Literally the question was "Peter do you love me enough to sacrifice everything?" Yet Peter literally answered, “Yes Lord, You know I’m your friend.” Jesus tells Peter then (feed) pasture my little lambs – lambs are the new believers and members of the faith community.
The second time Jesus asks, “Peter do you have love me unconditionally?” Peters responds Jesus. “Yes Lord - you know you are my friend.” Jesus instructs Peter then tend my sheep – manage my sheep – guard my sheep. When Jesus says sheep here he is referring to the rest of the flock. This is an indication of the leadership role Peter would have in the early church.
Finally, a third time Jesus asks, “Peter am I your friend?” Peter who has now taken some offense responds, “Yes Lord you know I am your friend.” Then Jesus tells him pasture my lambs!
In his encounter with Peter in John 21:17, Jesus instructs Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Feed my sheep!
A Radical Re-Instatement
You see, Jesus primary concern is about the future care of the faith community that is emerging. You see in John 13, the Word of God declares that the distinctive characteristic of the believers in Christ Jesus is going to be how they love and care for the world and one another. And today, Jesus sums it up by saying Feed my sheep…Jesus is still saying to us…“Feed my sheep.”
Peter not only experiences a radical re-orientation with Jesus but Peter experiences a reconciling re-instatement with God through Jesus. Jesus receives Peter with an act of hospitality. Then Jesus restores Peter to his former relationship. Jesus knew who he had chosen then, and Jesus knows who he chooses today. Jesus was not unaware of Peter’s sin or insensitive to his betrayal by any standard Peter was unfit for the job by the world’s standards but God specializes…God can use even me!
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT JESUS MEETS US WHERE WE ARE!
JESUS DID NOT WAIT FOR YOU TO GET ALTOGHER BEFORE YOU EXPERIENCED GOD’S GRACE –
JESUS MET YOU AND I IN THE MIDST OF OUR MESS!
YOU SEE…JESUS MEETS YOU WHERE YOU ARE BUT CHRIST CALLS YOU BEYOND YOURSELF!
Love In Action
Jesus reminds Peter because of how you have been received and restored by the Abdundant grace of God, Put Your Love For Me into Practice.
Educator and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman says,
YOU REALLY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD IF YOU CARE ENOUGH!
JESUS SAYS…IF YOU LOVE ME – FEED MY SHEEP!
There is a spiritual hunger in the world that cannot be satisfied by better cars or longer credit terms – Nothing satisfies except God!
PEOPLE ARE STILL SPIRITUALLY HUNGRY
BUT THEY ARE ALSO INSTITUTIONALLY SUSPICIOUS
THOSE SUSPICIONS ARE JUSTIFIED; CHURCHES FAILS TO PRACTICE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! ONLY PEOPLE WHO ARE CRAZY ENOUGH TO THINK THEY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD DO!
Heaven & Hell
One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.” God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of vegetable stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
THE MAN SHUDDERED AT THE SIGHT OF THEIR MISERY AND SUFFERING.
GOD SAID, “YOU HAVE SEEN HELL.”
Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful vegetable stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
THE MAN SAID, “I DON’T UNDERSTAND.”
God smiled. It is simple, God said, Love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another. While the greedy only think of themselves…
So often congregations plan with a deficit mentality rather than an asset -based approach. God’s grace abounds! There is abundance all around you!
SOMETIMES, THINKING SOLELY OF OUR PERSONAL GRATIFICATION, WE TEND TO FORGET OUR INTERDEPENDENCE WITH EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING AROUND US SO MUCH SO THAT WE STOP CARING ABOUT THEM..
GRACE HAPPENS WHEN WE ACT WITH OTHERS ON BEHALF OF THE WORLD.