Feed My Sheep

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Simon Peter had been one of Jesus’ most ardent disciples but when the chips were down, Peter had stumbled. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Jesus three times (John 18:17, 25, 27).  Peter had good reason, of course. He had seen the power of Jesus’ enemies. But then the story took a turn that Peter could never have imagined. There was a cross and death, of course, but there also was an open tomb. Peter saw the risen Christ –  God turned defeat into victory! Jesus had won, but in some ways Peter had lost. Peter must have felt so deeply his shame at denying Christ … not just once, but three times.

Chafing at their inactivity after the resurrection, Peter and the disciples went back to what they knew – fishing. It wasn’t recreational fishing like you and I do. It wasn’t just something to get their minds off the events of the past few days – of Jesus’ death and all the strange things that happened afterwards. Fishing had been their livelihood, and it turned out to be just what these men needed at this difficult time. It was familiar – and comforting. It would go too far to say that they were enjoying themselves. They were not, after all, catching fish. Still, the hard work – the familiar feel of the nets in their hands – the water lapping against the side of the boat – all these served as a balm to these men so worn down by the events of the past few days.

Jesus Comes

Jesus came to them where they were – in their work-a-day routine. He did not wait for a convenient time to reach out to them, but came to them where they were. He still does that, you know. Jesus comes to us where we are. He comes to us at the strangest times – at work – at school – at home – in the solitude of our dark nights. Note that it was a hard time in the lives of these fishermen, and it’s often in the hard times of our lives that Jesus comes to us. He comes to save us, even when we don’t know we need saving. When times are hard, though, we know. When times are really hard, we know we are in desperate need of help.

Jesus came to these fishermen to dispel any doubt they might have had about the resurrection. He was not a ghost or a vision. Jesus talked to them. He said the word that led to a great catch of fish. He sat with them. He prepared their breakfast. He ate with them.

Do You Love Me?

But, most importantly, Jesus gave Peter a chance to redeem himself. During his night of shame, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Each time someone had asked if Peter were one of Jesus’s disciples, Peter had said, “I am not.”  Now, Jesus came asking three times if Peter loved him. Jesus repeated the question three times, and Peter answered three times. Each answer must have been just a little harder for Peter than the last. But there was also a healing taking place with each answer.  “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  With each affirmation of his love, a bit of Peter’s guilt must have melted away and a bit more of their relationship was restored.

Christ works that way. He doesn’t come to embarrass us, but He doesn’t let us off the hook either. He doesn’t minimize our sins, and He doesn’t encourage us to do so. He doesn’t say, “It makes no difference.” He doesn’t say, “Forget it.”  He asks, “Do you love me more than these?”

He asks, “Do you love me enough to really commit yourself to true discipleship?”

He asks, “Do you love me enough to set aside your girlfriend and to be faithful to your wife?”

He asks, “Do you love me enough to set a new standard of honesty and integrity at work?”

He asks, “Do you love me enough to tell your neighbors about me?”

Feed My Lambs

Each time Peter said that he loved Jesus, Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs.”  He was saying, “If you love me, Peter, tend my sheep.”  He was saying, “If you want a chance to fully redeem yourself, feed my sheep.”  He was saying, “If you love me, take care of the little ones whom I love.”

Christ comes to us, too, saying, “Do you love me?”  “Do you love me more than these?”  “Do you really love me?”  Each time that we tell him that we love him, he says, “Feed my sheep.”

In every important relationship, we start with words. We finish with deeds.

Christ says to us, “Do you love me?”  We say, “Lord, you know that I love you.”  Christ responds, “Feed my sheep.”  What does that mean?  It means different things for each of us, and yet it means the same thing for all of us.  It means that we start with words, but finish with deeds.

“FEED MY SHEEP!” At the very least, it means that we teach our children to love Christ. It means that we give Christ a central place in our family.  It means that we bring our children to Sunday school and church regularly.  It means that we take their spiritual feeding as seriously as we take their dinner menu.  It means that we set the example – that we show them by our lives what it means to be a Christian.

FEED MY SHEEP!”  Perhaps Christ is calling you to teach a Sunday school class – or to work with our young people’s group.  Don’t discount the possibility.

“FEED MY SHEEP!”  It means that we share our faith with our neighbors.  Again, it means that we set the example – that we show them by our lives what it means to be a Christian. It means that we care about them – that we invite them to church – that we share our faith.

“FEED MY SHEEP!”  It means that we care for those in need.  It means we feed the hungry.  It means we give the thirsty something to drink.  It means we welcome the stranger …  and clothe the naked …  and take care of the sick …  and visit those in prison.  It means that we look for ways to help pregnant teenagers in our own community.

Jesus asks today, “Do you love me?”

That is the question.  Do you love Jesus?  Do you?  If you do, feed his sheep!

Peace friends,

Chuck

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2 Comments

  • jane says:

    Thank you, Chuck. First, I love the photo. Lambs are so small and helpless and rely on others. Let me be one of those who feed the sheep. Second, Peter! My favorite saint, I think, because I can relate when I do my nightly examens – shameful, as always. Thirdly, the “breakfast on the beach” gospel, again my favorite, so simple, so perfect, so Jesus!

  • Terry says:

    So many good messages in that little book …
    Thanks for relating them to our everyday lives …
    Do you love me more than these ??

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