“…Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John,
Do you love me more than the other disciples do?”
Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus told him, ‘Feed my lambs.’
Jesus asked him again, a second time,
‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’
Peter answered him,
‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’
Jesus told him,
“Take care of my sheep.”
Jesus asked him a third time,
“Simon, son of John,
Do you love me?”
Peter felt sad because Jesus had asked him a third time,
“Do you love me?”
So Peter said to him,
‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’
Jesus told him,
“Feed my sheep.”
Jesus was alive again, and for a third time was with His disciples. He had made them breakfast. They knew who He was. Then, Jesus asked Peter, specifically, an important question, three times. Why 3 times? Where was Peter’s head each time? What is it about something repeated three times that makes a difference?
First time: A question comes in the midst of “something else” going on….my mind is focused on something at hand…things bombarding my mind at the moment the “new” topic comes up. Distracted. Focused elsewhere. Experiencing something else at that time.
Watch children, for example. “Seth…come here and _________.” Didn’t even hear me. Fully absorbed in his present moment.
Second time: “Seth….you’re not listening to me. Come here and ________. RIght now!” Now he’s aware of the conflict he’s feeling. He wants to keep doing what he was already doing. I’m pulling him / his thoughts away from something else that has captured them. Awareness begins…a choice is being required. Continue what he’s into or choose to change his focus….probably to something that will require some kind of change in his actions. An internal struggle begins. He’s going to have to make a choice.
Third time: “SETH!” Seth has not yet given his focus to me. I must go to him, put his little face in my hands and require him to look into my eyes. It’s the only way I can truly get his attention. His eyeballs are still going all over the place…avoiding looking in my eyes. That requires a “connection” with me. He is going to have to make a choice….either continue his own way, or give in to obedience to me.
What happened with Peter? He was a fisherman. His “catch” didn’t require long-term, 24/7 care. Fishermen don’t develop a relationship with the fish. One hard whack on the head – done! Peter knew how to do that. He knew fish.
What Jesus was asking him to do would require his life. 24/7. Challenging, tireless, physically demanding, time and life-sacrificing. It would require being away from home and comfort for months at a time. Lonely. And Peter didn’t know how to do it. Fishing he knew. Feeding sheep he didn’t. It required a completely different skill set and temperament. It would require everything. It would require his life.
What is happening in my own life, my own heart as Jesus is asking me that same question?
THE END POINT: IF YOU LOVE ME, FEED MY SHEEP. It’s about “the others”….no matter how bedraggled, skittish, dirty, wayward, flea-ridden, head-butting, stubborn, needy, troublesome, sickly, funny, odd, disobedient or loveable.
This is the whole goal of a good shepherd….find food so that they can eat, and make them feel safe enough to be able to eat. Whether it means months away from home so that they can be in good pasture, or whether the good pasture has been prepared for them right at home…
Loving Him must play out as “feed My sheep.” It will require everything.