“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.” 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.” 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. 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.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, “Follow Me!”
Last week we looked at why Jesus asked Peter His questions three times, and how Peter experienced restoration through his confession. Each time Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved Him, it was a reminder that true love carries a responsibility. It was an opportunity for Peter to consider what it meant. Love cannot be just a string of words, or an emotional gesture, although this is how the world represents love. Each time we say we love someone, there is an implication, a commitment, a weight of responsibility carried by the words. It is easy to say we love, but what does it really mean to us, and what is expected of a person who says she/he loves someone?
Just a few days before, Peter ran away from the One he loved when he thought things would get difficult or painful for him. Now Jesus was saying to him that love was a permanent thing, a long term covenant relationship. If Peter loved Jesus more than everything and anyone else, he was being called to lay down his life for the long haul. Jesus said “If you love Me, feed My lambs”. “If you love Me take care of My sheep”. “If you love Me, feed My sheep”. When we say that we love the Lord, we are also accepting to love His Body. We carry a responsibility to be mindful of their needs, to shepherd them, pray for them, guide them, and to be our brother’s keeper. It is a long term thing! Jesus was saying to Peter that love would not always be easy; in fact it would most often be quite hard. Even when Peter was old and blind and had to be led by someone else, he would still need to feed the lambs and take care of the sheep, and stay committed and faithful to those who belonged to the Master he said He loved more than everything else. In fact, Jesus was also letting Peter know that this time his love for the Lord would truly be unto death. (Peter died a martyr’s death). “No greater love has any man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends”. (John 15:13).
I believe Jesus is saying the same thing to us today: “If you truly love me more than anything else, love my sheep. Care about them. Seek to meet their needs. Some of my sheep are hurting, sick, lost, lonely, hungry. Would you reach out to my sheep? Would you reach out to my lambs? Would you (for Me) stay faithful and keep caring, because you love Me?” Lambs have different needs to sheep and Jesus says to you today: “Will you feed My lambs?” He asks you “Would you leave the 99 and go (like I do) in search of the one that has gone astray? My sheep are different ages and in different situations with different needs. Can you care for each one? Can you love and live with them despite all the irritations and difficulties, and the inevitable hurts and disappointments that will arise along the way?” He says “If you love me wash each other’s feet as I have washed yours” (John 13:14). Jesus promises us great joy when we lay aside our own needs to serve another!
The Good Shepherd’s heart aches for the sheep. He longs to bring His lambs to feed and drink in the abundance of His love. This is what He wants His kids to do – to reach out to the poor, the hurt, the suffering, and set them free; to build up the broken and bind the wounded. In heaven, Jesus hears the sound of broken hearts and shattered dreams on earth. His heart weeps when we weep. He knows about human pain and suffering, but He has the answer: There is sufficient love in the Lord for us all! There is sufficient love to heal every wound and every disease, to bind every broken heart and broken relationship, to bring peace and rest to the weary, and provision for those in need. It is the love that flows from the wound in His side! It is the power of the cleansing blood of Jesus.
It sounds like Jesus gave Peter (and us) a difficult commission. It would be hard if we had to do it alone and in our human strength, but Jesus made it easy and showed us how. He said to Peter “Follow Me”! He says the same to you and me today. If we just followed Him and did what He did, it would be a lot easier. He has given us the power of His precious and beautiful Spirit who makes all things possible when we believe. It is He who fills us with the supernatural love of the Father and enables us to love those we do not really feel like loving! It all begins with forgiveness. I challenge you to begin to reach out to those in need. Your own difficulties will begin to fade away as you focus on the needs of others, and as the Spirit of the Lord begins to flow into you the very blessing you are giving away to those in need – your time, love, energy and resources!
Dear friend, may the Spirit of the Living God fall afresh upon you today and overflow you with His power and His presence. May you know His ultimate healing through forgiveness and the blood of Jesus. May you receive complete freedom from the negative words of the past as Peter did, and soar to higher ground. May you be filled with a new love for Jesus and for His kids as you follow Him and live His love. To Him be the glory both now and forever, Amen!
Minoli Haththotuwa, 20 February 2012