Jesus Christ, God the Son, had just been crucified on a cross for our sins, and on the third day he was resurrected from the dead by God the Father. After his resurrection Jesus appeared to some of the women, who had followed him prior to his death, and to his disciples, and to many other people, so his disciples had seen him more than once since his resurrection. And now he appeared to some of them again while they were fishing.
Just as day was breaking Jesus stood on the shore, yet his disciples did not know that it was Jesus. And he called out to them and asked them if they had any fish, but they had caught nothing. So he told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, and they would find some. So, they did as he said, and they caught so many fish they were not able to haul them all in. And then John recognized Jesus, and then the disciples came to shore.
John 21:15-17 ESV
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Now, backing up a little here to give this context, Peter had declared to Jesus before Jesus was arrested that he (Peter) would lay down his life for Jesus. But Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times” (John 13:38). And after Jesus was arrested, Peter indeed denied Jesus three times, the third time vehemently, and then the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered Jesus’ words, and he wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).
Now, I wanted to understand what this word “deny” meant then, so I looked the word up on biblehub.com in their interlinear. And I found that it means to “repudiate” (reject, disavow, renounce), “refuse” (decline, snub), and “contradict, refuse to affirm or confess or to identify with, and to disown” (cast off, cast aside). So, this was no light matter. This was a serious offense against the Lord, and Peter did it 3 times as Jesus said he would.
Now, I find it interesting that Jesus then asked Peter 3 times to affirm his love for him. Not only that but remember that the third time that Peter denied Jesus he did so vehemently (“in a forceful, passionate, or intense manner; with great feeling” – Oxford definition). And the third time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus he did so grieved in his spirit that Jesus asked him this a third time. So he answered with great passion and emotion.
What About Us?
Have you ever denied Jesus? Maybe you didn’t do it verbally or passionately like Peter did, but have you ever been embarrassed to mention his name or to let people know that you know him? Have you ever snubbed him when you knew he was talking to you? Or do you cast him aside and live your life however you want? Or do you not talk about him with your friends out of fear of being rejected? There are so many ways we can deny Jesus.
And we don’t deny Jesus just with our words or with our silence but we deny him with our actions when we do the opposite of what we know is right, and when we refuse to listen to him when he says, “Stop! Don’t go there!” We deny him when we refuse to make him Lord (Owner-Master) of our lives and when we barely spend time with him or acknowledge him throughout our days. And we disown him when we choose sin over him and when we refuse to walk in obedience to his commands.
Do We Love Him?
So, Jesus asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Jesus, and Peter verbally affirmed his love for Jesus. But then what was Jesus’ reply to him? He said, “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” They all mean the same thing. Peter was to nurture spiritually the body of Christ, those who trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. He was to teach them what it means to be a Christian and to help them to grow to maturity in their walks of faith in Jesus Christ.
But before I get into what that entails, I want to point out the fact that Jesus told Peter that if he loved him, basically that he was to do what Jesus said. It involved action on his part, not just words, for love is not just words, and it isn’t just emotions (what we feel), but love is what we do, and so is hate. Our actions speak louder than words and they reveal what is in our hearts towards other people, whether it be love or hate.
So, what kind of actions are required of us if we love Jesus or if we say we love Jesus? The Bible says if we love Jesus that we will keep (obey) his commands (his teachings and the teachings of his New Testament Apostles and anything he leads and guides us to do under the direction of his Holy Spirit). And one of the things he does ask us to do is to minister to the body of Christ to help one another to grow (mature) in our walks of faith.
And he says we are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth and that we are to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. And we are to be making disciples of Christ of people of all nations, teaching them to obey our Lord’s commands. And when the Holy Spirit enters into us we are his witnesses for good or for bad, for we represent him and others judge Jesus by us and by how we live.
So, it isn’t just Peter who was to feed the Lord’s sheep, but we are to do that, too. We are to be speaking to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and we are to speak the truth in love to one another and work together as the body of Christ to help one another reach maturity in Christ. And we are to exhort (a holy urging) one another daily so that none of us may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
We need to show the same grace to others as God shows us, and his grace does not pacify people in their sin or give the addicted to sin a pass. His grace instructs us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait our Lord’s soon return. And we need to be helping one another to do that via exhortation and holy urgings and speaking the truth in love to one another.
[Rom 12:1-8; 1 Co 12:1-31; Eph 4:1-16; Eph 5:17-21; Col 3:16; Heb 3:13; 1 Pet 2:9; Matt 5:13-16; Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Acts 26:18; Tit 2:11-14]
An Original Work / August 8, 2012
Based off Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV
Praise be to God, the Father of Jesus,
Who has blessed us in heavenly realms.
For He chose us in Him from beginning
To be His holy children of God;
All in accord with His will and pleasure;
To the praise of His glorious grace.
In Jesus Christ we receive forgiveness.
We have redemption through His shed blood.
Glorious grace God freely has given us
In the One He loves and adores;
All in accord with the riches of His grace
Which He pours out on those He loves.
With all His wisdom and understanding,
God has made known His will unto us,
According to His will and good pleasure,
Purposed in Christ till all be fulfilled;
To bring all things on earth and in heaven
Under our Lord Christ; be unified.