Read John 21
Highlight: John 21:15-17
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you 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 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.”
Three is a powerful number in the Bible. It is written in Ecclesiastes that, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” There were three sacred objects in the Ark of the Covenant. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he answered Satan with three scriptural verses. Paul experienced what he called a thorn in his side, and prayed three times that it be removed.
Time was often measured in three’s – a three day journey, Mary visiting Elizabeth for three months, or a fig tree in a parable of Jesus, that would be cut down if it was unproductive for three years. Some have said that three signifies completeness – the beginning, the middle and the end. Three is a pattern that serves to emphasize that something is important.
Peter denied Jesus three times, and now, Jesus three times reinstates Peter as shepherd of the sheep. Jesus asks Peter, and through Peter, us, to care for others. Help them grow strong and healthy in faith. If we love Jesus, that love needs to be expressed in outward ways, through concrete actions that demonstrate how we care.
We can protest, like Peter – wondering why would Jesus doubt our love? Or we can protest, saying, I’m not qualified, Lord! What do I know about feeding sheep? Jesus knows us through and through, so he knows when we put faith on the sidelines or when we think ministry is only for “professionals.”
We’re not perfect, and neither was Peter. Peter needed this word of grace from Jesus, and so do we. But there may be someone we are able to reach, more than any other person. If Jesus was urging Peter three times to make sure he was listening, then Jesus is doing the same for us. Feed my lambs; take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.
Gracious God, thank you for giving me a second chance when I have failed you. I lift up those to whom you have charged me to love and provide care – a neighbor, a family member, a coworker, a friend. Help me be faithful in serving, for you have trusted me. I commend these people to you, whose needs are before me. This I pray in Christ’s name, who is our great shepherd of the sheep. Amen.