Scripture Reading: John 21:15-25
Love is such a powerful emotion. So often it makes us do things we might have never considered otherwise. Love asks us to commit our lives to one other person for the entirety of our lives. Love asks us to change things, try new things; love invites us to act.
When we look at the life of Jesus, he did so many things because of love. He healed people. He educated crowds. He saved people from punishment. He even brought people back to life. All because he loved them.
Some of them, he didn’t even meet before. Yet, because Jesus is both fully man and fully God, he knew them more than we know ourselves. And he loved them.
The scene we are looking at today is another story of Jesus spending time with the disciples, his friends, after his resurrection from the tomb.
In the Gospel of John the scene we have today is the third time the disciples encounter Jesus after Easter morning. He met them in the house twice, once without Thomas and then when Thomas was present. We looked at this encounter just after Easter.
Today’s encounter comes sometime after and the disciples are still waiting to see what might happen. So they go fishing while they wait. And Jesus comes to the shoreline and greets his friends with a meal.
After they finish eating, they’re sitting around, telling stories I’m sure. Maybe having a few laughs. In the midst of this time, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him some questions.
“Peter, do you love me?”
I picture Peter listening to someone share a joke when Jesus asks him this, and he kind of quickly turns and responds as to not miss the punchline. “Yeah, sure. Of course I do!”
And Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.”
Then Jesus asks again, “Peter, do you love me?”
This time maybe Peter takes a bit of a longer look at Jesus, kind of puzzled that Jesus asks again. “Yes, of course I love you!”
“Take care of my sheep.”
Peter, stares at Jesus for a moment longer, nods, and turns back to the wider conversation.
Finally, Jesus asks a third time, “Peter, do you love me?”
Peter is now maybe getting that Jesus has more to say than just seeking affirmation that he is loved, and gets a bit more serious in his response, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
And now that Jesus has his full attention, and the attention of everyone around him, he begins to teach. And he begins again with, “Feed my sheep…”
In the news we hear again and again the heartbreaking news of children being ripped from their mother’s arms as they are caught crossing the southern US border and put into “detention centres”. This should also be a reminder that as Canadians this was our practice in the days of our Residential Schools as indigenous children were dragged from their homes across the country. This should also be a flashback to Nazi Germany. Racism is racism, and it’s all bad, no matter how you try to frame it. Even if you, like the US Government, try to handpick scripture in order to support it.
Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep.
Scripture refers to Jesus a great shepherd. He even sees himself as a shepherd in John 10:11 when he says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
A shepherd is one who watches over his flock, protecting them, making sure they have access to food and water. In another story, Jesus even gives the unrealistic example of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep behind to find one who is lost. No one does that! No one leaves 99 sheep behind without protection to find a single lost one.
But Jesus does.
It’s because he loves those sheep. They are his family.
Jesus is our shepherd and he loves us because we are his family. He will go out of his way to find you, but it’s up to you to make the decision to follow him. You may be lost in a spiritual wasteland, but it’s also up to you if you want to be found.
So when Peter says he loves Jesus, and Jesus can see his heart and knows this, Jesus tells Peter he’s taking over the farm. If Peter loves Jesus, then he will take on the job of watching over the flock. He will be the shepherd.
We have a command from Jesus here, “Feed my sheep.” This is not just a command for Peter, I don’t think it is. It is a command for all who say they love him.
If Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, and you can say with confidence that you love him, then we are to feed his sheep. That is to say, we are to take care of the vulnerable in our communities. We are to stand up and protect those who cannot protect themselves. We are leaders, but more than that, we also are willing to serve and fight for those Jesus calls us to take care of. Just as a shepherd will fight to protect the sheep.
No one said living as Jesus calls us to live was going to be easy!
But, through it all, Jesus invites us to follow him. And so we do our best.
I look at the news from all over the world and see how we have forgotten God, which is evident in how we see people treat one another… there’s no love. To say I’m frustrated is an understatement.
The world has all kinds of laws, which have been created mainly for the safety of the general public. Many laws can be simply boiled down to “don’t do something stupid that hurts someone.”
It almost feels like this view of law is becoming more and more prevalent, to the point where you could say, in some cases, it’s limiting people’s freedom.
As a Christian who loves Jesus and believes he is leading me to live a certain way, I see it as a personal risk to speak out against some things I see happening in the world, even if I think God would be against it.
For instance, on Friday morning we heard that Trinity Western University lost its appeal where law societies were not willing to recognize law students because Trinity Western has a Christian code of conduct it requires its students to adhere to, a code of conduct people with a certain world view have a problem with.
I disagree with the Supreme Court decision, but am not comfortable saying it in certain social circles, because someone will be undoubtedly be upset and I’ll have to spend hours in a debate I don’t really wish to take part in. Not because I don’t like to debate things, but because some people aren’t willing to agree to disagree and would rather just shame you for your particular belief system.
Personally I don’t care if Trinity Western gets to have a law school. What worries me is that this sends a message to Christian organizations which seek to have a different view than what is considered to be the “law of the land” even if there are no specific laws against what we believe. In fact, the Supreme Court pretty much said they didn’t break any laws, but in the opinion of the judges, they were wrong any way.
The world needs laws. Sure. But the laws of the world are superseded by the laws of God. I believe this. If we all followed the laws of God, then we might need fewer laws put in place by earthly powers.
Imagine if we all followed laws like, “Feed my sheep.” That is, take care of one another and let Jesus lead the way. What kind of world would that look like?
Loving God first and foremost, and then loving our neighbours as God loves us. What kind of world would that look like?
God created this world and everything in it. He gave us freedom to act, which as we see in the Bible has gotten us into trouble a few times. And I think it’s getting us into trouble right now because we have forgotten how to love God first, and to love our neighbours. We’ve taken to loving ourselves first, then maybe our neighbours… God’s not even in the picture.
Sure there are many examples where this is not true, but when you see the news, it’s getting easier and easier to generalize that this is the new state of the world.
We need God in the picture. We need to know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We need to say with confidence, “I love Jesus!” and then act in a way which is befitting the life he lived.
We can’t do that without God. Without God our tendency to sin, our pride, our greed takes over. We make gods out of other things, like money or social status.
Jesus, as the Son of God, shows us there is a much better way. A way in which all people are treated equally and loved. And through the love of God, we are all led to live as God would have us live.
Does that mean people change? Sure it does! I know God’s working on change in me, all the time. I’ll never be perfect, but God is working on it. So that when I come to see him face-to-face, I’ll be able to stand before him knowing I am his child, his creation, and he has done great things in me.
If you were with Jesus, and he turned to you and asked, “Do you love me?” What is your answer? Are you able to say with confidence, like Peter, “Lord, you know I love you!”
Or would it be a struggle to commit to that deep of a relationship?
Jesus loves you. He wants the best life for you. He said he has come to the earth to so we who are saved by him may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)
He shows us his commitment to this promise through the life he lived. He showed his commitment by going to the cross in a most brutal death. He showed us the commitment became real when he walked out of that tomb three days later.
It’s not a commitment any more, it’s a victory, and the victory is for us who love him and follow him.
So let’s remember God in our lives. Let’s remember that Jesus has promises of abundant life for those who follow him. Let us also realize his love in our lives, and seek to share that love with those around us.
This is the Good News of Jesus Christ for all people.
Let us pray,
Thank you for loving us. Thank you for your sacrifice and your promise of abundant and new life.
We also acknowledge we need your help. We aren’t always the best at following you. So we ask you to lead us and guide us, to be our shepherd and that we will know your voice when you speak.
We pray for this world, and know you have a great love for all of it, else you would not have come. So show us how we can show your love to this little corner we live in, knowing others will do the same, so that when we all do this work together, a wave of love will cover all of God’s creation.
We ask for this in your most Holy and powerful Name. Amen.