By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: John 19-21
Key Scripture Verses: John 21:17-19 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“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. Very truly I tell you, 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!’”
As I was reading these passages in preparation for writing this blog post, I was profoundly struck by the scriptures—these scriptures I have read many, many times before. It was emotional and profound because the words became personal to me in a new way. I will explain below and I hope that you can understand these words a little more in a personal way, also.
Jesus has died and come back to life. He had already appeared to his disciples before. But, this time he is waiting for them on the beach and preparing breakfast for them. They have not done well with their fishing, so he tells them, before they realize it’s him, to cast their nets yet again. And suddenly, there were more fish than they could imagine and they hauled them in and then accepted his invitation to dine with him. He’s come to have breakfast with his earthly companions. Again he provides for them. And he demonstrates that he loves them and wants to be with them.
After breakfast, Jesus addresses Peter specifically and three times he asks him, “Do you love me?” And each time Peter answers to the affirmative, Jesus gives a command. Per my Bible’s commentary, the first time Jesus asks, he means to find out if Peter loves him enough to follow him and leave his friends, his life, if necessary,for him—would he sacrifice what he has volitionally to follow him now. (Remember Peter denied Jesus three times.) He tells Peter to “feed my lambs,” then to “Take care of my sheep,” then this third time to “feed my sheep.” He has essentially told Peter to help new disciples come to Christ, to care for his flock of Christian believers, and then to teach and help disciples of Christ to grow in faith.
These passages are profound because Jesus allows Peter acknowledgement of his forgiveness of having denied him and allows him to affirm his faith three times. And he says to him personally to not only affirm his belief, but to do so with conviction enough that he is willing to give up everything, including his life for him. He is asking him to follow him to the cross, to be willing to die in the same manner for this conviction and he commands him to do so.
Jesus has asked him if he believes in him enough philosophically to do what is needed, as his God. He has asked him if he loves him as his personal Savior, and if he loves him as his friend and brother. He asks him personally if he loves him enough to follow him.
After Peter says he does, he then asks about John—“what about him?” and Jesus tells him that that is not of his concern. Jesus basically says, (my words and interpretation) “I’m telling you what I need you to do, Peter. This is about you and only you. I need you to do what I am asking you personally. This is about your relationship with me. Are you able to do what I need you to do? Are you willing? Do you love me enough?”
It was Peter’s calling to be the “rock,” a foundation for the church’s development. He was called to do a specific job. We are all called to do our own jobs. We each have our own purposes, our own callings. Do we love him enough to step up to the tasks he asks us to do?
If we ever question whether Jesus cares for us personally, these scriptures should answer that for us. God is not a distant overseer who has put things in motion, only to watch from a distance. He wants a relationship with each of us. He calls us to do what is unique to us. He will provide the direction.
Jesus beckons us, saying “Follow me.” When you hear him saying that, know that he’s saying it to you–it’s personal!