Scripture: 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.” – John 21:17
Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Peter gives him the same answer every time, saying, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” And three times Jesus responds to Peter’s affirmation with the command, “Feed my sheep.” This interaction is so interesting to me. There is so much power in God’s Word, that sometimes thoughts just overflow when I read scripture. Here are a few thoughts on this morning scripture.
First, did Jesus ask Peter three times because Peter recently denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed? Was this to help reinforce with Peter the weight of his message? Was this to help Peter deal with the guilt of denying Jesus three times? I could sit here and speculate for days, and I probably will, on why he asked Peter the same question three times. But what I take from this is that it is perfectly fine and natural to reinforce a core message with those around us. At work, at home, or in our ministry, repetition is an important part of making our message stick. Like a plant being fed and maturing, we need continual feeding of the Word for it to take root.
Second, why does Jesus use those specific words, “Do you love me”? He knows that Peter is going to say that he loves him. So why does he ask this? The way that I see it is that Jesus wants Peter to declare his love, verbally. Similarly, God wants to hear us declare our love for him too. When the scripture says that Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him three times, this indicates that Peter’s heart was hurt. It is obvious that love was pouring out from Peter’s heart. I think that is how God wants us to declare our love for him. When we praise, when we declare, let it be from our heart.
Now to consider how Jesus replies to Peter… Jesus says to feed his sheep. It’s almost like Jesus was saying, “yeah I hear what you are telling me with your lips, but I need you to show me with your actions.” If you love me, feed my sheep, don’t just tell me. If you love me, do as I did. Love others. Take care of them. Lead them by example.
And why does Jesus use the word “feed”. He doesn’t say to take care of them, he says to feed them. Why the reference to food? Certainly Peter can’t physically feed everyone! I believe that Jesus is telling Peter to feed them spiritual food through study of God’s Word. Some other scriptural references that reinforce this concept:
- Peter talks about this in his own writing, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” -(1 Peter 2:2)
- When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness: But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” – (Matthew 4:4)
- We even see this principle in the old testament scripture, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
So in this simple scripture, through this one simple conversation with Peter, we can learn so much. Think that I am reading too much into this scripture? How many other lessons does Jesus repeat three times? In my mind, this is super important to understand. Jesus is emphasizing and highlighting some key principles with Peter. And interestingly, he asked Peter to follow him, just like he did in in the very beginning when they first met.
My takeaways: (1) Love God first and foremost. (2) Love and care for others, just as Jesus did. (3) We love and care by feeding of spiritual food, through God’s Word.
Let us pray that God’s Word this morning gives each and every one of us the spiritual nourishment that we need today.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for your Word this morning. As we get ready to eat our breakfast, help us to also take in our Spiritual food every morning. As man cannot live on bread alone, feed us every day with your Word. Help us to feed others as Jesus emphasizes three times with Peter, and in many other places in your Word. Help us to value the feeding of our Spirit Lord, that we might be restored, refreshed, and renewed in You. Guide our every step today Lord, our every thought, and every word that comes from our mouth. Let your Spirit flow through us, washing us clean, and overcoming the darkness that surrounds us. We seek you first Lord, and ask for your special touch upon our every moment. We love you Lord, and our hearts cry out to you. We give you all the honor and glory, in Jesus mighty name. Amen.
Image courtesy of: with wind
Photo By with wind
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