Sunday Readings: Acts 5.27-32, 40-41; Revelations 5.11-14; John 21.1-19
After the disciples had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs” (John 21.15).
After the big catch and the subsequent breakfast, the risen Jesus takes Peter aside to untangle their relationship. Three times Jesus asks Peter the same question; times Peter professes that he loves Jesus. The repetitions echo the three times Peter denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. In that scene Peter, afraid for his life, rejected any connection with Jesus. Here by the lake, Jesus asks him to affirm that they still stand together in love and mission. Peter insists, “Lord, you know that I love you.”
Three times Jesus calls Peter to show his love: Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. In “Fiddler on the Roof” Tevye is so taken with his daughter wanting to marry for love, that he decides to ask his wife, Golde, if she loves him. “Do you love me?” he sings. Golde answers, “Do I love you? For 26 years I’ve washed your clothes, made your meals, borne your children. If that isn’t love, what is?” In its final verses the fourth gospel holds up the story of Peter’s conversion and reconciliation with Jesus as a testimony to what a faithful shepherd is.
The middle word in each command is my. My lambs. My sheep. The flock does not belong to Peter; the community of followers belongs to Jesus. He is the master shepherd. Peter receives a responsibility but not a superior role. His duty is to keep the sheep in the love that Jesus taught them, the love Jesus demonstrated in laying down his life for the flock. Peter is to feed, tend, and love the community, not lord it over the flock.
What needs does a community of believers have today? Who do you shepherd? What three verbs describe you main shepherding actions.