Jesus’ appearance in John 21 encapsulates his teaching about what it means to follow him. He has given the disciples instructions about how to fish, and then he cares for them by feeding them breakfast. Now Jesus focuses naturally on Simon Peter—the disciple who was eager to be first—to teach the importance of feeding others.
In this interaction, Jesus does not call him Peter, the name Jesus gave him when he called him to be a disciple. Jesus goes back to calling him Simon, the name he had until Jesus renamed him. Perhaps Peter, the rock, was a kind of public persona. Or perhaps Jesus wanted to take things back to where they began.
Jesus asks Simon Peter three times if he loves him. In part it seems to be a response to Peter’s having denied knowing Jesus three times as Jesus faced death. By the third time Jesus asks, his question feels painful and awkward to Peter. His feelings are hurt. Jesus wants to make sure that Simon Peter’s responses are not just eager ones, like jumping from the boat to swim ashore or running back to grab some of the fish that the other disciples had hauled in. He wants to confirm there is depth, commitment, and understanding in Simon Peter’s response.
Following Jesus does not just mean hauling in a load of fish or being cared for by Jesus. It also means feeding Jesus’ lambs and sheep—the poor and vulnerable who were the focus of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus teaches that feeding and caring for those who are vulnerable are what it means to love him. Jesus asks Simon Peter three times to remind him—and all those who hear, including us—about the demands of this work and the depth of commitment that is necessary.
Jesus feeds us so we become willing and able to feed others.
Good Shepherd, help us show our love by feeding your lambs and tending your sheep. Amen.
Saul is one of the primary obstacles to the early spread of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus does not fit his paradigm for the Messiah, so it cannot be true. It takes a miraculous intervention by Christ himself to change his mind. Psalm 30 reminds us that the light will always chase the darkness. We experience true suffering and true loss, but God can turn our mourning into dancing in God’s own timing. In Revelation, John takes us to the throne room of God, where angels and creatures proclaim the glory of the Lamb of God who has defeated death and reigns forever. Returning to the Gospel of John, we read more about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, which here include a seaside breakfast and a quiz for Peter.
Read Acts 9:1-20. Jesus’ resurrection calls us to an embodied faith. How do you bear the gospel?
Read Psalm 30. Recall a specific time when you depended on God.
Read Revelation 5:11-14. Have you ever worshiped the Lamb with your whole body? What keeps you from falling down to worship God?
Read John 21:1-19. The author reminds us that Jesus calls us to be shepherds and sheep. Which role do you most often fill? How can you take on a new leadership role or allow others to lead you?
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