One of my favorite passages to preach on after Easter is John 21. The opening verse tells us that Jesus appeared to His disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Once again they were fishing. As I reflect on this passage, I wonder why Peter had gone back to being a fisherman. Was he doing this until things were quieter in Jerusalem? Or was he still struggling with how to begin wearing the mantle that Jesus gave him when He named Peter as The Rock? Or was he simply taking a break, going back to what was familiar in preparation for how the apostles would begin their work?
Whatever the reason, this is where Jesus meets them in the Gospel narrative of John. There are many parallels with the call story of Simon Peter in the Gospel of Luke. After an unsuccessful night in the boat, Jesus tells Peter to cast the net to the right side of the boat. The catch was so full that they were unable to haul in the net.
Breakfast that morning was the fish they caught. After a meal of bread and fish, Jesus spoke with Peter. Jesus didn’t ask Peter about his plans for continuing the mission. Jesus didn’t wonder who would follow Judas Iscariot, or when Peter and the other apostles would return to Jerusalem.
Instead, Jesus asked Peter one question 3 times. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs, Tend my sheep, Feed my sheep.” With these nine words, Jesus shares with Peter what the focus of the new faith will be.
From the love that Peter has from Jesus, Peter was called to care for the flock. During his three years journeying with Jesus, Peter learned from the Good Shepherd how to feed the Lord’s lambs, tend the Lord’s sheep and feed the Lord’s sheep. As Peter began to wear the mantle Jesus placed on his shoulders, his mission was affirmed by Jesus. Through love, care, support, and nurturing would the flock continue to grow and thrive.
I believe this passage is as much a part of our Christian heritage as Matthew 28 and the Great Commission. In many ways, Jesus continues to ask us if we love Him. The greatest declaration of God’s love is to continue the tasks Jesus gave to Peter: tend the flock, and care for the sheep and the lambs.
As part of how we answer God’s call, I invite us to reflect upon John 21. Think of the ways that Jesus asks you and me: “do you love me?” I hope that each of us can respond as Peter did: “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”
Our Lord and Savior will encourage us to care for all of God’s children in numerous ways. We are still being called to serve. We are being asked, more now than ever, to care for God’s children. May we pray without ceasing. May we find ways to feed the hungry, minister to those who are sick, and bring light into the darkness of people’s lives. May we be innovative in our pastoral care for those who need to know that we are not alone. May we share God’s love with everyone we meet, whenever and however we can. May we follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd as our answer to the question: “Do you love me?” And Amen.