When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these? “Yes Lord, he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him,” Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus had 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.”
Jesus warned Peter that after He died Peter would deny Him. That seemed preposterous to Peter at the time, but when the rooster began to crow, Peter knew that what Jesus had told him now had come true: Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. (John 13:38) And Peter did. After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Him three times when questioned whether or not he had been with Jesus. I cannot imagine how Peter must have felt when the rooster began to crow and Jesus’ words came back to haunt him. I suspect that in that moment his heart broke knowing that he had denied Christ, his Savior…his friend. If the story had ended here, it would have been tragic – the story of a broken man named Peter who lived the rest of his life in shame and guilt.
No, the story had an ending of redemption and grace. After the resurrection, Jesus appears to Peter and reinstates him. He commissions Peter to feed His sheep, meaning the people who were broken and needy – people just like Peter. You see, Peter needed to experience the pain of separation from God, the conviction of needing God, and the pain of deserting God so that he could in turn help others. Jesus began by asking Peter if he loved Him using the Greek word “agape.” Each time Jesus asked if Peter loved him, He commissioned him to feed and care for His sheep. It may not have any true significance, but it is interesting to note that the first time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He used the word “agape,” which means “to love with the same love that God loves us.” The third time He uses the word for love “filios,” which means “to love with a brotherly love.” Perhaps Jesus recognized that Peter was not able to love Him with agape love, so He met Peter where his heart was. As we follow Peter in his walk with Christ throughout the New Testament, we see a man who grows more and more in love with Christ. It is evident from his willingness to lay down his life for His Lord that over the course of his life he grew to love Christ with agape love.
Have you ever denied Christ? You may say, “Of course not!” But when you refuse to tell others about Him because of fear of rejection, you deny Him. Like Peter, Jesus is telling you to feed and care for His sheep. Are you willing?
Heavenly Father, Forgive me for denying You with my words and actions. Grow the love of Christ deeply in my heart so that I can tenderly care for Your sheep. In Jesus’ name, Amen