John 20: 15-19 – The World of the Text, Part Two

This week in our journey to Pentecost, we will be looking at Peter’s encounter with Jesus along the lake. We’ll be looking specifically at John 20: 15-19 and today we’ll be looking at the world of the text, specifically the last question that Jesus asks, and his command to Peter:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

rootedchristYesterday we saw Jesus ask Peter twice if he loved Him with specific things attached to the question and to Peter’s answers.  Today, we will see Jesus ask Peter one more time, do you love me?  And the text said that this time it hurt.  Why? Why did it hurt?

Well, go back earlier within the text.  How many times did Peter deny Jesus?  Three times.  How many times did Jesus ask him if Peter loved Him?  Three times.  For each time Peter failed or rejected Jesus, Jesus give Peter the chance of restoration.  Each mistake was redeemed.  Each failure was given grace.  Grace abounds.  Peter’s failure did not cast him out.  It did not make him irredeemable.  Jesus brings him back home.

There’s a clip from one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes where his friend betrays him but is then taken aback that the Doctor would still help them.  But the Doctor is confused and says, “Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”  That line is exactly the way that Jesus feels towards us. He loves us (and wants to use us) not because we are worthy because He simply loves us.  Peter is welcomed back.

So, Jesus tells him, feed my sheep.  Feed is the same word used in the first question, to care for the spiritual wellbeing of others. But this time, it is not just the lambs, the young, but it is all of the sheep.  All of Gods’ people.  The one who had fallen is now to provide care for all God’s people.

After this we see Peter asking questions about the rest of the disciples. But Jesus cuts through all this with this simple command.  Follow me. That’s what it is all about for Peter and me and you. Follow Jesus. Peter is forgiven, not for just for his sake, but so that he could follow others.  And point others to Jesus.

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