15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said,“Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said,“Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said,“Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him,“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus 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 has one more item of business to take care before he goes back to be with the Father in heaven. One of his closest friends, Peter, had gone from telling Jesus he would never deny him, to denying that he even knew Jesus three times on Jesus' fateful, last night. As we have seen in the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, Peter has been the most anxious one to see his risen Lord. Yesterday, he jumped out of the boat to see him Jesus on the beach. Jesus knew Peter's three-fold denial was still on the forefront on his mind, and wanted to free him of the guilt and shame of the incident.
So, Jesus takes Peter aside and asks Peter if he loves him. Not once, not twice, but three times! Each time Peter answers the same, "Yes, Lord you know I love you." By the third time, Peter is hurt by the continued questioning by Jesus. But I think Jesus has a deeper goal. Jesus is redefining what it means to love him. The simple answer to Peter was, "Feed my sheep". Jesus is making it very simple. If you love me, feed my sheep. Jesus is calling Peter to be a shepherd of those who will become his believers after he leaves. This is a huge calling for Peter, and Jesus wants to make sure Peter gets it right.
What can we learn from this interaction? There is a deep connection between our relationship with Jesus, and how we interact with other believers. Some people are specifically called to be pastors, which means shepherd, but we all have people in our lives that look to us for guidance. For example, a guy in our church leads a small group of sixth graders in our Confirmation program each Sunday. He meets with them every week, sees how they are doing, prays with them and ask questions about how they understand the lesson for the day, and how it might apply to their lives. He works at Disney by day, and on Sundays he shepherds sixth grade boys! His love for Jesus is shown by how he cares for these boys. Make sense.
How is God called you to shepherd others he has brought into your life? Do you love him? Feed his sheep!