Feed My Sheep, Third Sunday of Easter

Written by Joel on April 20th, 2010

April 18, 2010
Third Sunday of Easter
John 21:1-19


Well, Easter is over. I’ve finished my chocolate bunny, all the eggs have been found (you hope). The card and gift companies are already advertising the next major holiday – Mother’s day. The decorations are gone and the Easter Bunny has left the mall. So I guess that means we go back to business as usual for us. We’ll take down the Easter lilies, the white banners – Easter is over or so the disciples thought.

After sitting with Christ at the Last Supper, the terror of the cross, but also the glory of the resurrection – the glory seen first hand. He let them touch his wounds. Remember these disciples met with Jesus in the upper room not once but twice that he appeared to them. Jesus breathed upon them his own Holy Spirit. He commissioned them. Now a week later Peter – the leader of the disciples suggests they all go fishing. This isn’t a relaxing fishing trip for them, it is a return to their previous way of life to their previous jobs. They had been given a job by Jesus to go “As my father sends me, so I send you” and yet they went back to fishing… Without success. They thought that Easter was over.

Jesus makes one final appearance to his disciples in John’s gospel. Perhaps disappointed at this final denial. But the love of Christ covers this denial. And yet Christ appears again. The disciples do not yet recognize that mysterious figure on the shore. The disciples nets remain empty and Jesus suggests a change. It was in this miracle, the miraculous catch of fish that the beloved disciples recognizes the Lord, and he exclaims the good news. Being reminded of Christ’s love, Peter dives into the sea and swims to Christ. God’s love has a way of making you act in ways you might think are otherwise crazy.

Later, Jesus takes Peter aside for a private conversation. “Simon, Son of John” Jesus begins. We are reminded that the only other time Jesus calls Peter in such a way was when he was called as a disciple in the first place, and Jesus renames him as his own “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called The Rock.” Jesus calls Peter now again, with new meaning. We remember Peter in the garden when he denied Jesus three times. Now Christ calls Peter, renewed in discipleship, with the love of Christ that conquers his denial.

Jesus asks “Do you love me?” What kind of question is this? I wonder if there was any hesitation on Peter’s part. Was he taken aback at the question? How might we respond? Do you love Jesus? Peter answers “Yes, of course, you know that I love you.” And Jesus follows up the question with a call, a command, or perhaps a recommissioning: “Feed my sheep.”

Peter in many ways represents the church for us. At his confession that Jesus is Christ, Son of the Living God; Jesus announced that this was the faith upon which he would build his church. Now it seems that Jesus is handing over the responsibilities of caring for his people over to Peter, and as an extension to the church. Yet, Jesus is clear here that he is not simply handing over the flock as if in a will. No, Peter is called for the care of something still not his. Much like you might hire a baby sitter. They feed and care for the children, perhaps help them with their school work – but they do not become new parents. Also this new responsibility of Peter’s is rooted first in Love. Before he gives the call he asks “Do you love me?” The authority of the church is not rooted in power, it is rooted in love.

We are the church, and Christ calls us to feed his sheep, tend the flock, to love one another. Christ called the church, with all its worts and sins are called in Christ’s love to love each other as the flock of Christ.

Let me ask “Do you love Jesus?” Feed his sheep. Feed one another. Do you love Jesus? Tend his sheep, tend one another. Do all this with the love of Christ which he has first given you.


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