“Tend My Sheep.”

“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:17)

During the Passover meal Jesus shared with His disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples that after His resurrection He would go ahead of them to Galilee. (Matthew 26:32) The disciples after lingering in Jerusalem after the crucifixion and resurrection went to Galilee to meet with their Lord and Master. Seven of the disciple were walking along the Sea of Galilee waiting for Jesus to come. Peter being the leader of the group decided that he wanted to go fishing and the others followed him to the boats. They had spent the night fishing and caught not one fish. At the dawn of the day they returned to the shore and there saw a man beside a fire. At first they did not recognize that it was Jesus standing there preparing a breakfast meal for them.

Jesus called out to them and asked if they had caught any fish and they replied that they had none. He instructed them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat and they would receive a catch. Which they did and caught so many fish that the nets could not haul them in. Then John recognized that the man was their Lord Jesus and told Peter. Peter quickly jumped out of the boat and made for the shore to greet his Lord. Jesus bid them all to come and have breakfast with Him.

After their meal Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. And Peter replied that he did. But there is a difference in the words used for love in this conversation. When Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15) Here Jesus used the word “Agape” for love. This word in Greek is generally defined to a “pure,” ideal type of love, rather than the physical attraction suggested by eros. With the believer, Agape means actively doing what the Lord prefers, with Him by His power and direction. True Agape is always defined by God – a “discriminating affection which involves choice and selection”. It is an example of a loving Christ living His life through the believer. This is the love that Jesus gives and expects from His own. Agape is the Love that the Father is defined by. Agape is the word for love we see in the following verse, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)

Peter did not reply with the same measure of love that Jesus was asking for, as Peter said, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” (John 21:15) The word Peter used here for love was “Philia.” Philia is defined as a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Philia is motivated by practical reasons; one or both of the parties benefit from the relationship. It can also mean “love of the mind.” It is the kind of love that the city of Philadelphia was named after. It is a good love to have towards our family and friends but it falls short of the love that God has for us. Jesus was looking for an equal love from Peter that He had for him.

Peter had denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the High Priest and perhaps Peter was not wanting to be as bold for fear of failing his Lord again. It is said this is why Jesus asked Peter the same question two more times because Peter had denied Him three times. Probably but maybe Jesus was searching for the same high love that He gives and expects in return from His followers.

This is the example that Jesus gives us that we are to love one another as He loves us. This agape love is the love that Jesus shared with the Father and offers to each of us, as Jesus and the Father are one. “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) The Apostle John writes in His first letter that this is the kind of love that we receive from the Father and the kind of love we are to have towards one another. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) It is the same commandments that Jesus has given us. “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

At the third time Jesus asked if Peter loved Him, Peter answered with the same love “Philia” and Jesus answered, “Tend My Sheep.” Peter who may have had some lingering doubts because of His denial but at the persistence of the Lord’s piercing questioning of Peter’s devotion to Him may have become a divine moment is Peter’s journey with the Lord. For in a few short days, the Day of Pentecost, Peter would be used to draw thousands to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41) Here the Church of Jesus Christ was born and Peter and the other Apostles went forth to “Tend His Sheep.”

In that day Peter and the others were transformed form that Philia love that man is capable of to that divine love that God gives, Agape. That love that held our Lord and Savior to the cross that through His sacrifice, His death and resurrection, the lost sheep of this world may find life eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter on that day by the Sea of Galilee was three times given the commission to “Tend My Sheep.” (John 21:15, 16, 17) It is the same commission that all the disciples were given before the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The fathers of old have taught us, the prophets of past years have taught us of God’s ways, but those of us who have encountered Jesus, have dedicated ourselves to His service, have accepted and received His Spirit of Truth to convict and guide our steps, know God’s full revelation. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Let us be careful that we do not become caught up in the revelation that has been given to us. It is not just that we share the love that God has given us through Jesus Christ. It is not just the wonderful revelation that we have been given that secures our eternal hope. It is not a time to sit back in the comfort of knowing that someday soon we will be in paradise with our Lord and Savior in the presence of God our Father, it is a time to work for the Kingdom of God and that all our hands find to do we do for the glory of God. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

We can no longer love with our own human emotions, our sympathies, and working our heart on our own understandings. We will only be seen in a worldly perspective, as the world so well knows. We must pour ourselves out and allow the Spirit of Truth fill the sails of our life and drive us on to do the work of the Kingdom which is our home. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

We are to “Tend His Sheep.” There are many stray sheep in the world today. People who are dazed and confused lost in a tossing sea of humanity. Riding on the high wave to the depths of the swell without a rudder to steer them to safety. Going through life with no guide or compass, a rock to stand upon, a place of refuge to find shelter. Searching for truth in a sea of popular opinion. They are lost in a world that is passing away with no future hope. There is a light in this darkness and it can be clearly seen if the eye of the spirit would only open. A well placed seed of truth, an act of unconditional love given freely, and one who is willing to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Christian should be instruments in the hand of God to set the course of a wayward sheep to the sheep fold of Heaven. For the Lord Jesus is the only way for a wandering soul to find his home in eternity. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Will you who have been called, apply the love that God has given you to your neighbor?” Will you answer and “Tend His Sheep?”

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 2, 2016

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