‘If you love me…’

Apr 5, 2018 by

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After the resurrection of Jesus, there were still things he needed to teach the disciples before his ascension to heaven.

The disciples, no doubt, had guilt about their disappearance during his trial, his scourging and his awful crucifixion. We know John was at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus; yet, Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and Thomas didn’t believe he had really come back to life.

One morning the disciples gathered on the shore of the sea of Galilee for a breakfast of fish prepared by the Master himself. Sitting around that fire, Jesus asked Peter three questions and gave him three instructions (John 21:1-17).

This was the third time Jesus was with the disciples since his resurrection. The men, led by Peter, had been fishing. The fishing was Peter’s idea, and the others followed. Jesus asked them to bring some of their fish to him for their breakfast.

When they got to shore, they saw the coals of fire, the fish and the bread.

Jesus gave a simple invitation, “Come, and dine.”

After a breakfast of fish and bread done over coals, Jesus asked Peter a question.

Do you love me?

Peter replied, “Of course, I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my lambs.”

Twice more Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Each time Peter replied, “Of course I love you.”

Both times Jesus replied, “Then feed my sheep.”

Jesus provided a way for Peter to find restoration. Three times Peter had denied that he knew Jesus. Now, three times Jesus gave him instructions for what to do with his love: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus didn’t reprimand Peter for his denial. There is no record that he scolded Peter or refused to be his friend. Instead, Jesus invited Peter and all the rest to sit down at his “table” by the sea.

Jesus says to us today, “Come and dine. If you love me, then feed my sheep.”

It’s a two-fold lesson.

He prepares nourishment for us and asks us to come and dine at his table. From that nourishment we gain strength to go work in the kingdom — to feed his sheep.

Nothing about other successes or employment. Just, feed my sheep.

“If you love me,” Jesus says to us today, “Then feed my sheep.”

It’s a challenge. First, come and dine, then go and feed his sheep.

Do you find nourishment at his table, or do you rarely visit there? How about his sheep? Are you helping to feed them?

When we’re weary from feeding sheep, does the weariness come from lack of spiritual nourishment for ourselves? When we’re tired of dealing with difficult, stubborn sheep, is the tiredness because we’ve lost the vision Jesus has for his sheep? Have we failed to take the time at his table to nourish our souls?

“Come,” Jesus says. “Come and dine.”

Then, “If you truly love me, you will feed my sheep.”

Gert Slabach is a member of Faith Mennonite Church in South Boston, Va., which is part of Mountain Valley Mennonite Churches. She blogs at My Windowsill, where this post first appeared.

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