Feed My Sheep

After these things, Jesus [who had been crucified and resurrected] showed himself to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way:

Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas (called “the twin”), Nathanael (of Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved [the ever-modest John] said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

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.”

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.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt … and he said to Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 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.” (He said this to indicated the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.)

After this, Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw John following them … When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”

John 21:1-23, NRSV

This passage has inspired me several times over this week. Jesus’ repetitive command gives Peter an opportunity to make up for his earlier denial of Jesus, but dealing with old failures can still be painful. How ironic that Peter was the one to initiate the fishing trip, yet he was the first one out of the boat, abandoning it altogether to seek after Jesus, just as he did at the beginning. Why were the disciples fishing anyways? And why would Jesus meet them with a simple breakfast? During times of confusion and turmoil, don’t we all go back to what we’re familiar with, trying to recreate comforting moments from our pasts? Jesus understands that and brings the familiar markers of their shared past — the bread and the fish — but he refuses to let Peter get trapped in a rut; Simply reliving the past is not enough. Like Peter, we each have a unique role to play. Occasional fishing trips are alright, but we can’t let comfortable surroundings, or the desire to be like the people around us, distract us from the assignment we’ve been given.

That’s what I read at least. What do you think?


About David Anderson, Jr.

I'm a wandering pilgrim anchored in the Baptist tradition, tossed about by the anabaptist current. I am a minister at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and a recent graduate of Campbell Divinity School. I am the husband of a beautiful woman, and the father of a blond-haired boy. I am a work in progress, struggling to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling. View all posts by David Anderson, Jr.

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