John 21 has been bouncing around my world lately. I heard a sermon on it, it came up in my devotional reading, I’ve just been reflecting upon it lately.
It’s a familiar story, Jesus appears again to the disciples, this time while they are fishing. It is a mirror of Peter’s calling. He’s out fishing, Jesus calls to them, “try the other side of the boat.” They do, the catch a huge haul of fish.
Much has been written on this story, and I won’t recap it all here. I just want to suggest what I think the Spirit has suggested to me these past few weeks.
When Jesus calls Peter, He says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) This is something that Peter can conceptualize, he has spent his life fishing. Peter leaves his boat and follows.
Jesus is teaching in John 10. He is telling the disciples who He is, the Good Shepherd. He is explaining what He means by that. He is instructing them.
Jesus is crucified, dies and is resurrected. He appears to the disciples. An unprecedented turn of events. Peter declares, “I am going fishing.” (John 21:3) Some of the disciples say “We will go with you.”
Jesus appears, there is a catch of fish, there is a meal of fish and bread (harkening to his miraculous feedings). Jesus and Peter are sitting on the beach. Jesus asks that question.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Much has been made of
these in sources I have read. However, from my limited Greek, it seems reasonable to render it as this as well. I’m not discounting all the great applications based on “these.” But allow yourself to consider “this” for a moment.
Peter is a fisherman. He is sitting there with Jesus in his element. A pile of fish on the shore, a plate of fish in his belly. Sand and water, sun and wind. Here is Peter, the fisher of men.
“Do you love me?”
“You know I do.”
“Feed my sheep.”
Not, “Catch my fish.”
Not, “Bait my hook.”
Not, “Clean my catch.”
Feed my sheep.
Three times Jesus inquires of Peter’s love, three times He tells him to demonstrate it by tending sheep.
Yes, this beach and boat is great, Peter. Do you love me more than this? I understand this is comfortable to you, this is what you know and you could do this very easily for the rest of your life. But do you love Me enough to walk away?
Verse 19, “Follow me.” It is a literal command, because in the next verse John is following them, so that implies that they are moving, no longer sitting on the beach. John then gets distracted by his own story. We don’t know where Peter and Jesus were walking to.
Perhaps over a hill to overlook a flock of sheep? Away from the boat and the lake. Put down your net, take up a shepherd’s staff, Peter. You’re no longer a fisher. Fisher’s just catch, clean and resell. You’re a shepherd now.
You know sheep? You feed sheep. You tend sheep. You protect sheep. You lead sheep. This is long-term. It is 24/7. It is different and hard.
C’mon, Peter. This is why I called you. My sheep need a shepherd. I’m leaving, I’m trusting you to take care of them….