Psalm 30:1-5 and John 21:1-19
Let’s set the stage this morning. Jesus appears to his disciples on the beach and they are in their boat about a 100 yards from shore. They don’t recognize him at first, yet they obey him when he tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat; and they catch so many fish they were unable to haul the net into the boat!
John says to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (vs 7). Peter is so excited he immediately jumps into the water and swims to shore, with the boat and a net full of fish following him. When they reach the shore, they see Jesus cooking fish and bread over a fire on the beach. In verses 10-12 we read, “Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. ‘Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him. “Who are you?” they knew it was the Lord.’ Jesus gives them the bread and fish cooked over an open fire and they have breakfast with Jesus!
This is one of my favorite scriptures, sitting around a campfire on the beach having breakfast with Jesus. I can’t imagine it, but I’d be delighted if I could meet Jesus on the beach! I meet Jesus on the beach often, just not in physical form and he has never told me to go fishing!
Joe and I have spent many an evening around a campfire on our beach with family and friends, cooking hot dogs and roasting marshmallows to make s’mores. There is something beautiful about sitting on the beach around a campfire with Lake Superior lapping on the shore. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the summer.
The disciples have breakfast with Jesus, which I’m sure they were delighted with. They really don’t understand what is happening, yet they love being with Jesus again and having a meal with him. Now comes the test.
Psalm 30:1-2, reads ‘I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.’ This is exactly what Jesus does for Peter in our reading this morning.
In verses 15-17 Jesus begins to test Peter, ‘When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again, Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Some theologians say that Jesus asked Peter three times ‘Do you love me?’ because Peter had denied he knew Jesus three times in the courtyard the night Judas betrayed Jesus.
That very well may have been the reason, yet we all know that it takes more times than just once for things to take hold in our minds.
Anyone working or living with children or teenagers or husbands knows that messages, directions, orders; everything has to be repeated multiple times before anything seems to register. Has anyone ever taken out the garbage after being asked only once? How many of you children clean your rooms after one invitation? How many of you write thank-you notes after only one entry in the “Things to Do” list you make up every day?
But instructions aren’t the only things we need to hear more than once in order to take them to heart. In order to survive and thrive we all need to hear someone say to us, “I love you.” And it needs to happen more often than once a year on Valentine’s Day. For some of us who have weathered the hurts of broken relationships, saying “I love you,” for the first time again is one of the most frightening things we will ever do. It means we have to become vulnerable again.
So, what does Jesus mean when he says to Peter, “Feed my lambs, “Take care of my sheep, “Feed my sheep.” Let me give you an example:
A young boy Joshua was learning how to tend to the sheep on their farm. Joshua met his father at the appointed place and time in the morning. It was a beautiful day with the sun just starting to spread out over the valley of their farm. As Joshua approached the sheep pen his father got up and walked over to the gate. He unlatched the hook and swung the gate wide open. As soon as the gate was opened an amazing thing happened: All the sheep came out and gathered around Joshua. Joshua was afraid at first that they would all get away, but they stood around him expectantly. “They want to be fed,” said Joshua to his father. “Yes,” his father replied. “Come walk with me.” The two of them began walking, and to Joshua’s amazement the sheep followed them.
“They’re following you, Joshua,” explained his father. “They know you because you’ve done such a fine job of taking care of them this week.”
The father and son walked along a dirt road for half an hour with the sheep always right behind them. At the end of the road was a large field with long grass and a stream running through it. The field was fenced and Joshua’s father opened the gate.
“Walk in there, a-ways,” he told Joshua. Joshua did and the sheep followed him in. Once inside, the sheep began to graze and drink from the stream. Joshua’s father shut the gate and then spoke to him. “You don’t need to stay right here with them all day. Just bring ‘em up here in the morning and bring them home at night. You see, sheep aren’t that difficult. If you lead them to a green pasture, they’ll feed themselves.” *
I think this is what Jesus is saying to Peter about caring for us. Jesus is our Good Shepherd and he wants Peter to care for us the same way Jesus does.
David wrote in Psalm 23:1, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.’ If we allow Jesus to be our Good Shepherd, we will pass any test we encounter in our earthly life. Joe and I know, because we trusted Jesus when we were tested the summer of 2018 with his illness. The Good Shepherd did exactly what he said he would. Jesus proved he is a God who answers prayers and keeps promises.
I encourage you to trust Jesus with your life, no matter what you are going through, as a child, a teenager or an adult. Give control of your life to Jesus, and God will take care of you, he will never leave you or forsake you. The key is to trust the Good Shepherd with your life.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: *Scott Ennis, “Feed my sheep,” LDS Writers WebSite, June 19, 2003, Ldswriters.net. Scott Ennis copyright owner.