Most of us long for miracles. And Jesus’ perfect life, death on sinners’ behalf as the fulfillment of Passover, and His physical resurrection prove that He is willing and able to meet our greatest needs: complete forgiveness and a new heart to follow Him as our living King. But even in the Bible, most of the journey with Jesus is lived in the moments between miracles. In this 50-day series, we’ll consider some of those moments leading up to the next great miracle in the New Testament: the fulfillment of Pentecost and the incredible growth of the Church.
In John 21:15-19, we see one of the most moving scenes between the Lord and one of His followers. Peter had denied that he knew Jesus three times after He had been arrested. Peter even cursed to try to prove how unlikely it was that he would be associated with Him (Matthew 26:74). So, here, the Lord provides just as many opportunities for Peter to affirm his love for Him.
It’s not that Jesus needed to hear it. Peter needed to say it. And he needed to know that Jesus still loved him.
The Lord uses some specific words to remind Peter of what it would mean to love others and to be a leader for the Body of Christ. Let’s consider the terms in two groups: how Jesus describes His followers, and He described how Peter would need to care for them.
The Greek word translated as “lambs” here, ἀρνίον, is as we probably associate the term: a young, weak, gentle sheep. The term translated as “sheep”, however, is πρόβατον and can mean a literal sheep or one who is easily led one way or another – in other words, someone easily led astray. The Lord was emphasizing both His love for us and our need for Him. What a privilege for Jesus to call Peter and others to be godly, caring leaders over His people who are naturally prone to fear, independence, carelessness, temptation, and other spiritual and physical dangers.
To feed (βόσκω) such people is to teach them His Word, to encourage their faith, to equip their obedience, to follow through with discipleship, to discipline and restore according to His Word, and all this and more because God’s Word points to Jesus. The Greek word many translations render “tend” (ποιμαίνω) is specifically to shepherd. It connotes the idea of guarding and leading. Again, the Lord is emphasizing a point. This time He seems to be highlighting the serious nature of the relationship. Any of us can feed a sheep once at a petting zoo. That’s very different than shepherding them day-by-day.
You may be asking “Was this message just for Peter, just for the Apostles, just for leaders in the Church, or for all believers?” That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked. 🙂
These seem to be the basics for any believer who has other believers under their care. We can see from Genesis 2 that God expected Adam to teach Eve about His commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We can see in Deuteronomy 6 that parents were to impress His law on their hearts and to teach them to their children. The Proverbs open and continue with replete admonishments to guard our heart and the hearts of our families and friends from temptation. These are the basics of love: provide what is most important (God’s Word) and protect from what is most dangerous (temptation).
Who is the Lord calling you to shepherd? Who might He have placed in your life to shepherd you?
I hope today’s thought and others in this series will be helpful to you as you journey with Jesus in the moments between miracles.