Jesus is about to leave the planet. He has been rejected and crucified. He has been raised and glorified. His stoop of humiliation is complete, and he is ready to ascend to paradise where he will sit on his throne and fellowship with his own. However, before he leaves earth and sends forth the promised Holy Spirit, he chooses to enjoy a few select meals with his disciples. On this particular day, he has shown up beside the lake; there he cooks breakfast for his brothers. John tells us what transpires next:
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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-23)
Jesus, through deeds and words, reminds Peter and the Apostles of five ministerial truths. They apply equally to all believers in the church of Jesus Christ today:
Christians are to loved and befriended by Jesus. The Lord of lords has come to fellowship with Peter and the boys. Jesus desires to dine with his friends; communion is on his mind.
Christians are to love and befriend Jesus. It thrills him to see the reckless affection of Peter as he jumps out of the boat and eagerly swims to shore. Selfless, unconditional, agape–love is deserved and expected; it is best. Jesus’ disciples are to love him with all their heart, soul, and mind. However, in this passage Jesus shows how he accepts genuine friendship. When agape-love cannot truly be found in one’s heart and genuine friendship is all that exists, Jesus accepts this too from his disciples.
Christians are to feed and tend Jesus’ sheep. One of the ways Peter is to express his affection for Jesus is to take care of the Master’s sheep. Jesus’ flock is to be guided, collected, accounted for, nourished, soothed, and protected. He gave his life for his friends. He intercedes for them from above. He knows them by name, and he sends the Holy Spirit to nurture them from within. And in addition to this, the Great Shepherd expects his disciples to use their spiritual gifts and/or offices to assist him in shepherding the flock of God. Disciples are to love Jesus and Jesus’ people with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Christians are to be prepared to suffer like Jesus for Jesus. Jesus was arrested, undressed, redressed, led to Calvary, and there evil men stretched out his hands and nailed him to a cross. And all of this was for the glory of God. This was Peter’s destiny as well. He would follow Jesus in ministry and in martyrdom. The also is promised — in some degree or another — to all modern-day followers of Christ. Sure, glorious days and experiences are to be expected, and they are to be enjoyed. Yet keep this in mind, in some way, all those who follow Jesus are going to suffer. Christian disciples ought not be surprised when they are hated by the devil, the world, and even by many in the visible church. Christians are to have the cross before them, the world behind them. They are to follow, and they are never to turn back.
Christians are to follow Jesus and disregard whatever Jesus chooses to do to and through others. On that morning, Peter found himself overly interested in the ministerial trajectory of his brothers. Jesus quickly redirected Peter’s attention. Peter was to keep his eyes on Jesus and not what Jesus was doing with others. Christians are not to expect equal experiences:
- Some might perish; some might live until Jesus returns again.
- Some might have long ministries; some ministries might be short-lived.
- Some might have it easy in the ministry; some might encounter great difficulties.
- Some might have build large churches; some might experience smaller families.
- Some might have fame; some might remain under the radar.
- Some might be remembered after life; some might minister and be forgotten.
- Some might be called to stay put; some might be called to go abroad.
- Some might see many converts; some might experience spiritual blight.
- Some might be forced to be bi-vocational; some might be generously provided for.
- Some might be granted phenomenal giftedness; some might be very ordinary.
- Some might rejoice in their tender family; some might cry as their children rebel.
- Some might enjoy cultural acceptability; some might be greatly persecuted.
- Some might find themselves wealthy; some might struggle financially.
- Some might build great companies; some might find themselves filing chapter 13.
- Some might experience physical vitality; some might be handicapped.
- Some might have vibrant marriages; some might experience hell on earth.
To all his disciples, Jesus redirects their attention. Jesus looks and says, “What is that to you; you follow me!”
Friends, do you see that which is being communicated to Peter and the fellows?
Jesus loves you. You are his friends. He has come your way in the past; he is coming your way today.
Jesus enjoys your affection; it brings him delight for you to adore him. Seek to love him. Pray that you might love him more. Pursue intimate affection with your Heavenly Groom.
Jesus plans on using you in his kingdom expansion plan. Take your role seriously. Seek to use your spiritual gifts and/or spiritual offices to serve his flock — your brothers, sisters, and neighbors.
Jesus foresees and foreordains the hurt you are and will be experiencing. Be ready; do not be surprised. Stand in the day of trial. And know this, you will persevere and be preserved. He will not let you go; he will love you to the end.
Finally, get your eyes off of others and fix your gaze upon him. Do not compare yourself your neighbor. Do not whine when God does not grant your family something that he grants to another’s. Stop wasting energy comparing and contrasting your church with the one down the street. God does what he wishes with the lives and ministries of his people. Be not depressed when less exciting experiences and results come your way. And for God’s sake, be not arrogant when glorious success is enjoyed. He is the King. He is the Sovereign One. He is the Lord who ordains all the days of his elect from the beginning. He is the Head of his church. So, if today you find yourself tempted to compare and complain, hear your Lover saying, “What is that to you, you follow me!”