Disciple: Feed 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. – John 21:17
One of the simplest ways to understand what it means to be a disciple is to look carefully at the lives and actions of the Apostles, Disciples who walked, ate, and slept beside Jesus. One of the things we would quickly find is that being a disciple does not require perfection. Countless times, the Jesus’ disciples doubted the things that Jesus said about himself, they misunderstood parables that he told, or they failed to remember the mighty and powerful things Jesus had done.
This thought should be liberating for many of us. Jesus does not demand perfection out of his disciples. If we fail, we are not immediately cast out of the Body of Christ. Yet, as we understand this in light of the entire experience of the Disciples, it should be liberating in a way which actually causes us to move closer to Jesus, and therefore, closer to being holy and complete.
In today’s passage, Jesus had returned to Peter after the resurrection of Christ, which of course, was preceded by Peter denying that he even knew Jesus 3 times. Peter had failed to the utmost degree, denying that he knew Jesus. Despite this, it was so clear that Peter loved Jesus. Jesus used this opportunity to bring Peter back to Himself through reconciliation, and we see how beautifully Jesus teaches about the difference between perfection and obedience.
Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me?” 3 separate times, and each time, Peter replies emphatically, “of course I love you!” Jesus replies in a manner that separates Himself from all other false gods throughout history. He doesn’t respond with a mandate of perfection. He says “then obey me. Feed my sheep.” Jesus knows that Peter loves Him, and so He calls Peter to obedience.
This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: to love and obey. Our God is not an impersonal God who we are to be unhealthily scared of. He came as Emmanuel, God with Us, to love and to be loved by man. Additionally, our God does not desire perfection. If He did, there would be no apostles, disciples, or believers in Christ. Jesus calls us daily to be disciples, not to be scared and perfect in our own power, but to love and cherish Him, and to obey Him as an outpouring of our love and union with Him, which brings about His holiness, glory, and perfection in our lives.
Action Step: Read Matthew 9:12-13. Jesus says here that he has not come to call the righteous, but the sinners. How does this help us better understand how Jesus sees perfection and obedience?