“ … Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” John 21:15a (NIV)
Have you ever felt God stirring you to do something that’s terrifyingly outside of your comfort zone? Something completely opposite of what you think you want to do?
I confess that left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I’d never choose on my own.
A question forms in my heart. One that forces me to stop and reconsider the path that terrifies: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?
It’s this question the resurrected Jesus asked one of His disciples, Peter, at a crucial crossroad in Peter’s life. And goodness gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.
He’d been following Jesus for years when things got hard. Jesus was crucified, and Peter took his eyes off the hard path of continuing in ministry he’d been called to. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable … his original occupation of fishing.
When the resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh, He ruined Peter’s justifications to stay safe. Peter’s destiny wasn’t to be a fisherman for the rest of his life. He was to be a shepherd of God’s people.
“ … Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” (John 21:15a).
For Peter, the “these” which Jesus referenced might have been the large number of fish he’d just caught. Or “these” could have been anything else pulling Peter away from his calling. We all have our own “these” areas in life — things we sometimes choose over Jesus.
Thankfully, Jesus continues to invite us to a life of more. A life where we refuse to settle for less than all He’s called and designed us to do and to be.
That’s why I love the directives Jesus gives Peter in John 21:15‑17. I find it fascinating that Jesus asks Peter to do three things which mirror how shepherds actually care for their sheep in Israel even today.
Jesus commands Peter:
“FEED MY LAMBS” (John 21:15) — In the morning, the shepherd gets up early in the sheepfold and feeds the little lambs first. He picks up the little lambs. He holds them and checks them to make sure they are OK. He calls them by name because he knows the lambs intimately.
“TAKE CARE OF MY SHEEP” (John 21:16) — After feeding the lambs, the shepherd carefully leads the sheep down to a place where they can be fed. He leads them and cares for them.
“FEED MY SHEEP” (John 21:17) — The last step, once he’s fed the lambs, cared for the sheep and led them to a good pasture, is to feed the sheep.
So why is it so important to note that Jesus is giving these directives to Peter?
I believe Jesus is trying to turn Peter from a quick-judging fisherman into a caring shepherd. Fishermen quickly judged and counted the fish they caught. They threw out the small fish because they’d have to pay more in taxes than the fish was actually worth. They would look at the fish and say, “This one’s in, this one’s out, this one’s in, this one’s out.” Unlike a shepherd, a fisherman would never pick up the fish, love the fish, make sure the fish is OK or name the fish.
Yes, Peter has finished his season of being a fisherman of fish. Jesus is asking Peter to love Him more than the life Peter has known. Now He is calling Peter to be a shepherd for the people.
Jesus is also asking us to love Him more than the life we’ve known. And just like He equipped Peter by sending His Holy Spirit to fill and empower Peter for his calling (Acts 2), He willingly equips us. We have the gift of His Holy Spirit inside us and His written Word to continually guide us.
Sweet friends, let’s not rush past how amazing it is that the Lord wants to work through us — even with all our fears and failings. Let’s not allow fear or comfort to convince us to stay stuck in our same old ways. Let’s simply say to Jesus, “Yes, Lord. I love You more than these,” and follow His lead.
Lord, my soul declares “yes” to You today. Even if my hands are trembling … even if my feet feel shaky on this new path … I say “Yes.” I love You, and I will live for You. Change me. Lead me. I’m Yours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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