Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Today’s lesson revolves around Peter’s three denials. Jesus asks him three times to confess openly his love. It is all about love. It is also about sheep. Peter had been a fisherman, and now he will care for God’s sheep. Scripture uses the analogies of sheep and goats to symbolize the difference between the followers of Christ and the world. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33).
The sheep are separated to the right and blessed to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The goats are separated to the left, cursed, and doomed for eternity with Satan and his angels. This is a good lesson on the restoration of Peter, but what does it mean to us, individually or corporately as the body of Christ? The scripture above is from 1 Corinthians chapter 13, also known as the “love” chapter. First of all, perfect love in action (charity), only comes from God. Mankind has never been able to love perfectly. Included in the description of charity are things a little less obvious. These are goals that we strive for and that Christ has accomplished. “Peter, do you love me?”…. “Yes, Lord, you know I do.” Then why have you gone back to fishing? You are a shepherd Peter, demonstrate your love by taking care of my people. Do you love sheep? Because if you are going to fulfill your calling and commission in Jesus, you have to feed them and love them. Every little frustrating one of them belongs to Jesus. The love of God is amazing and hard to comprehend, can we love Jesus and not love the sheep?
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
It had been comfortable, the disciples were relaxing with Jesus, resting with full bellies. How loving our Savior is, who made them dinner, who sought them out. Then came the question. Simon, son of Jonas (almost sounds like your parents when they call you by your full name), lovest thou me? Do you love me, Peter? More than all these other guys, more than the full net of fish, more than your own will and way? I wonder how many times already the topic of Peter’s actions and denial has come up? The four gospels do not contain all of the same stories, but all of them contain the account of Peter’s denial. However, Peter wasn’t the only one who turned away from Jesus in his darkest hour.
Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. (Matthew 26:31-34).
Have you ever had to eat your words? Ever had to realize that what you are going through right now is the same situation you were very intolerant and judgemental about when it was someone else? Then you understand Peter. Even though Peter is credited for declaring Jesus is Christ the son of God, when Jesus tells him they would all be offended and would run, Peter basically tells Him He is wrong! Humans are frail, weak, and flawed. We open our big mouths and say very hasty, judgemental, and unloving words. We, who cannot see the heart, act and speak without seeing ourselves or others from God’s perspective. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7).
Jesus, acting in love, is restoring. He doesn’t say publicly, “Peter remember when I told you? I was right. You were wrong- again!” He simply asks the question openly. Do you love me? Could we answer openly with the same heart as Peter when we judge wrongly (things we shouldn’t judge at all), condemn too quickly, dismiss unkindly, or basically call Jesus a liar when we believe we are right? Jesus asked if Peter loved Him with “Agape” love- Godly love. Peter, now maybe a little more humbled, answers with “phileo” love, brotherly love, considering his words and realizing the difference.
Notice also that Jesus says to feed my lambs—the young, tender, new sheep. And don’t forget Peter, these are MY lambs, not yours to treat any way that you want. Feed them, they are precious to Christ. Individually and corporately, we forget the job is to feed the lambs- the young in salvation, the young in age, the new Christians that are still on milk. Help us always to remember they are HIS and not ours to stifle or mold for our purposes.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Aren’t you thankful that God doesn’t just tell you something once? Jesus asks the second time with just as much importance and exactly the same words - lovest thou me? God doesn’t change. Salvation is a continual evaluation of yourself, your relationship with God, and your relationship with other people. Would we answer as Peter did, you know I love you? Would our reply have a little sadness and shame? Maybe some amends to make? Now that I have your attention, Peter, Feed MY sheep. I have read that if you want to be around sheep you have to like them. They are not by nature extremely social animals, and they are a little delicate in what they eat and what they do. These full-grown sheep stray away and must be returned to the fold. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14).
They need to be protected from their natural predators (the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life). They require food that benefits them and not weeds that make them ill. Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:8-9). If you work with sheep, you have to know about sheep and deal with them accordingly. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1).
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Can you feel Peter’s pain? He is asking him yet again, and Peter can not answer with the same false confidence that he had before the crucifixion. To love the way he should, Peter will need the power of God. How long before we admit that when we want to do good, evil is always present? There is none good, not one, and that is true for each of us. For all our efforts and all our words, we are no better. There will be many times when we face ourselves and the hypocrisy of our actions toward others. Jesus didn’t change the words. He doesn’t ask Peter if he is truly truly sorry or ask him to make promises he can’t keep. Jesus also doesn’t change the charge. Feed MY sheep. The way Jesus has loved you is how you are instructed to attempt to love others.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
Peter truly would suffer and die for the Lord. History says he was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Christ. Jesus doesn’t leave Peter with his past, he moves him forward. We have regrets, shame, and things we wish we could undo and do over. We are sorry, and our hearts hurt as we think about those things, but He works all things for our good. Jesus doesn’t leave us sitting in our regrets. He says move forward. Peter would accomplish great things for the Lord before his death. He had men to fish for and sheep to feed. Lovest thou me…. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest I love thee. It goes for us also.
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (Matthew 25:45).
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!