Feed My Sheep
Feed My Sheep
After each failure, I promise myself and God that I will try harder. I won’t do it again. I will do my best.
And then I repeat my mistake.
It’s so frustrating to me when I recognize my sin, and yet continue to repeat it. What is wrong with me? And if I’m so aggravated at myself, surely God is, too.
But He’s not; not like we think. Last week we talked about how He’s not disappointed in you. He loves you no matter what. He knew who you’d be before He made you, so He’s not surprised at your mistakes.
But just how do we know He’s forgiven us? Because Jesus Christ died for our sins. (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 3:25, Romans 5:6, 8, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 1:4, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 1:7, Philippians 2:6-9, 1 Timothy 1:15, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 1:7, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 3:5, 1 John 4:10, Revelations 1:5 – to name a few)
I recently revisited a passage we’ve all read before- where Jesus talks with Peter after His death: John 21:15-17. I’ve read this numerous times before, and honestly, would be aggravated with impatience that Jesus asked Peter three times “do you love me?” I never quite understood the symbolism. I took it as I’ve often taken my life: that Jesus will never accept what I say or do for Him. But rereading it this last time, a moment of clarity hit me. I had three (symbolic isn’t it?) revelations from these three (more symbolism) verses. (FYI: ‘three’ represents completeness/entirety of something (ie: Trinity)
To begin, let’s dissect the thrice component. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:70-74, Luke 22:57-60, Mark 14: 68-71, John 18:25-27) and symbolically Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. One for each time Peter betrayed Him. In the thrice denial of Christ- Peter showed his complete (three) selfishness; he was only concerned with his own safety, not defending Jesus.
Now let’s dive into the three lessons I learned in these verses. One, no matter how many times you deny Jesus (put yourself first) He will remind you that He loves you- AND that He can and wants to use you. “Feed my sheep.” (Remember- our sins and failures are only a part of who we are here, they do not define who we are in Christ) (Romans 6:11, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus can use all of our failures for His good. (Romans 8:28)
Two, the first two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He used the Greek word agape1 (self-sacrificial love). The third time He asked He used the Greek word phileo2 (affection, brotherly love). Each response Peter gave was with translation phileo. Basically Jesus asked him 1) Do you love me? 2) Do you really love me? 3) Are you even my friend? How profound! Jesus was pointing out that even though Peter claimed to love Jesus, he really only loved himself. We may say and truly believe that we love Jesus and are willing to do anything to prove it, but when we are pushed to that test- do we give it our all? AND on a broader scale- we don’t and can’t love Jesus the way that He loves us; the way that He deserves. Because He is Lord, He has more infinite power and love than we can comprehend. (John 3:31, 1 John 3:16)
Three, the final piece that filled in my puzzle of these verses was a personal reminder. You see, while I was researching the above difference between agape and phileo, as a friend pointed out to me that Jesus used the two separate terms, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find the difference in the words. I researched on the internet and used the Strong’s Concordance Bible to distinguish the difference in words and their meanings. As I became aggravated (much like Peter having to answer Jesus three times that he did love (phileo) him), I opened my Bible to those verses to read them again. And there in the footnotes, as it’d been all along, was the differentiation of the words and their meanings. I had a V-8 moment and smacked my head. ‘Why, when I am seeking an answer, is my Bible the last place I turn?’ It was the not-so-subtle reminder that my Bible and God should always be the first place I seek when I am struggling; not the last place I look when all else fails.
Our failures and sins will not stop Jesus, our Lord and Savior from loving us; and they surely won’t keep Him from using us, regardless of our transgressions. Jesus predicted Peter’s betrayal (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38), and He knows of our betrayals before we do. He forgave Peter, just as He’s forgiven us. And He used Peter, just as He’ll use us. When Peter finally accepted Jesus for Who He was and is, he finally committed his life to Jesus, giving Him agape love.
I want to be like Peter. Not in the sense where I want to openly deny and betray Jesus (though I inevitable will); I want to finally understand Jesus’ Love, and go out and feed His sheep.
2: Strong’s G5368: phileō (fē-le'-ō): to love: to approve of, to like, sanction, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend