DO YOU LOVE ME? —-> THEN FEED MY SHEEP.
The #1 objective: Peter was to extremely love Jesus by extremely loving those whom Jesus extremely loves.
There was a 'put-into-action' expectation that Jesus had for Peter, and for any disciple (learner/apprentice/practicioner). Jesus assumed that loving him and loving others went hand-in-hand. The Divine premise was that Peter was to all-out love Jesus and, as a result, Peter was to act upon that love by all-out serving the ones Jesus all-out served & loved. In other words, Jesus had an expectation that if Peter was to be instated as a true spiritual leader, then he was called to love Jesus so deeply that he would in turn learn to love others as Jesus already loves them. For Peter, this must have been a challenging proposition.
Peter liked the idea of being a
“net-worker” who hooked others and cut them open over a fire. He was compelled by the "fisher-of-men" motiff partially because he got to do the fishing. He wanted to be
fed by those whom he caught.
So oddly perhaps, from
the days when Peter was first asked to follow Jesus this strange language of
shepherding was intermixed with being a
fisher of men. Do I get to just hook people and reel them in or do I have to tend to their lives too? Feeding Jesus' sheep and caring for Jesus' lambs appears in conflict with descaling and filleting a good catch over a fire. The idea of a leader laying his
life down for “insignificant” others must have been repulsively awe-full to Peter.
Augustine, in his Homily on the First Epistle of John, wrote: “To act against love is to
act against God.” Certainly Peter, the Rock-who-is-the-greatest-wash-all-of-me-ear-cutting-you-are-the-Christ-get-behind-me-Satan-rooster-crow-put-the-tunic-on-in-the-presence-of-the-Lord-fisher-of-men, struggled with an internal and external tension of living out love. He wanted the challenge of genuineness of leading for Jesus… and he wanted the glory of leading for Jesus. But, in Peter's practice, these two secondary objectives sometimes cancelled out the effectiveness of the other.
But before the action of ministry is the necessary reality of loving Jesus. "Peter, do you love me?" asks the Savior, "If you do, then feed my sheep." Jesus' version of "net-working" is vastly different than Peter's preconceived notion of self-benefit. To Jesus, loving him translates into loving those who he loves.
If Christians have not love, they are resounding gongs. Eh? Well, have you ever heard a resounding gong? (There is a reason it was called the "Gong Show")— gongs are not pleasant sounds. They are annoying, blaring, jarring and interruptative. Too many pulpits have been gongs over the centuries, using the podium to cast the line, set the hook, and reel in the fillets. At one point, Peter had this style of ministry in mind. He had been an independent gong… ready to brazenly declare the arrival of the king one minute… and ready to concuss the heads of the hearers the next minute.
But Jesus has a different goal for fish. The fish are supposed to become fisherman too. He also wants sheep to become shepherds. Oh, and he intends for gongs to concert themselves with others.
So it is that Jesus, in John 21, called Peter to become a part of a symphony. To take his brazen gong-fisher-style passion and shape it into a shepherding-style love for Jesus… demonstrated through a shepherding-love for others in a manner resembling the fishing'shepherding-equipping love Jesus demonstrated. Net-working to the extreme.