“Do you love Me?”
“Feed My sheep.”
“Do you love Me?”
“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”
“Wow! Really? Finally! I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind. Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected! And I’m just the one who could get this movement started. I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz. We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”
“Do you love Me?”
“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep. It’s time for war!!!”
“I’M ON IT!! I’ve already got some ideas. I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you. You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think? I’ve got my sword ready. I can defend and fight for our cause. You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash! And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right? And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit. But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town… I’ll be safe, right? I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”
Not exactly how the conversation went. But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…
The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times. Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression. Excessive taxation. Public mockery. Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith. Imprisonment for spreading the gospel. Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth. Even unto death.
He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…
Do you love Me?
Feed My sheep.*
Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love. He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs. The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints. They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb. But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter? Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees? Organize the troops to fight the government? Lead them into war? No. He said “Feed My sheep.”
If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door. Arguments rage and emotions are on edge. Opinions abound and frustrations rise. Complicated issues demand a response. Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do. Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me. For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake will find it; that is, life with Me for all eternity. Matthew 16:24-25
Will we die for our faith? I don’t know. But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives. He called us to death from the beginning – death to self. Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud. There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him. They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope. Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods. And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission: “Feed My sheep“. Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”
According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**
Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do. He spent his life feeding His sheep. No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman. No. I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all. Even unto death.
In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us? Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually? Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?
I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us? Pray. Support. Give. Vote. But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission. Give action to His command. Love the unlovely. Help the helpless. Stand for the defenseless. Forgive the unforgivable. Tell of Him. Feed His sheep.
“Do you love Me?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com
*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter. The real one.