Read John 21:1-17
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
- John 21:15 NLT
Peter wasn’t having the best week of his life before this encounter with the Lord.
Peter’s walk with Jesus began along the Sea of Galilee, after a lousy night at sea with no fish to be found in his nets. Peter was a fisherman; it was the business he knew best, and yet, the Lord said, why don’t you drop your nets over here? Peter rolled his eyes and did what he was told to humor Jesus, only to experience the boat-tipping weight of flailing fish. Jesus showed him an inkling of his power. That small miracle compelled Peter to drop his fishing business and follow Jesus for the next three years. At the water’s edge, Jesus told Peter, “From now on, you’ll be fishing for people!” (Luke 5:10 NLT).
After spending three full years eagerly following Jesus and learning alongside the other apostles, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. Simon Peter, the rock on which Jesus said he’d build his church, that Peter abandoned his Lord and hid in fear while the Son of God got nailed to a cross.
Not the best week, Peter.
A few days after Jesus died and three years after he walked away from his fishing business, Peter said to his friends, “I’m going fishing.”
The disciples, including Peter, had seen the resurrected Lord. Twice! And yet back to the boats they went, back to their old ways, their old habits, their old plan.
Guess who didn’t catch any fish?
From the shore, the resurrected Lord gave a shout. “Catch anything?” Nope.
Jesus pulled the same miracle that got them hooked (ah, see what I did there?) three years before, weighing down their nets with more fish than they could handle.
This time, though, Jesus didn’t tell Peter he’s going to go fishing for people. Instead, Jesus fed the disciples breakfast. Jesus spent three years feeding them Living Water and the Bread of Life, and now they ate with him again. With Peter’s belly full and heart awake, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15 NLT).
The footnotes say “more than these others do,” as in, more than your brothers, more than your disciples, more than these other guys love me, but I like to think that Jesus is asking about the fish.
Do you love me more than these fish? Do you love me more than sustenance? Do you love me more than provision? Do you love me more than comfort? Do you love me more than a safe life? You are a good fisherman, Peter. You could make a good living with my miraculous hat trick of overflowing nets.
But if you love me more than what these fish can give you, I have a different mission for you.
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Jesus, then followed each of Peter’s answers with new instructions, “Feed my lambs… take care of my sheep… feed my sheep.”
Once you’ve taken that leap and walked with God, it’s hard to go back to the life you once had. Once you’ve gotten an updated prescription for glasses, it’s hard to believe you ever walked around so blind. Jesus calls Peter into a new vision to ready the humbled Peter for the road ahead. You aren’t going to just catch people. You need to feed the little ones. You need to care for them as they grow. And then you need to feed the old ones too. You won’t just catch and consume anymore. You will be the shepherd and minister to your people from now on. Cast away your nets once and for all, and pick up the shepherd’s hook. It’s time for a renewed walk.
Points of Reflection
- Have you ever tried to go back through a closed door, an old relationship, a former job, or a past community? What was it like? How did it change? How had you changed? Did it work out?
- God meets us and calls us in many different ways. How does this season look different from past seasons?
For the Kids
- What did Jesus mean when he told Peter to feed his sheep?
- Why do you think Jesus asked Peter the same question three times?
Think about the season of life you are in and what God is calling you into right now. Perhaps he’s calling you to do something more, something else, something great. Or perhaps he’s calling you to do something less, to give up something, to sit down and let him feed you breakfast, to make more space for him to minister to you. Listen quietly and ask God to speak, through nature, through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, and through other believers, so that you can discern the next step.
I’m currently reading a book on vocation by my friend, Drew Tucker, called 4D Formation: Exploring Vocation in Community. In it, Drew provides tools and wisdom to help readers discover what life-giving work they’ve been called into for the sake of God’s kingdom, the world. Through this book, Drew “equips and empowers readers with the confidence and skills to examine, clarify, and affirm their purpose and identity and ultimately, to experience God’s presence in and purpose for their lives.” If you’ve struggled to define your identity and find the path you believe God has for you, this book can help.