Feed my sheep

If you’ve been inside any stores since Christmas, you know that Valentine’s Day must be just around the corner. Heart-shaped candy boxes and bouquets of red rose fill the aisles, announcing that love is in the air!

 

But what kind of love are we talking about here? We throw around the word like it’s as valuable as a bent penny. We proclaim that we love Mexican food sometimes as passionately as we love our family. I’m the first to admit my profound appreciation for a delicious taco, but my kids and my husband would most likely appreciate a distinction between my feelings for that taco and my feelings for them.

 

Scripture give us a nice variety when it comes to the word love, but you have to do a little digging in the original languages. In the Old Testament, we have descriptive Hebrew words like Ahavah and Khesed. They describe types of affection which are deep and lasting and full of action. In the New Testament, we have Greek words to describe the various types of love: Agape (everlasting and sacrificial), Storge (familial love), Phileo(loving your friend as if he were your brother), and Eros (romantic love—the one getting most of the attention this month). Language is so fascinating, and this is one of those times when it must expand to encompass such a complex and grand subject as love.

 

Jesus acknowledges a few of the different kinds of love in John 21. This is the third time he’s appeared before his Disciples since his death and resurrection. Several of them went night fishing, but they caught nothing. Then Jesus shows up on the shore and instructs them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Just as you’d expect, the nets come up bursting with fish. They recognize Jesus, and Peter dives into the water to swim to Him. The others probably shook their heads at their friend’s impulsiveness as they rowed ashore.

 

Jesus cooked them breakfast, and then He took Peter aside to chat. Knowing how Peter felt about Jesus and knowing that he was surely still broken from his betrayal of Christ just before the Cross—three times denying that he knew Jesus—Peter’s heart must’ve been thrumming inside his chest. Would he be chastised? Would he be stripped of his position, no longer able to be part of the mission Christ had prepared them for?

 

John 21:15-17 (CSB)

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love (phileo) you.”

“Feed my lambs,” he told him.

A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love (phileo) you.”

“Shepherd my sheep,” he told him.

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) me?”

Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you.”

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.

 

For each time Peter had betrayed Jesus in the past, he was given the chance to proclaim his love and devotion for his risen Savior by that seashore. Twice, Jesus asked Peter for his full commitment, but Peter wasn’t there yet. He kept playing the “let’s just be good friends” card instead. On the third attempt, Jesus met Peter where he was, but he still pushed him toward how to go beyond phileo and get to agape. Jesus knew what lie ahead for Peter, so He wanted him to be all in. Jesus showed Peter (and us) that when we don’t know the state of our own hearts, a good starting place is feeding His sheep—action over words. Real love.