More than two years ago I started preaching through the Gospel of John during Sunday morning worship. Now I have finished, and in the concluding chapter of John’s Gospel there is a remarkable conversation between Jesus and Peter.
Jesus had warned his disciples that he would soon be betrayed and that they would all fall away. Peter had bragged that he would never fall away, even if all the others did. Jesus assured Peter that before morning came he would deny even knowing Jesus, and so he did.
Now that Jesus was risen and appearing to his followers, proving that he was truly alive, Peter was a man torn in two. On the one hand he was thrilled to see the Lord whom he loved so much. On the other hand he surely wondered how Jesus could ever forgive him for what he had done.
Jesus made it a point to confront Peter in a loving and decisive manner. As they ate breakfast together on the shore of Lake Tiberius, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter told Jesus that he did. Jesus allowed Peter to erase his three denials with three affirmations of love.
But Jesus did more than forgive Peter for his denials. Each time Peter said that he loved Jesus, the Lord added a command. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Jesus’ sheep are his followers, the people of God; and he is the Good Shepherd.
To feed Jesus’ sheep is to care for Jesus’ followers, the church. Peter was not just forgiven; he was reinstated to a place of service among Jesus’ followers. Jesus would soon return to the Father, but Peter’s love for the Lord Jesus would still be evident through his service to the Lord’s church, his people.
Your love for the Lord Jesus is evident in the way that you serve God’s people. What an honor it is for me to serve alongside you, my church family, as you demonstrate your affection for the Savior through your service in his church. Like Peter, you have a commission from the Lord to labor in his Name.
As you examine yourselves, please prayerfully consider your place of service at your church.
Like Peter, each of us is called to a place of service among Jesus’ followers. And like Peter, even our past failures cannot keep us from expressing our love for the Lord by serving him now.
May the Lord inspire and enable us to love one another,
Brother Richard Foster
Grace Baptist Church, Camden AR