Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 2 2013 - John 21:1-25 – Feed my sheep

Jesus had been raised from the dead and appeared at least a couple of times to the disciples. But now they do not know what to do with themselves. Peter tells them, "I'm going fishing" (John 21:3), and the other disciples who were with him replied, "We'll come too." So they go out for a night of fishing, but catch nothing. Nothing that is until, in the dim and misty light of dawn, a figure on the shore calls to them and tells them to throw out their nets on the right side of the boat. Now they have a huge catch which they cannot pull into the boat; they have to drag the net behind them as they row to the beach where Jesus awaits them.

The natural tendency of these first disciples was to return to the life they had known, to the routines with which they were familiar. But those routines prove fruitless; Jesus alone can give success to the work of their hands. And this remarkable catch of fish, caught at his command, is a foretaste of the harvest that they will yet secure with his help. He calls them to go fishing for people (remember Matthew 4:19).

We are no different from these first disciples. We so easily fall back into the patterns of life with which we are familiar rather than following Jesus out of our comfort zone and into the work he has for us to do.

Having provided his disciples with a cooked breakfast on the beach, it is now time for Jesus to give Peter a grilling. Peter had denied Jesus three times. Three times Jesus now challenges him with the question, “Do you love me?” Jesus does not ask Peter if he is ready now to follow him even to the point of death rather than run away when trouble comes. Jesus does not ask Peter if he is ready now to speak of him before others rather than denying him. He asks Peter whether he loves him. This is the fundamental question  – a question of supreme importance for Peter and for us.

Each time, when Peter expresses his love he is told, “Feed my sheep.” Peter is forgiven and called now to show his love by following in the footsteps of his master, in life and in death, and by telling others of Jesus.

This cannot have been an easy experience for Peter. He must have felt ashamed, embarrassed and put on the spot. So, when he catches sight of the disciple whom Jesus loved he asks the question, “And what about him?” Jesus’ answer is, in effect, “You mind your own business. You are to follow me.”

We need continually to hear the same words of Jesus. We find it so easy to identify the ways in which other Christians fall short of all that they should be. We point out such failings to one another (though more rarely to the person concerned). We complain loudly of the way in which others have behaved towards us. We need to hear the words of Jesus, “Mind your own business. Follow me.”

Our business is firstly that of our own discipleship, to be diligent in walking closely with Jesus. Out of that close walk we are then to encourage others in following Jesus – to feed his sheep. Jesus command is still “Follow me... Feed my sheep.”

Lord Jesus, help me to follow you and labour for you in the fishing-work of the kingdom. Help me to feed and encourage others rather than trying to enlarge my own reputation by highlighting their behaviour. Help us then to labour side by side in the work of the kingdom, knowing the task is too great for any one of us to accomplish on our own.

Peter Misselbrook