(John 21:15-17) When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.”
This passage is intended for the church leaders to read or hear. We may already know the essence of this story but there are commentaries that we need to delve into about this specific scenario. One of them explains that the reason why Jesus asked Peter three times was because Peter denied the Lord three times. I disagree with this explication because of the fact that when God forgives, He forgets. He chooses not to keep track and count our past failures and mistakes against us. God said in Hebrews 10:17, “Their sins and their lawless acts I will remember no more.” Another commentary says, the word “love” which the Lord Jesus used in the Greek verb was “agapao” which means “ardent, supreme, and perfect.” While Peter in his response, used the Greek verb “phileo” which means “to be fond of, to have affection for, or to be a friend to” and that it suggests that Simon Peter should match the kind of love the Lord has for him. Again, I disagree with this interpretation because the Lord knows that no human effort can produce an “agape” kind of love, which is the perfect or divine love. It takes God’s grace to produce that kind of love. All these commentaries are noteworthy but do not truly bring relevance to the cultivation of the actual ministry for the Lord’s work today. The Lord Jesus was talking to Simon Peter at that time but He is also directly pointing to all of us who do the ministry today in feeding His flock.
The very reason why many Christian churches become stumbling blocks to the world is because there are those who carry wrong motives in their hearts in doing the ministry. This is the reason why these churches become a poison instead of being the salt, darkness instead of being the light. It is more fitting to be persecuted, maligned, slandered or even be put in prison because we truly follow Jesus and obey His commands. But in this generation, we can hear in the news media about many negative disclosures of certain church leaders being accused of committing sexual immoralities while actively carrying out the ministry. There was a Sunday school teacher who was believed to have sexually abused and murdered a child. There was a pastor who sexually abused his own daughter while actively ministering to the church. Some pastors have concealed themselves as actual homosexuals being sexually attracted to their same sex and acting on it while performing their ministry. There are those who have involved themselves in financial fraud even betraying their very own members. The question is why is this happening? Christians as much as possible are trying to hide the truth and pretending to serve the Lord in the ministry. But the Bible says to expose them. (Ephesians 5:11-13), “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.”
The question again is why are these things happening to some church leaders? Let us exclude the cultic religions that use Christ’s name but don’t believe that Jesus is God. Let us also exclude any church that identifies to be Christian but is actually practicing idolatry because frankly speaking, this is not the Church of the living God. Let us leave them alone. What I am referring to here is the Evangelical Bible believing church.
There are people who are in the ministry whom the Lord did not give as gifts to His church. (Ephesians 4:11), (NLT), “He (Jesus) is the one who gave these gift to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelist and pastors and teachers.” The question is, have you been given by God as a gift to the church? But you might ask, “Can I volunteer myself?” You certainly can. (Isaiah 6:8), “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” and I said, “Here am I, send me.” (1st Timothy 3:1), “Here is a trust worthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” Yes, anyone who volunteers is acceptable but one should check his motives in submitting himself to the ministry. How does one know that he is truly called and meant to be God’s gift to the church? One has to listen to his inner being and to God’s calling in his life without any pride or greed in his heart to fully discern if he is truly called to the ministry and is indeed God’s gift to the church. But even then we should always examine our very motive from time to time and continuously ask the Holy Spirit to search and purify our hearts.
The motivating factor in our service to God should be our true love for Jesus and nothing else. Other than that, all are wrong motives. Number one wrong motive is to seek prestige. One should be careful in allowing to be called “Reverend” because it may consume or eat up your heart with pride. Remember that the word “Reverend” is only mentioned once in the Bible and that title only belongs to the Messiah. (Psalms 111:9), “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant forever: holy and reverend is his name.” (Old King James Version) Pride, arrogance, egotism, self-importance, and self-conceit may grip the heart of a man who allows himself to be called “Reverend.” The prophets of God and the apostles were not even called by that title. To the Jewish people, it is a blasphemy because the name “Reverend” belongs ONLY to the Messiah. By the way, the rest translate it “awesome” but it’s a bad translation. reverend is deep respect.
Why did Jesus ask the question three times? Because He wants to make a strong emphasis so we will take heed and it will not escape our minds. As if we could hear the tone of the Lord’s voice with the force of his utterance progressing as he asked for three times, “Do you truly love me?” building up a momentum. It is loud and clear that if one doesn’t truly love Jesus, he has no business of being a minister. If we do not truly love the Lord Jesus, we don’t have the business of feeding His flock. If our intention is to make business of getting money or turning His church into a market place, we might as well be businessmen and leave God’s ministry to others who have truly been called by God as His gift to the church serving Him wholeheartedly and seeking no fame or material gain.
Jesus said, “Do you truly love me more than these?” The word “these” represents many things in our life. It can be money, people, or material things. It can also be prestige or fame. There was a progression in the way the Lord was talking. First He said, “Feed my lambs.” The second time He said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time He said, “Feed my sheep.”
“Feed my Lambs.” A new born again Christian is no different from a new born infant. Even how intellectual or highly educated a person may be, when he or she becomes born again, he or she is spiritually an infant in the Lord. They need to be assisted. They require to be fed by the pure milk, which is the Word of God, the Bible. They need guidance and supervision. Because an infant will suck anything that will be put in his mouth, it is important to guard them from people who teach contaminated gospel or wrong doctrines. This is how to feed the Lord’s lambs.
“Take care of my sheep.” A pastor is not only to preach on Sundays and that’s it! No, taking care of the Lord’s sheep is a full time job as Paul did to the church. (Acts 20:31) “So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
“Feed my sheep.” Continue feeding the flock of God until they become mature and can be able to teach others also.
God demands an absolute love from His people without any competition or rivalry because the Lord is a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 / 14-15) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and His anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.”
Jesus, in the New Testament, is the only one who demanded a love that is absolute and without competition, from the people who choose to follow Him. Matthew 10:37, “He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me.” If Jesus is not God, then He won’t have the authority to utter such shocking and powerful words. But anyone who doesn’t believe that Jesus is God cannot truly love Christ.