Do You Love Me? Feed My Sheep! (04/14/13 Sermon)

15When they had finished
breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more
than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said
to him, “Feed my lambs.”16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of
John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”17He said to him the
third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he
said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you
know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
About 15 years ago, Dr. Win Arn did a survey of 1,000 congregations. He asked both
the members and the pastors of these churches what they thought the purpose of
their church really was. Dr. Arn reports that 89 percent of the lay people said
that the purpose of their church was to take care of the needs of the members.
The remaining eleven percent believed that the purpose of the church was to
reach the world with the gospel. Contrast this with the pastors. Ninety percent
of the pastors said that the purpose of their church was to reach the world for
Christ while the remaining ten percent of pastors in those churches agreed with
the laity that the purpose of the church is to take care of the needs of the
members of the church. There is a difference between pastors and church members
on church ministry. What do you think? Which one is more important? I am sure
that most of you think that both are important for our church mission. I think
so as well.

 

In today’s text, we find a very important message from the conversation between Jesus
and Peter. We will look at this text and figure out what kind of a Christian
and a faith community Jesus wants us to be.

 

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the sea of
Tiberias. Jesus’ disciples were fishing but caught nothing. Just after
daybreak, Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them, “Friends, haven’t
you any fish?” “No!” they answered. Jesus said, “Through your net on the right
side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to
haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then, they had a meal with
Jesus.

 

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Peter. “Do you love me?” Peter replies
Yes, Lord you know I love you. Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asked
the same question and Peter answered the same. Then, Jesus said, “Tend my
sheep.” Finally, Jesus again asked the same question. This time, Peter felt
hurt but answered the same. Then, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

 

In order for us to more deeply understand this conversation between Jesus and
Peter, we need to see the use of the words in the original Greek text. A
problem with most English translations is that they don’t distinguish between
the two different words for “love” that are in the original Greek. In
the Greek version, we can more easily understand the conversation. The first
two times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” What Jesus uses in
these first two questions is agape love. This is the love of John 3:16, “For
God so loved the world that he gave God’s one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This love is
unreserved, unconditional, unwavering and totally oriented for the good of the
other.

 

However, when Peter responds to Jesus, “Yes Lord, you know I love you,” he
uses a different word in Greek “philios” which means “friendship.” So
the first two encounters might be better translated as follows, “Peter,
are you fully devoted to me?” or “Do you unconditionally love me?”
“Yes Lord, you know I am your friend.” “And I love you as a good
friend.”

What we see in this conversation is that Jesus twice offers Peter the opportunity to
confess his love toward Jesus. Imagine the conversation in connection with the
following two scenes. The first scene is the last supper. Peter said to Jesus
“I will never deny you.” The second scene is Peter’s denial three times before
Jesus died on the cross. Even he began to call down curses on himself and he
swore and he said “I don’t know the man!”
Peter is human, and we can understand what he did to Jesus. In fact, Jesus also knew
that Peter would deny him. Peter might think and determine that he will never
deny Jesus. However, he couldn’t keep the promise that he made with Jesus. Even
though Jesus offered Peter agape love, he couldn’t even keep friendship with
Jesus. I believe that Jesus understood it. So, when Jesus asks Peter for the
third time, “Do you love me?” Jesus uses “philios” instead
of agape. That is, he accepts Peter’s offer of friendship. So, it might be
translated like this, “Peter, are you my friend?” “Lord, you know every thing,
you know I am your friend.”

 

The love that Peter can actually offer is not agape love. It is friendship and it
is sometimes conditional and wavering.  However,
here is the most important message. Jesus accepts that it is enough. Jesus
accepts us as we are; there is no need to pretend that we are perfect. Jesus
offers us agape love and we offer him friendship which might be conditional.
Nevertheless, Jesus accepts us as he did Peter. I can see and feel the grace of
God in this story.

 

Following the way of Christ is the key practices of our faith. However, in our church
life, many people find themselves under great pressure to offer agape love back
to Christ. This pressure makes many people exhausted in the course of their Christian
lives. However, we don’t need to be exhausted. Today’s story tells us that
Jesus accepts our offer of friendship instead of agape love.

 

So, here is what we as a church should remember. The key practice to take care of
oneself in the church is to build a friendly relationship with Jesus Christ.
This is what today’s church needs. This relationship with Christ will play a
major role in both our personal spiritual growth and church growth. This
relationship with Christ will play an important role in meeting our needs in
our Christian lives.

 

Last Sunday, we started a Spring Bible Study group. Many of you participated with interest
for the growth of your spiritual life. I hope that we can have meaningful time
to build a friendly relationship with Christ and even Paul through his life and
theology, which are filled with God’s grace, Jesus love, and the Spirit’s
power. I pray this study group will influence your life and mine too.

 

Also, I want to emphasize again what Jesus said to Peter three times, “Feed my
lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” There is no doubt that in this
conversation, Jesus commends Peter to take care of not only the church but also
the neighbors. Reaching out is a very important practice that we should emulate.
Let me share with you my experience that I had a few days ago.

 

Last Tuesday, I went to the hospital. It was my first time to visit the hospital as a
chaplain alone. I hesitated a little and worried if they might not want me to
visit. So, I stopped in the lobby on the second floor and prayed to God. With a
little courage and big smile, I started visiting patients. In one room, a man was
sitting on a chair and saw and welcomed me. I introduced myself and he asked,
“What is your mission?” So, I told him that my mission is to visit patients to
talk to them, listen to them, and pray for them. Then, he told me his mission.
It was “to stay alive.” He was 91 years old and was waiting for the end of his
life, but he was too emotional and trembled with fear. I grabbed his hand and
prayed for him. While praying for him, he cried and even cried loudly. I couldn’t
stop myself from getting emotional and crying also. I couldn’t stop praying for
him. I prayed and prayed. After the prayer, he didn’t stop crying and said to
me, “It is the most blessed day in my life ever.” “Thank God, thank God!” And
he said to me, “Bless you, bless you, bless you.” It was my first visit as a
chaplain and I realized that many are waiting for God’s comfort, grace, mercy,
and love. I was ashamed of myself because I hesitated to visit them. This visit
clearly reminded me of why I am in the hospital and what I am doing in this
hospital. I prayed for him and shared God’s love with him and he kept saying
“thank God and “bless you!” That day for me was full of blessing.

 

Dear friends, we have the responsibility to take care of not only ourselves, our
body and our soul but also our church and our neighbors. We are Jesus’
disciples and in order to support us, he sent the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is
with us and strengthens us and fills us with wisdom and courage, so we can become
a faithful community.

 

We are still living in Easter season. For this season, I pray that we all can
engage in the process to build a friendly relationship with Jesus Christ. And I
pray that we are making one more step for us to be faithful Christians. For
this process, we need to support each other with prayers and concerns. And I
pray that we are making one more step for us to be a faith community to reach
the world with the gospels for the people who need God’s comfort, grace, mercy,
and love. Let’s depend on the Holy Spirit for this and the Spirit will support
all of us.

 

Let us pray.

Lord, we call you our friend, but most of the time we are incapable of understanding
what that means. We believe that you want intimate relationship with us. Help
us to build the relationship with you and continue to be with us. Continue
calling us to a faithful relationship with you and the world you created. Amen.

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