When 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.” He said to him, “Feed my Lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.” - John 21:15-17
What was Jesus’ intention in this passage? Was Jesus trying to shame Peter for having previously denied him on three occasions? Actually, scripture tells us that this was a creative, sensitive, loving confrontation with Peter. But at the same time, Jesus was determined that Peter had to face his failures. This was Jesus’ attempt to reclaim Peter.
We are God’s flock. To “feed my sheep” can be translated in various ways. In a pure literal sense, it can mean to provide food for the physical feeding of others. Our Back Pack program at RCPC is a prime example of this. However, Jesus’ charge to “feed my sheep” has a much deeper meaning than just providing physical nourishment. Jesus is pointing to Peter to take on the role of shepherd….to guide, watch, and defend His sheep. Just as we need food to sustain our physical health, our bodies need “soul nourishment” to maintain a meaningful lifestyle as well.
Let’s focus on “soul nourishment.” You know, our bodies are full of leaks, and (for the lack of a better example) can be compared to the air pressure in our automobile tires during the winter months. We can fill the air pressure to 34 PSI in December, and can check the pressure again in January to realize that it is now at 30 PSI. Basically, air contracts when it is cold; thus, it’s not unusual for our tires to lose pressure during the winter months. Like air in the tires, we are constantly being drained as a result of the mental and emotional stresses of our daily lives. We can be on “top of the mountain” today, and then in a day or so feel empty and discouraged. In other words, the “good” things that fill us up can only last so long.
So how do we obtain the “soul nourishment” necessary to recharge our bodies? One way is to take a few minutes each day to isolate ourselves…..take time alone. Many of us (and please don’t take this the wrong way, Honey) spend our days interacting with people at home or at work who can cause us to “leak out.” I have often mentioned this, but I always cherish the time I spend alone on my porch in the early morning listening to the various sounds, smelling the freshness of the air, and gazing at the gorgeous skies as the earth awakens. This is my time, and it’s a great way to recharge. Helping others is another way to fill the soul. Nothing can duplicate the satisfaction and fulfillment of making a difference in someone’s life. As we recently discussed in my Knights of Ni men’s group, surrounding yourself with positive people can often nourish your soul just by their presence. Uplifting people can provide the perspective, encouragement, fun, fellowship, and love that we need to nourish our soul.
But what more nutrient-rich soul food could there be than reading the Bible? Spend time in worship….either in gatherings with other believers during our church services, in our small group studies, or alone in your own special prayer setting. Then take time to speak with God, and respond when He speaks to your heart….that’s how we become shepherds.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your unconditional love, and for forgiving me for my failures, sins, and moments of unfaithfulness. Please restore me to your service, and rekindle me with your Spirit as I seek to honor and serve you always. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.