Last week, we read about Jesus meeting the Disciples on the shore of the sea of Galilee. They had gone out fishing for the night and caught nothing. With Jesus’ help, they caught a net full of fish and towed it ashore. Jesus fed the Disciples in a scene similar to the Last Supper yet also similar to the feeding of the 5,000.
After their breakfast, Jesus takes Peter aside. Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs,” Jesus says. This round repeats ‘til Jesus had asked Peter if he loved Him 3 times and had 3 times commanded Peter to feed His sheep. Peter was hurt, not because Jesus asked him once; Peter was hurt because Jesus felt it necessary to ask 3 times.
Many of us think about the scene from a few weeks ago. On the night the Disciples ate with Jesus in the Upper Room, they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane after dinner. Roman soldiers came to the garden to arrest Jesus and take Him away. (Chapter 18 of John) Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that other disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the gate. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, Are you one of this man’s disciples? He said, I am not. Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it warming themselves. Peter also stood with them warming himself. The slaves and police asked him, Are you one of His disciples? He denied it and said I am not. One of the slaves of the high priest asked Didn’t I see you in the garden with Him? Again Peter denied it; then, the cock crowed.
We’ve all heard many sermons and read many devotions about those denials being denials of knowing Jesus. However, Peter doesn’t deny knowing Jesus; he denies being a disciple. There is a difference between knowing Jesus and following Jesus or being His disciple. Lots of people knew Jesus. Peter knew Jesus. The people questioning him that evening didn’t ask Peter if he knew Jesus. The people asked if he was a disciple of Jesus.
A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon about being a follower not a fan of Jesus. In this time between Easter and Pentecost, Pentecost being the day that we celebrate the birth of the Church and the coming of the Holy Spirit when the Church becomes the church, this time between Easter and Pentecost is a time for us to reflect on all of the things that Jesus said and did and interpret them in light of the Resurrection as we prepare ourselves for the season of discipleship when we become infused with the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit and part of that preparation is making a devoted commitment to being a disciple, not just knowing Jesus, but following Jesus.
Each time Peter responded to Jesus saying that he did love Jesus, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” or “take care of my lambs.” Jesus is telling Peter, and us, that part of loving Jesus is loving and caring for those whom Jesus loves. Jesus responds to Peter’s confession of love by “giving him good work to do…be a leader. Look out for the others. Devote yourself to this community. Peter is…given a sense of belonging, and then he is given good work to do and given a purpose.”
Peter doesn’t need forgiveness for denying being a disciple. He doesn’t need justification. Peter doesn’t need reinstated. Peter never denied Jesus; Peter denied his role as disciple. “The conversation between Jesus and Peter has nothing to do with a re-instatement of Peter [or] forgiveness of Peter…[it] is John’s version of ‘take up your cross’ … Peter needs another invitation…to participate…” Jesus’ question about love is not a question if Peter knew Jesus; Jesus’ question is whether or not Peter will participate in the continued mission of Jesus once He is taken up to Heaven. Peter confesses that by his love he is devoted to Christ and will accept His commission.
The life of a disciple is not an easy life. When we make a confession of faith and are baptized, we enter into a life that should be marked as different because of our commitment to discipleship. Jesus tells Peter that devotion to Him requires Peter and all who confess to love Christ to participate in the kingdom building work that Jesus continues through his faithful Church.
I see the marks of discipleship as worshipping Christ regularly, serving others in mission, sharing our faith, fellowshipping with other believers, growing in our faith and giving to the church. Every Sunday is an opportunity to show your discipleship by showing up to church. Every time we open our doors to serve others it is an opportunity to show our discipleship. Next Sunday, at Singspiration, is an opportunity to show our discipleship by accepting the invitation to fellowship with other believers.
Discipleship is not something you learn from a book or the Bible. Discipleship is something you do. Any Bible study or book study teaches you about what it means to be a disciple. Discipleship isn’t about how much you know about the Bible. Discipleship is being a disciple.
I saw a video by Frances Chan who is a United Methodist. He was the leader of a video and book study we did a few years ago about the Holy Spirit. Frances was talking about discipleship and used his daughter as a reference. He said when he tells his daughter to go clean her room he means for her to go clean her room. He doesn’t want her to come back next week and say, “Hey, dad, I remembered what you said about cleaning my room.” He doesn’t want her to convene a study group of teenagers about what it means to clean their bedrooms. Frances means clean your room.
It is so with Jesus. Jesus tells us to “go make disciples.” He tells Peter, “feed my sheep.” We study His Word, not so we can be the most knowledgeable about the Bible. We study God’s Word so that we know, when Jesus tells us to feed His sheep, the Bible tells us who Jesus’ sheep are and how to care for and feed them. I think we all know enough about the Bible to know who Jesus’ sheep. Feeding Christ’s sheep is not just a matter of stocking the food pantry shelves. Jesus has many more sheep than those who come to the food pantry.
I have a friend working with a church who is aging and stagnant. He came to them while they were questioning who they were and how they would continue to exist. He challenged them to read a book called “The Anatomy of a Dying Church.” The author of the book over a couple hundred pages asks the church to consider their signs of discipleship. The church my friend is working with decided they didn’t show the signs of discipleship. They made a commitment and are making an effort to become disciples again. I imagine that church is much like Peter on the shore with Jesus given an opportunity to renew their commitment to discipleship by confessing love for Christ.
We have 2 things we’re working on right now. Our open door policy and our food pantry donation drive. I want us to show signs of discipleship in our effort toward these 2 goals. We’re at about 500 open doors. We have 2 ½ more months to open the door 500 more times. We’re not going to meet that goal if we’re only opening the door on Sunday mornings and for the food pantry. Let’s keep working to plan events to invite people to the church. I’ve given the Board a few ideas and we need to get working on those. If you have an idea, let me know – we’ll figure out how to make it happen.
Our other goal is our food pantry drive. We have more than 30 items toward our 200 items goal. When you bring stuff in, place it on the table in the basement outside of the food pantry and mark the number of items in the notebook. Or, place the items in the boxes at the doors and someone will tally them for you. I’ve heard Kenzie really wants to throw a pie in my face. If you’re interested, put your name on a slip of paper and place it in the bowl on the table in the basement outside of the food pantry.
Like I said earlier, there are many opportunities to practice discipleship, worship, service, giving, sharing faith, fellowship and growing in faith. Come to worship next week. Put your offering in the plate as often as you pledged. Join us for Bible study on Thursday mornings. Bring food for the food pantry. Go to Singspiration next week. Plan an event to invite people to come to the church. Lots of opportunities to be disciples.
Jesus has asked us, “Do you love me?”
Do you love Jesus?
Let’s feed His sheep.