Theme: Christ’s Two Commands
In this week’s lessons, we look at Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21, where he restores Peter after his denial, and commissions him for useful service.
Scripture: John 21:15-22
The final thing we need to look at are Christ’s commands. Peter is now restored, and Jesus gives him two instructions. The first is to feed or take care of Jesus’ sheep. Three times he tells Peter to do this. You find it in verses 15, 16, and 17. This repetition clearly shows that this is important, both here in this story and also in the entire scope of the gospel. Feed my sheep. What does that mean? Well, it’s stressing the importance of teaching, because feeding the sheep means to teach God’s people from the Bible. That’s what feeding is. We feed upon Jesus Christ as we study his Word, and we are fed as that Word is taught to us.
Peter is an apostle. He’s going to train others who are going to follow in his steps. Jesus tells him here that his task is to feed Jesus’ sheep. Peter’s not going to create Jesus’ sheep. God gave them to Jesus, and he’s going to call them to faith. But Peter’s task is to teach them. Isn’t that what we found all along? You go back to the first chapter and you find John the Baptist teaching. You go to the third chapter, the fourth chapter, and all the great discourses, and you find Jesus Christ teaching. And here at the end he’s still teaching. And knowing that he is soon going to be taken out of the world, he gives the task to his disciples, and he says, “Now, you are to go and teach.”
Peter might have said, “Lord, how can I do that? I have failed you.” Jesus says, “Go and teach.” Peter would say, “But I’m weak.” Jesus says, “Go and teach.” Peter says, “But I understand so little. There are smarter people than I.” Jesus says, “Go and teach.” You see, that’s our task, especially the task of ministers. When I talk to pastors as I do more and more these days, I stress that their task above all the other things ministers are called upon to do is to teach their people. It’s not that the other things aren’t valuable; ministers need to do them. They need to counsel and administer and all of those things, but there are other people who can do that. The minister above all needs to teach the Word of God.
But this need to teach is not just for ministers, but for you. You have Bible studies, you teach Sunday school, you talk to people informally one on one. Your task is to teach them the Word of God, and then trust God for the results. You might say, “But I don’t understand it very well.” You’ll learn as you teach. St. Augustine said, “I learn through writing, and as I write I learn.” And that’s absolutely right. As you teach you learn, and as you learn, you will teach. And that’s what you’re called upon to do.
How do you do it? Do it regularly. Teaching regularly will cause you to study regularly. Do it systematically, not picking out material here and there, but with the aim of seeing it as a whole. Do it as comprehensively as possible. Some people focus just on one doctrine or one subject. It can seem to others that that’s the only area they know much about. But there’s a great deal more than that, and so studying and teaching comprehensively is necessary. Above all, do it prayerfully, because it’s God’s Word and we want God to speak to the hearts of men and women as we teach it.
The second instruction Jesus gave to Peter was to follow him. He says this twice, in verses 19 and 22. I guess Peter was bothered at that point because he tried to shift attention away from himself a little bit. Peter hadn’t followed very well. He followed from a distance, you may recall, after Jesus’ arrest. Here, Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me.” And at this point Peter turned around and saw that John was following Jesus and Peter, prompting Peter to ask Jesus, “What about him?” Jesus said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” In other words, what Jesus calls somebody else to do is none of Peter’s concern. Peter’s concern is to follow Jesus.
And that’s our concern, as well. We’re called to follow Jesus Christ. It’s what it means to be a disciple. It’s what it means to be a Christian. He is the master and the teacher; we are the disciples who are to follow him day by day, year by year, until he takes us home to glory. This word “follow” is almost the first thing we hear Jesus saying in the Gospel. You go back to chapter 1:43, where Jesus finds Philip and tells him, “Follow me.” So, at the very beginning of the Gospel that’s the command, and now you come to the end, and that’s what you have as well. Jesus is giving the command to follow him. That is what we are called to do.
What does Jesus mean when he tells Peter to feed his sheep?
Why does Jesus emphasize teaching? What points are made in the lesson about how to do it?
Application: How is Jesus teaching you to follow him? Pray for greater trust to do this, especially when it is hard and you don’t know what the Lord is trying to show you.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Richard Phillips’ message, “Jesus and the Governor.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)