15 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.”
16 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.”
17 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.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” NIV
As I study this passage I am struck by the intentional redundancy of Jesus’ parting command to Peter. This was the sum total of Jesus investment in Peter including giving his life as a ransom for Peter, you, and me.
One command spoken three different ways is unique to Jesus’ teachings: Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, and feed my sheep. Understanding before that Jesus had proclaimed that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God surely Peter got it. Give the little ones (lambs) the Word. Take care (serve, nurture, care for, protect) the flock and make sure they don’t suffer from God inspired nourishment. We also remember, though vaguely, about the Bible speaking to the peril of sheep without a shepherd. These are the greatest days of our lives, let’s live them well, let’s live them in a specific purpose for God.
Oswald Chambers asked himself repeatedly, “have I totally surrendered my life to God to do with as He pleases?” I suspect this was the very message that Jesus was sending Peter. Never disowned by the Father though he did indeed deny Christ three times, Peter embodies the hope for us today. Live in the moment, live for God, and live out the purpose and command God has gifted you for in Christ Jesus.