Being a Christian is all about love: being loved and loving others. Being a leader is all about serving others, through love. We have his love and we show his love by serving others in practical ways.
The basic and indispensable qualification for Christian service is love. In this conversation between Jesus and Peter, we learn again, that love is the foundation of the Christian life, of the good news, and of Christian service.
Peter might be identified as a leader or even the leader in the church. We have an obsession with leadership in the church today. But there is no calling to leadership, but only a call to service.
Jesus says to me and to any of us who are his followers, just like he said to Peter, "Do you love me? Then feed my lambs." Something to always remember is that the people are his. Even our children, our husbands and our wives are his.
"Feed my sheep", is a word from the top, chief shepherd, to the rest of us who might be in the shepherding role. Feed them (and tend them), and they are his, not yours; so keep that in mind. We have here a description of "the ministry", because the context of Jesus' words are Peter's reinstatement into the ministry.
Peter had already met with Jesus, after the resurrection. Peter had his faith intact. But he might have been still hurting over how he betrayed Jesus and he might have felt like a failure.
Peter may have disqualified himself from being a person who could lead others to Jesus and share the good news and encourage them, because he felt like he totally blew it. But Jesus comes along and has a pow wow with him, and it is in front of the other guys. In Peter's mixed feelings of despair and awe in the Lord's presence, Jesus says, "You love me right? (pause) Then feed and take care of the people who believe in me."
Peter's response is, "Of course I love you (but)". I put the 'but' in parentheses, because he was maybe thinking a 'but'. His 'but', might have been something like, "I can not believe he asked me that, and I think he is probably not going to want me to serve him or his people in any capacity, after what I did on the night he was arrested."
Jesus is love. Jesus being with Peter was loving. I bet Peter knew Jesus loved him at that moment.
Jesus did not say, "You know I love you". Instead, Jesus asks Peter that question, not because he was after information or he doubted Peter's love. Peter was crazy in love with Jesus.
When someone loves you like crazy and you ask them, "do you love me?", they might be taken aback, or a little bit offended. That's when we say, "I can't believe you are asking me that!" But Jesus can ask anything he wants to and it is always a good and meaningful question.
In other words, Jesus is not insecure and he is not playing a game. There is absolutely no guile in his question. Everyone knows that Peter is a lover of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no doubt.
So, why oh why does Jesus ask this (crazy sounding) question?
Peter might have answered the question more fully with, "yeah, I love you, sure I do (what a weird question!); but I am pretty sure I blew it and you don't want me to represent you in any way, while I still believe you do love me and I also believe you forgive me, but being the guy people look to for learning about you, I am pretty sure you don't want me for that."
To that, Jesus simply says, "Do you love me? Then simply feed my sheep, and care for them". Yes, the light is green. Jesus says, "Take your love for me, and love my people and look after them". Behold, Jesus' description of pastoral ministry!
Here is the message for all of us: Do you love Jesus? Then feed his lambs.
This scene, this story, on the beach, between Jesus and Peter, is a message for all Christians, especially to ministers. Peter was just a man, just like we are just men and women that do Jesus Christ's ministry on earth, today.
I believe that the ministry is Jesus' ministry and he calls us all into his ministry. There is no pyramid shaped hierarchy in the church. But there is one at the top, God in three persons, and then the rest of us; all the way from Peter to me.
The (corporate chart in the) kingdom is flat.
Peter here is being called, again, after his mishap, to service. Peter is special in that he was one of the founding Apostles, but he is never called to be a special ruler, like a king. In Peter's mind, and through his words, Jesus is the only head, chief, senior, or lead shepherd (see 1 Peter 5:1-4).
The rock that Jesus' church is founded upon, is The Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. From Christ, we love, and we serve: feeding and caring for his people. That is the ministry.
Whatever your failure, your mishap, or your detour; and even if your wandering feels like you are lost from the ministry, the church, your calling, your destiny, or simply a happy life of service to God: Hear Jesus' words to you: "Do you love me?"
He simply asks, "Do you love me?"
Some of us might have a hard time even with that question, because we equate love with performance. We are all tied in knots, because we judge our selves, our performance as poor. We say to ourselves, that we really must not love him AS WE SHOULD because of our failures.
Real love is not tied to success or proved by winning performances. Real love is based on no conditions, but is a choice to love that person. We never define or gauge God's love for us, based on our victory or defeat, success or failure, and applause or boos from people.
The word is simple. Do you love him? Get past your performance orientation, ambition, competition, need to look good, low self-esteem, and ego-mania.
Get past it, does not mean pretend it is not there, but it means to acknowledge it and let it go. Set it down at the cross, release it and embrace Father in his unconditional love. The only way to live, which is the way of Christ, same for Peter and same for us, is to live loved.
After clearing the way, you can say, "I do". I do love you. Yes.
He has brought me back to the center. My bad is not the center. Me is not the center.
My "I" is now filled with his light. It is a little light most of the time, but his light is there in me. In that light, I know I love him.
He loves me and I love him. Truth! Now that we have that clear, and we might have to go back and forth a number of times, because of my stuff; I hear him say these simple words: "Feed my lambs and tend my sheep".