The beach scene continues in John 21:15-17 following the disciples bringing in a great catch of fish at Jesus’ direction, recognizing Him as their crucified Lord and joining him for breakfast.
“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.” 16 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.” 17 He said to him the 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
Jesus had previously encountered Peter where I’m sure they dealt with Peter’s great guilt over his denial. (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5) Scholars put Jesus’ first appearance to Peter on Resurrection Sunday and this encounter in Galilee sometime later. Here it would seem Jesus is making a point of asking Peter about his proclaimed love for Him. He asks 3 times, mirroring Peter’s 3 denials. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him and if he does, then Peter is to show his love for His sheep. He is to feed or tend to His sheep. Throughout the gospels sheep have been synonymous with followers and my sheep specifically believers in Jesus. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus is the good shepherd who died for all believers. John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” and John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus is asking Peter to demonstrate his love for Him by leading, tending, loving, caring for, guiding, protecting…. those who are believers in Jesus. He is saying ‘be a good shepherd’ to the flock of believers that come into your life.
Isn’t that what Jesus wants for us too? As believers, like Peter, we are to look out for others, lead them towards Jesus, care for them, show them kindness and give that ‘cup of cold water’ in His name. Knowing Jesus, requires us to take up this ‘job’ and love others. We do it not because we have to but because we love Jesus. James tells us faith without works is dead (James 2:26 ) and loving and showing Jesus to others is our compelling work for Him. We do it not out of obligation or for future reward but out of love gratitude towards our Savior. Who will you show love to today? Who will you ‘feed or tend’ in Jesus’ name?