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Monday, March 4, 2013

Do You Love Me?

          Jesus’ questioning of Peter three times reminded him of Jesus’ prophecy of Peter denying Him three times before the rooster crowed. For Peter, when Jesus asked him the first time if he loved Him, Peter thought Jesus was asking him truthfully. When Jesus asked him the second time, Peter doubtless thought He was testing Him. When Peter listened to Jesus question him a the third time, he remembered the prophecy Jesus spoke. Jesus said Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. It was then Peter realized Jesus wanted his attention. Jesus wanted to make sure Peter, as a lover of Christ, heeded what He commanded him. He told Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus then told Peter to shepherd His followers so they grew in the knowledge of and in oneness with Christ, just as Peter and the other disciples had done. He also told Peter to love them and care for them. 

            Peter spoke on Pentecost. He became the leader of the Christians in Israel, but, Paul became the leader of the Gentile Christian converts. Peter founded and lead the church in Antioch for several years. In those days, the Bishop, the lead pastor, guided the lay-peoples' work within society and the church. In that regard, Peter was the Bishop in Antioch. Jesus preached the gospel and taught and lead others again and again during His ministry. Peter saw his mission from Christ as feeding His sheep. Peter lead the people to Christ and trained them to be one with Him just as Jesus is with the Father.   

From this oneness with God, the followers of Jesus told the gospel, taught, and trained other believers. Jesus did not want Peter and the other disciples only to testify of their love for Him. Jesus wanted Peter to “spend out” the love of Jesus into other peoples’ lives. It did not matter if they were people who had not bathed, people who drank too much, or people who danced to strange music or ate dog or whatever. Jesus told Peter to spend out in living the love of Jesus to these people. This love has no mortal temperament to make it prejudiced or to stop, but is an unending, overflowing blessing from God in heaven. This is “feeding” His sheep. Jesus gave Himself completely, spent out to the utmost, by becoming the sacrifice for our sins. In addition, Jesus healed peoples’ physical illnesses. We must be willing to heed God’s call for us to do the same thing. If we are in truth one with Jesus as He is with the Father, we will be spent out for others to come to know Christ. We will love others even when we do not want. This love goes beyond bounds. Love comes from God so is always unending and available for use. This is what Jesus told Peter. Do you really love Me, Jesus asked? Then feed my sheep... to the nth degree. 

            Peter spent himself out for the rest of his life. He preached at Pentecost, led the church of Antioch as bishop, and went to Rome at least three times. Scholars say Peter became Bishop over the Christian church at Rome. In the end, Nero tortured and persecuted Peter and passed the blame for the burning of Rome onto the Christians. Christians made a handy scapegoat. Peter hung on a cross upside-down. Peter and Paul, both leaders of Christian converts, Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles, gave their lives to be spent feeding Jesus’ sheep with their lives. Are we allowing ourselves to be spent out for Christ, to feed His sheep? Are we in a similar oneness with Him?