Summary: When Jesus reinstated Peter he revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd. He showed His love for one of His sheep by forgiving Peter for the three times he denied Jesus. And He showed His love for His flock by commanding Peter to feed and care for His lambs
He has a lamb draped over his shoulders. In his hand is the unmistakable shepherd’s staff. A flock of sheep surrounds him. His eyes seem to be looking for danger or searching for a safe place to give his sheep food and water.
I imagine that many of you have seen a picture or painting of the scene I just described. We know who the shepherd is and we recognize those whom the sheep and lambs represent. It is a picture of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. And it is a picture of us his sheep and lambs. When we see such a painting or picture we recall the fact that Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd.
But perhaps we can see something more in the picture. Because Jesus is carrying one of the lambs from his flock we are reminded that he loves each of his sheep individually. When one of them needs special care he gives it. The sheep in Jesus’ flock aren’t nameless and faceless. No, he loves and cares for each one. And when one of them needs to ride on his shoulders for a while he picks it up and puts it there. In addition to that comforting truth the picture also reminds us that Jesus cares for the entire flock. He is leading, protecting, and providing for all of his sheep.
For our sermon on this Good Shepherd Sunday we will direct our attention to a part of God’s Word where we will receive an indirect reminder of Jesus’ care for the individual sheep in his flock and also a direct reminder of his care for the whole flock. We ask the Holy Spirit to increase our faith in our Savior through the words of John 21:15-19. (Read text.) Through this conversation between Jesus and Peter may we:
“SEE THE GOOD SHEPHERD CARE FOR HIS SHEEP”
I. He cares for the individual
II. He cares for the entire flock
These verses continue where our gospel lesson for last Sunday stopped. Peter, Thomas, (called Didymus), Nathanael, James and John, and two other disciples were together in Galilee. One night Peter said, “I’m going out to fish.” That sounded like a good idea to the other disciples so they all went with him. Unfortunately that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, a man that they didn’t recognize appeared on the shore. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” They had heard those words before. When they did what the man said they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish in it. They figured out who was on the shore. John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Immediately Peter wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water to swim to shore. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish. When they landed on shore Jesus invited them to eat a breakfast he had prepared. After their breakfast Jesus had some work to do in the spiritual life of one of his disciples. Through his interaction with Peter we see Jesus at work as the Good Shepherd. We see how he cares for the individual sheep and for the entire flock.
One of Jesus’ sheep was in need of some special care. At times he had been very stubborn and strong willed. Jesus had warned him that Satan was setting a trap for him. But Peter’s pride got in the way. He had boasted, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33) Well you know what happened. Before the rooster’s second crow Peter had denied Jesus three times. And as Jesus was being led off to another trial he shot a glance at Peter that shook his soul. Peter went out and wept bitterly over the sins he had committed.
The rip in the relationship between the Good Shepherd and one of his sheep had to be mended. We can’t say what Peter was thinking at this point concerning his denial. Since Jesus rose from the dead perhaps Peter was trying to gloss over his denial as if it were no big deal. After all Jesus was fine now. On the other hand Peter may have been wallowing in guilt. It might have been the kind of guilt that would haunt him all his life if it wasn’t addressed.
Obviously Peter would have liked to avoid the whole episode. But the Good Shepherd knew better. By asking Peter the question, “Do you love me?” three times Jesus was bringing him back to his three denials. It wasn’t easy for Peter. It had to be like torture for him. John was there and he recalled, “Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’” Even though it hurt Peter, Jesus was bringing healing to one of his sheep. Jesus wasn’t sticking it to Peter or rubbing his nose in what he had done. He restored and strengthened Peter by uncovering his guilt and providing forgiveness.