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“DO YOU LOVE ME?...FEED MY LAMBS”

John 21:1-21:23
Key Verse: 21:15

Happy New Year! Thank God for enabling us to live a life of faith for this past one year. Many things, expected and unexpected, happened in our personal lives and God’s ministry. But we could live by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. We realize more and more that living by faith is a truly blessed life and the way of life as Christians in this troublesome world. In 2013 our ministry direction was to love Jesus and feed his sheep. We could see that God blessed this direction. This year 2014, we want to hold to this key verse again so that these words of Jesus may be planted in our hearts and guide us.

John 21 is the epilogue of John’s gospel and the end of the gospel story of Jesus in the New Testament. It is a forever beautiful love story between Jesus and his top disciple Peter. This love story is applicable to each Christian and it shows what Christian life should be like.

First, Jesus’ unfailing love. In verses 1-14, the disciples appear in utter failure and despair. Their nets were empty both as Jesus’ disciples and as fishermen. They were hopeless and miserable in deep despair. They seemed to have no place to go and no one to turn to. But early in the morning, Jesus stood on that shore. Jesus came to them when they were in the lowest point of their lives. He came with his hope. He came with his love to restore them. When they obeyed Jesus’ word, they could catch a large number of fish. It was a miracle. They could experience Jesus’ love and power anew. Indeed, there is restoration in Jesus time and again.

Then, John’s eyes opened to see it was the Lord. As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water. He swam toward Jesus faster than Michael Phelps, while the other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of large fish. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. The Risen Jesus was cooking for them early in the morning. This is a really unique image of Jesus in the gospel narrative. Jesus knew that they were cold and hungry. So he prepared a hot meal for them like a gentle mother. Jesus could do anything for them to fill their need. Then Jesus called them, “Come and have breakfast!” But none of the disciples dared to speak to him or come to the table. They all knew it was the Lord. Yet, they didn’t know what to do. Maybe they felt undeserving of such an invitation from the Lord. Peter especially may have thought he would rather be punished for his failures and for betraying Jesus so badly. But Jesus didn’t mind. He picked up the bread, walked toward them, and gave it to each of them. Then he walked back, picked up the sizzling fish, walked toward them again, and gave it to each of them. He did that again and again, until they were all satisfied. Jesus filled their hungry stomachs with the warm food. More than that, he filled their hungry hearts with his love. In spite of all their failures and unworthiness, Jesus’ love didn’t fail.

This Jesus was the one who was crucified for their sins and raised from the dead. Jesus bore all the punishment of their sins in his body and rose again to confirm his love for them. The risen Jesus was with them, eating with them and he would live in them. This Jesus loved Simon Peter from the beginning. Three years ago, Peter had the same experience of the great catch of fish in this sea of Galilee. Jesus had said to him, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” At that time Peter was tired and wearied with his life. When he obeyed Jesus’ words, he could make a great catch of fish. At this he was overwhelmed by Jesus’ holiness and power and responded, saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). However, Jesus accepted him unconditionally and called him with his hope. While following Jesus, Peter exposed his sins and weaknesses and shallowness. He was abrupt and domineering. When Jesus talked about his suffering and death, Peter could not accept it. He strongly rejected it because of his stubborn humanistic idea. He was steeped in his desire for human recognition and honour and glory. At the last Supper, when Jesus was going to wash his feet, his initial response was embarrassment and rejection. He could not understand what Jesus was doing from his shallow perspective. Peter thought he was the one who should wash Jesus’ feet with servantship in his loyalty. But anyway, Jesus washed his feet in hope that Peter would understand it later. Still, Peter was overconfident about himself. When Jesus predicted his denial on that night, his pride was hurt and he could not simply take it. He overrode Jesus’ words, saying, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mk 14:29) and “I will lay down my life for you” (Jn 13:37). Then, he failed miserably. But Jesus loved him to the end. The love of Jesus was proved through his death and resurrection and confirmed to him through eating with him at the seashore in the sea of Galilee. In this love of Jesus Peter could be restored. And he would be in the need of Jesus’ love throughout his life. Jesus’ words were true to him, “I am the vine; you are the branches…Apart from me you can do nothing.”

I was a coward and legalistic sinner. I realize that the cowardly are worse than unbelievers and those who commit sin boldly. It is because the cowardly fear people, not God. That’s why the cowardly are the first in the list of those who are to be thrown in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. But Jesus accepted me as I was. He helped me to realize the gospel of salvation through his death and resurrection. Through Sara’s burn, I came to know that a burn is a terrible affliction. Then what a grace it is that Jesus saved me from being thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur through his unbearable suffering on the cross! In my mission life the most difficult thing for me was that I did not how to serve the ministry of God’s word. Many times I cried and cried over my weaknesses and helplessness. The Lord had mercy on me and led me in his love. Particularly, when I finished two years of Matthew’s gospel study and one whole year of Acts study, I was so thankful to God and so happy for his abundant words given to us. He fed this hungry soul with his living words and enabled me to feed the hungry and thirsty souls. This was none other than Jesus’ unchanging and unfailing love for me. I know that many things are uncertain in my life and God’s ministry. But because of his steadfast and unfailing love, I can have hope and confront any situation. Praise Jesus that his love never fails. His love is greater than all our sins. His love is greater than all our failures and shortcomings.

Second, “Do you love me?” Look at verse 15. “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Jesus’ calling him by the name, “Simon, son of John” could remind him of Jesus’ grace. No one in the world could love Simon Peter as Jesus did. Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Jesus could have said many other things, such as, “Simon, are you sure that you will not disown me anymore?” or “Simon, are you ready to serve God’s flock of sheep now?” But he said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Here we see that Jesus showed his unchanging love to Simon Peter in order that he might establish a mutual love relationship with Peter. Jesus came to this world to restore our love relationship with God. It is really unusual for Jesus to have asked the love question three times, “Do you truly love me more than these?”, “Do you truly love me?” and then, “Do you love me?” We learn that loving Jesus is the key point of Christian life. Whether one loves Jesus is the barometer of one’ life in Christ. When one loves Jesus, everything is okay; nothing is the problem. From time to time we wonder why there are many problems, sometimes ungraceful things, in Christian communities in history. Many things can be considered. But one clear problem is not truly loving Jesus. When each member of Christian community truly loves Jesus, any problems can be resolved and nothing can matter. Loving Jesus is the solution to any and every problem in the personal life and Christian community as well. Always, we should come back to the question, “Do you love me?” As his love is unchanging, Jesus wants our love for him to be unchanging.

Then what does it mean to love Jesus? When we love someone, we have joy and delight in him. Day and night we think of that person. Our eyes and thoughts are fixed on the one we love. In the same way when we love Jesus, our joy and delight is in him. We are aware of his presence. We cannot live without him. So Jesus commands us to remain in his love and abide in him. When we love Jesus, we can trust and obey him (Jn 14:21). We fear him in reverent fear (Ge 22:12). And to love Jesus is to put Jesus before anything or anyone else as the first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have no other god before me.” To love Jesus is also to hallow his name and seek to do his will as the Lord’s prayer says, “…hallowed your name. Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we love Jesus, we desire to go deeper and deeper into the heart of Jesus, into the will of Jesus, into the cross of Jesus, into the joy of Jesus and into the love of Jesus as the hymn Deeper and Deeper says.

When we read the Old Testament, the Israelites failed in loving God when they became proud. God said in Hoses 13:5-6, “I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” As for apostle Paul, he loved Jesus so much that he said in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!” He said of himself as one abnormally born, the least (1 Cor 15:8,9), less than the least (Eph 3:8), and then the worst (1 Tim 1:15). For the grace and love of Jesus was deep in his heart.

Then how did Peter answer Jesus’ love questions? “Yes, Lord,” he said, you know that I love you.” Again, he said, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Finally, he said with a broken heart, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” His confession of love was based on the Lord, not on himself, anymore. He was no longer overconfident, nor did he try to show off his loyalty to Jesus. Instead, he humbly and sincerely confirmed his love for Jesus, making his confession of love three times in reply to Jesus' thrice-repeated love question. From this time on nothing could sever his love relationship with Jesus, even death. He loved Jesus in life, and he loved Jesus in death.

We learn that the love of Jesus is the foundation of our love relationship with Jesus. When we remember the love of Jesus who loved us to the point of giving himself for us on the cross and grow in realization of this love of Jesus, we can humble ourselves and we can truly love Jesus. This time, I believe Jesus asks each of us: “Do you truly love me more than these?” “Do you truly love me?” “Do you love me?” We are here as a group, but a love confession to Jesus is very personal. I pray that each of us may answer to Jesus’ love question very personally from the heart, by responding to his love. It is meaningful to start this new year by making a sincere love confession to Jesus.

Second, “Feed my lambs.” What did Jesus say to Peter, whenever Peter made a confession of love to him? Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” When Simon Peter made a confession of love, Jesus entrusted his lambs and sheep to him to feed them and take care of them. We see that loving Jesus and feeding his sheep go hand-in-hand. Jesus entrusts his sheep to each of us when we make a confession of love to him.

So far Jesus had fed his sheep. Jesus once fed a crowd of 5000 who were like sheep without a shepherd and taught them the words of God (Mk 6:34). Jesus fed Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman one by one. Jesus took care of a man with leprosy and a man born blind, and many more who were helpless and needy. Once, Jesus saw a crowd who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd and told his disciple to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field (Mt 9:3638). Ezekiel 34 shows Jesus’ broken heart for his shepherdless sheep: “My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them” (Eze 34:6). The world seems to have many problems. But according to the Bible one true problem is the lack of a shepherd. So at the right time God sent Jesus as a good shepherd for his flock according to his promise (34:23). Jesus said in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” While on earth Jesus gave his whole heart and life to the 12 disciples in the hope of raising them as shepherds. Now the Risen Jesus had restored his love relationship with Peter so that Peter might be reinstated as a shepherd for his sheep, for whom he laid down his life.

As for us “Feed my lambs” includes finding Jesus’ sheep on campus. Jesus came to this world to seek and find what was lost (Lk 19:10). And Jesus said in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.” Jesus wants us to find his scattered sheep on the campuses of each nation. He wants us to sweep our campus until we find his sheep one after another, if we love him. And we believe that his sheep include our own children.

According to Jesus’ word, a shepherd should do two things: feeding and caring. In particular, Jesus said of feeding two times, “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep.” We remember how Jesus fed his sheep. He said in his high priestly prayer, “Father…I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them” (Jn 17:8). Jesus made it very clear that he fed his disciples with the word of God. Recently, God helped me to realize the importance of feeding and caring through Sara’s hospitalization. As you heard, she was burned on the upper legs and feet with boiling water, and had to undergo surgery. While she was hospitalized about a week, she became weaker and weaker, because she could not eat the hospital food. As she felt weaker, the nurse only gave more medication, and more medication made her even weaker. At the end, she became totally exhausted. She longed to come home. As soon as she came home, her mom fed her with home food and cared her with love. Though her mom had no formal nursing education, she could feed and care Sara in the best way because she loved her. With home food and loving care, Sara felt alive, even though her wounds were still painful. Medication has limitations. Eventually well-eaten and digested food brings healing and restoration. Generally speaking, those children who eat well are healthy. They have healthy bodies and healthy immune systems. A weak body with a poor immune system is vulnerable to various kinds of germs, and so illness. It is true spiritually. Sick souls can be healed and restored when they are fed with the word of God. God’s flock of sheep can be healthy and strong when they are well fed, strong enough to withstand various kinds of spiritual germs of sin. At that time of 1st century Gnosticism was a very dangerous teaching that permeated into and harmed Christianity. In our times, secular humanism (human-centeredness), materialism (consumerism), and relativism in the name of tolerance, acceptance and openness creep into Christian community and damage pure faith. Then what a significant and serious matter it is to feed God’s flock of sheep with the word of God! “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep” are imperative.

In feeding, the purity and variety of food are significant. The word of God should not be mixed with humanistic and worldly ideas. And we should feed the words of God from the whole Bible, both words of comfort and encouragement and words of warning and rebuke. Paul said in 2 Timothy, “Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (3:16) and “Preach the Word…correct, rebuke and encourage” (4:2). And in feeding faithfulness is important. God’s flock of sheep should be fed faithfully. Certainly, feeding his sheep is related to a shepherd’s deep Bible study.

We know that feeding sheep is not UBF slogan, but it is Jesus’ command to those who love him. “Feed my lambs”, “Take care of my sheep,” “Feed my sheep”, may we keep these words of Jesus in our deep hearts and obey them very personally as our expression of love to him. May I feed his people with the words of Luke’s gospel as of first importance in new year 2014.

May God help us to love Jesus in response to his love and feed his sheep out of obedience in love to him. May we be sure that the year 2014 be the year of feeding Jesus’ sheep because of our love for Jesus. May God raise up shepherds and Bible teachers among many young people in this generation.

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