John 21 is a marvelous chapter. Peter, who three times denied that he even knew Jesus, was given a three time opportunity to declare his love for Jesus in a face to face meeting. But Peter’s lessons did not end there. Next, Jesus gave Peter a thrice repeated commission. Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs, tend His sheep, and shepherd all of them. If you are a believer in Jesus as the Christ, you are called to be one of two things, either a sheep or an under-shepherd for the sheep. Christ calls some men and anoints and gifts them to be shepherds. All others, Christ calls to be sheep. Sheep live in flocks; there are no lone ranger sheep. Sheep may stray but they don’t rebel. Christ told Peter to tend and feed the sheep. Christ said nothing to Peter about breaking bucking broncos. The shepherd may have to seek out strays and gently lead them home but ridding them of a rebellious streak is not part of the equation. A rebellious sheep is no sheep at all.
John 21 continues. First, Jesus gave Peter opportunity to declare his love for Jesus. Next, Jesus gave Peter a job shepherding Jesus sheep. Finally, Jesus gave Peter one more command, a more difficult command. Jesus told Peter that he would have to learn to do exactly that which Peter had already recoiled against. Peter rebuked Jesus in Matthew 16 when Jesus began to teach that He would have to go to the cross. Now Jesus is informing Peter that as under-shepherd, he will have to follow in the exact footsteps of the Great Shepherd. In John 21:18, Peter is told that he will no longer be master of his own fate. The rough and ready fisherman will be told what to do. Peter will be lead about by the Holy Spirit to Samaria and later to Cornelius’ house. Peter will have to learn to minister to enemies. But there is more, Peter will have to learn to submit to government authorities even to the point of being crucified. Peter, the disciple who always wanted to act first and think later, would have to learn to peacefully allow others to do things to him. See Peter’s first epistle for evidence of that. Jesus emphatically told Peter, “You follow Me!” This is a difficult message. As followers of Christ, we are to take up our cross and follow him. That means we give up not one thing in our lives as symbolic of taking up our cross but rather we give up our very lives. The only way to save our life is to lose it.
But there is more before John 21 closes. Peter did what you and I do. Peter tried to change the subject. Peter wanted Jesus to turn His attention to John, but Jesus would have no part of that. Scripture says two times, “What is that to you? You follow Me!” God is making sure that we (sheep and under-shepherds alike) know that we have no business worrying about and judging others. Each of us has more than enough to worry about concerning our own selves. Romans 14:4 plainly states, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls.” (NASU) The job of sheep is to hear, recognize, and obey the voice of the Master. That is the only way to follow Him. Ceasing to worry about others, while following Jesus frees us up to love Him, serve Him, enjoy Him, and enjoy life. This is life abundant.