4-24-15 - Surf and Turf

I made a mistake in yesterday’s Water Daily. I said Jesus had the fire going and the bread, and all he needed was the fish his disciples had caught with his help. But the text says he already had fish on the fire. He just needed some more. Where Jesus got the fish he already had, I don’t know; I doubt it was a problem for someone who could command storms and materialize at will. What matters, I think, is that he wanted his friends to contribute to the feast, not just provide it all for them.

Their work as “fishers of men” was not finished; in some ways it was just beginning. Soon Jesus would be leaving the planet permanently (in bodily form, that is), and these men, now so at a loss, would be gifted and empowered for transformational ministries. But first, Jesus had a little business to do with Peter, a leader in the community of Christ-followers. And so we switch metaphors from fish to sheep, from fishing to shepherding:

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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt 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.”

Biblical scholars call this the “restoration” of Peter. After his three-fold betrayal of Jesus, he is invited thrice to reaffirm his love and commitment. And three times he is commanded: “Feed my lambs, “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.” I don’t know why the transition from lambs to sheep, and “feed” to “tend” and back. What I take away from this exchange is that Jesus is making a connection between loving him and shepherding those whom he regards as his “lambs” (perhaps those young in faith?) and his “sheep” (believing members of the household of God?).

It’s easy to say, “I love Jesus,” but I find it can be an awfully abstract feeling, since our experience of Jesus is often so remote. We can love him in theory, or by faith. But when we fully love someone, we want to spend time with them, we want to give to them, and we want to value what they value. Jesus made it clear that he valued the work of God’s hands, the children, women and men made in God’s image. And so, if we truly want to be known as people who love Jesus, we will take care to feed and tend the people around us. All the people around us – not just the ones we know and like, but also the ones we don’t know and find it challenging to like.

This story of the catch of fish and the picnic on the beach is full of metaphors, yes. But let's not only treat it symbolically. What if Jesus is inviting us to be makers of feasts, feeders of his sheep, in all kinds of places, all the time?

I am captivated by the notion that the followers of Christ can be like bands of guerrilla feast-makers, constantly pulling off surprising events of feeding and tending. What if each congregation covenanted to make one feast in an unexpected place each month? What an explosion of love that would put into the world. What a rush of Holy Spirit energy would fill us.

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
You in?

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