"Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?" Those are
actually Jesus' words to Peter in today's Gospel lesson. He asks
him three times. The third time, like any of us who might get
asked that question three times, having answered 'yes' the first
two times, Peter feels hurt that Jesus doesn't believe him. I
don't think Jesus doubted Peter, but he's making a point-Peter
did, after all, DENY Jesus three times. The repetition seems lost
on Peter however, because he doesn't seem to make the connection,
rather, his ego feels hurt.
So, let us, each one of us, take Peter's place and have Jesus
ask us. How many times would Jesus have to ask YOU to make it
equivalent to the number of times you have denied Jesus? I'm not
sure I could BEAR to know the number of times Jesus would have to
I deny Jesus when I don't do what he asked me to do. Underlying
everything he asked Peter to do, "Feed my lambs, tend my sheep,
feed my sheep," is something he said earlier in the Gospel of John
in chapter 13-said it to all his disciples then and says it to we
his disciples now: "I am giving you a new command. You must love
each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other,
everyone will know that you are my disciples."
I try, I really do. And I'm sure you try, too. But I catch
myself getting caught up in unkind thoughts sometimes. This
especially when I see someone hurt someone else physically or even
emotionally or with unkind words. I can rationalize or make
excuses all I want about my unkind thoughts toward them, but Jesus
is very clear: Love one another. Loving someone is not the same as
liking someone, or condoning what they do. Loving someone as Jesus
loved us means to care about their eternal soul, about their
We should never want someone to go to hell. We are attached to
every negative thought that we don't let go of. So, if you want
someone to go to hell, don't forget you are attached to that and
it will drag you right there with that person.
Fortunately we aren't in control of whether someone goes to
hell or not. However, if you have in your thoughts negatively
consigned someone to hell or carry thoughts of revenge toward
them, you are dragging yourself right along with those thoughts
and you consign yourself to a life of hell. You will not
experience the fullness of God's love.
Again, you don't have to LIKE someone, but you do have to care
about their eternal soul. None of us have lived perfect lives.
Maybe we haven't out-rightly or intentionally murdered anyone, but
any thoughts or actions that separate us from the fullness of
God's grace, love and mercy is sin in Jesus' eyes. To Jesus there
is no degree of sin. Sin is sin. In society we have a gradation
system of sin-this sin is worst than that sin. Fortunately that's
not the way that Jesus views sin.
None of us have gone through life without hurting someone in
some way. Often we didn't mean to, or perhaps didn't even know
that we HAD hurt them. We are all in need of God's forgiveness. We
can think someone is a greater sinner than we are, but in the eyes
of Jesus, the sins we commit against one another are the same.
Only in sinning against God does Jesus seem to make a distinction.
Leading children away from God, causing them to sin, is a sin
that Jesus says it would be better to have a millstone around
one's neck and be thrown into the sea than what will happen to
someone who commits such a sin. The other regards sinning against
the Holy Spirit. That is, a sin against the Holy Spirit is
unforgivable-not by limitation of God's grace, but because to sin
against the Holy Spirit is willful blindness. It is to say that
the light is darkness. It is to say the things of God are of the
devil. Such people can't be forgiven because there is no desire
for pardon or they don't even recognize pardon. To sin against the
Holy Spirit is to do evil things in the name of God.
We all know and have known world leaders like this. We must
LOVE them. That's right. We must pray for their eternal soul. We
must love one another as Jesus loves us. Jesus certainly doesn't
like all the things that we do to or think about others, or that
we do to or think about ourselves. But he loves us still.
Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" and when Peter responds
"Lord, you know that I love you," Jesus says to him, "If you love
me, then feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep." In other
words, if you love me, SHOW it, don't just say it. He's saying to
Peter you already said you loved me and would never desert me, or
deny me and yet that's exactly what you did. So, if you say you
love me, then here's what you must do.
And everything Jesus says in his response is based on us loving
one another as he has loved us. Feeding Jesus' lambs means caring
for those who say they are followers of Jesus' teachings, but are
very vulnerable, are very fragile. They are the folks who could
easily be turned away from Jesus if something traumatic happened
in their lives. They are the folks who say they are followers, but
don't know what it is that Jesus actually said. They don't know
the story of Jesus and don't care about getting the story
straight. They just use what they think they know to suit their
particular stance. These are folks who quote the Bible to back up
their stance, and yet what they quote is inaccurate.
We must feed these lambs of Jesus. We must love them and pray
for their souls and help them to fully know Jesus and to fully
experience God's love and forgiveness.
We must tend Jesus' sheep. That is, we must see that people are
cared for. We must be sure they aren't taken advantage of,
cheated, robbed of justice, overlooked, treated unfairly. We must
protect those who are not capable of protecting themselves-those
who are poorly educated, or lacking in the ability to discern
properly, or who are physically or mentally handicapped.
We must feed Jesus' sheep. This means we must make sure we are
all spiritually fed. We must be certain that we have spiritual
stamina to withstand the constant bombardment by Satan tempting us
to sin, to turn away from what Jesus asks us to do or think or
All this is based in love. We are motivated to do these
things-feeding Jesus' lambs, tending Jesus' sheep, feeding Jesus'
sheep-because we care about their eternal soul.
You may care about your children by physically caring for them
and protecting them, but if you don't care about their eternal
soul, all your caring in this world is for naught. You can't MAKE
them love and know Jesus, but your love for them should certainly
include prayers for their eternal soul. If you slack off and don't
keep praying for them, if you just write them off and say that one
day they will come around, you don't want to push them into
religion because you will just turn them off to it, you are
leading them away from Jesus. Parents were given the first
responsibility, and in having the child baptized promised to
fulfill that responsibility, that the child would be brought up to
know the faith, to know the love of Jesus.
But, when a child, or adult, is baptized into the communion of
fellowship of believers, we are ALL then responsible. And frankly,
I see a lot of folks writing off the youth. They don't do
everything that is necessary as a congregation to make sure that
the youth are brought up knowing the love of Jesus. They let
someone ELSE do it, and the someone ELSE is really supposed to be
THEM. So, how is it following Jesus' command to love one another
as Jesus loves us if we just let the youth of our congregation and
the youth of this town or the unchurched youth and adults be taken
care of by someone ELSE? And that someone ELSE that we supposedly
leave their spiritual well-being to doesn't care. So, then how are
WE doing what we are called to do-feed Jesus' lambs, tend Jesus'
sheep, feed Jesus' sheep?
It all starts with loving one another as Jesus loved us. "Do
you love me? Jesus asks you and me. Do you love me? he asks us
again. Do you love me" he asks us yet again, and again and
again….Do you love me Nicholas? Do you love me Thomas? Do you love
me Freda? Do you love me Jim? Do you love me Margaret? Do you love
me Ed? Do you love me George? Do you love me Dorothy? Do you love
me Charlotte? Do you love me Ken, Dave, Bill, Jerry, Louise, Mary,
Sue, Pat, Miriam…..?
Everyone. Ask the question that Jesus is asking each one of us,
putting YOUR name at the end of the sentence. Ready….Do you love
me?……Again, Do you love me?……Again….Do you love me….?
And answer with me-Yes, Jesus, I love you. Yes, Jesus, I love
you. Yes, Jesus, I love you.
I am able to love you, Jesus, because you first loved me.
Knowing and experiencing that love, I am able to love you and love
others as you have loved me.
We are all Jesus' little children. He tells us that we must
become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. He
knows how weak and vulnerable we are and he loves us still. How
wonderful is that?! And all he asks is that we love one another as
he has and continues to love us.
Sing with me. "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells
me so. Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me; the
Bible tells me so."