Living Worship Series: FOLLOW ME
Third Sunday in Easter - May 5, 2019
To Live for Jesus is to Follow Jesus
Points to Explore
Echoes of the initial call
The first half of this story tells of a miraculous catch of fish. It is similar to a story as told in Luke 5:1-11 as part of the call of the disciples. In both stories we see the disciples, having fished all night and caught nothing. We see Jesus telling the disciples at dawn to cast their nets. As experienced fishermen, the disciples know that fish are most easily caught in the quiet of the night, not the hustle and bustle of the beginning of day. Yet the disciples listen to Jesus and catch an abundance of fish. We see Jesus inviting the disciples to follow him. In this post-resurrection telling, this story can be seen as an updated call. Now that Jesus is risen, the call is different. They have a better sense of the ministry and what it means to follow and serve Jesus without Jesus being physically present with them. Instead of being taught by Jesus, they are now called to teach and to live into what they have been taught. This is a new phase of their call and ministry.
In the stories of Jesus seeing his disciples after the resurrection, several times we see Jesus having conversations with his disciples without them recognizing him—at least not right away. They don’t recognize him until he does something familiar. For Mary, it was when Jesus called her name. For the disciples on the Road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel, it was when Jesus broke the bread as he had done on the night of the Last Supper. And for Peter, James, and John, it was when Jesus led them to this miraculous catch.
Sometimes we are so preoccupied, we miss the movement of Jesus that is right in front of us. Maybe it is because he doesn’t look the way we think he would. Maybe it is because we don’t expect to see him work. We don’t always recognize Jesus, but Jesus knows how to make himself familiar to his disciples. It isn’t the same for everyone, but he knows us so well that it can be custom-made.
Three confessions of Love & Three Commands
Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Jesus. Peter is hurt that Jesus would ask three times, as if Peter were not telling the truth. Peter responds that Jesus knows everything and therefore knows that Peter loves him. Jesus does indeed know. It may have been Peter that needed to be reminded. I imagine that Peter is still feeling the guilt of denying Jesus three times at the time of his trial. Yet each denial is matched now with an opportunity to confess his love.
Jesus responds to Peter with three similar commands: “Feed My lambs, Tend My sheep, and Feed My sheep.” Jesus calls us to care for all of those that he loves. We must recognize that we are called to care for all. Throughout Scripture, we see that loving God and loving neighbor are inextricable actions. One cannot love God if one does not love neighbor, for one’s neighbor is also of God. God loves them as much as God loves you. So, you care for them because God loves them, and they, too, belong to God. Love is an action verb. It is not enough to say that the other people know that they are loved. Love must be followed with action.
Following the Risen Christ
The disciples had already been following Christ for years. Yet, Jesus commands again, “Follow me.” But unlike before, they do not get to follow Jesus in the literal way. Jesus will no longer be with them in person. They don’t get to touch him or hear him in the same way. This is a new way of following Jesus. We follow his teachings and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry on his work, even though he is no longer physically on earth. This is the general invitation to discipleship that Jesus makes to us: follow and be a member of his flock. To live for Jesus is to follow Jesus.
Questions for Reflection:
- Jesus makes himself known to people in various ways. How does Jesus move in your life in such a way that you know it is the movement of God’s Spirit?
- We are continually being called by Jesus. Where have you been called by Jesus to go? What is God calling you to do now?
- Simon is asked to show his love for Jesus by feeding and tending his sheep. In what ways do you tend and feed Jesus’ flock because you love him? Which portion of Jesus’ flock do you concentrate on?
- Jesus cares for them and cooks for them and eats with them and spends some time just being with them. How often do you take time to just be in Jesus’ presence? Not asking or even working for, but fellowshipping and simply being?
Rev. Annie Lockhart-Gilroy, PhD is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. She has served several congregations as a deacon focusing on youth ministry and Christian education. She received her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, then worked with and directed a faith-based nonprofit before attaining her Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological School. She publishes on various topics surrounding education and adolescent spirituality through blogs, articles, and scholarly publications.