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Tend my Sheep
“So 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.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to several of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. The Gospel of John is the only one that records this conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter as they shared a meal of fish that Jesus cooked along the shoreline. Peter, of course, denied Jesus three times during the night of His trials, but Jesus is not only forgiving him for those denials, He is elevating Peter to lead the way in establishing the church in the coming years. By asking Peter three times if he loves Jesus and to tend to His sheep (people), Jesus mirrors the denials and shows Peter that He loves, trusts and forgives him. Jesus also tells Peter in the next verses that Peter will suffer greatly and be led where he doesn’t want to go because of his belief.
Jesus often used imagery and parables of lambs, sheep and Shepherds and He is the Paschal Lamb, the redeemer of the World through His blood. When Steve and I were lost for many years in the arid and evil wilderness of secular humanism, the Good Shepherd toiled to bring us back into His green pastures. During a family crisis in late 2006, when my Mom was dying after suffering major strokes, we strongly felt the Lord compelling us to return to Him. I must share an interesting story of God’s persistence during that time: Exactly two weeks before my Mom had the strokes on December 17, 2006 that ended up killing her a few weeks later, Steve had flown out of town to Omaha teach a class. I will never forget the date (December 3). I decided to have dinner at the local Outback restaurant and brought a book to keep me company. I barely noticed a family that was sitting at the booth across from mine. When they got up to leave, the woman came over to me and said, “I normally don’t do things like this, but I am compelled. God told me to tell you that He will be with you and He give you strength in the coming weeks”. I wasn’t sure what to say so I thanked the woman for the message. I told Steve about it on a later phone call and we both thought it was quite eerie and disturbing. We went out for dinner with my parents on the next Sunday, not knowing that my Mom would collapse in a week’s time and never recover. Those words echoed in my mind during her hospitalization and I DID have the strength to deal with the situation and help my Dad, who was 13 years older than my Mom and really struggling with why she had to suffer.
We decided to reason our way to belief one night during this crisis, using the context of Pascal’s wager* because he was a pragmatic scientist (although also a devout believer). Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, scientist and Catholic theologian who lived in the 17th century and made numerous discoveries in probability theory and fluid dynamics. The wager is considered overly simplistic and usually shunned by most theologists, but it has an intriguing premise. For rationalists like us at the time (trained engineers), the optimum solution to this wager is to believe that God exists:
*Pascal’s Wager in a table form:
Since that time, we have found much better ways to find intersections between reason and belief and know that true reason can only lead to one spiritual solution: Seek out the Good Shepherd, repent and believe!