The fourth Sunday of Easter on the liturgical calendar is also known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ featuring Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ and readings from John chapter 10, known as ‘the Good Shepherd chapter’ of the Bible.
The reading for the third Sunday of Easter contains Jesus’ well known post-resurrection conversation with Peter, written in John 21:15-17:
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
At Easter we celebrate the good news that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, has purchased and won us all with the price of his own blood, shed on the cross to bring us forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation. The resurrected Jesus now wants to care for us, his dearly bought sheep; to nurture us in the beautiful, hope-giving reality of his grace.
Jesus’ words to Peter are a good example of God’s restoring grace. Peter had denied Jesus three times prior to his crucifixion. Yet when Jesus meets Peter after the resurrection, he shepherds him with forgiving love. Jesus draws out from Peter the assurance of his love for his Saviour and commissions him for the work he was called to do – to feed God’s lambs and take care of His sheep.
Like Peter, we have not been faithful, wise, and righteous disciples of our Lord. We are also people desperately in need of his rescuing grace. So, the risen Saviour wants to come to us as he did to Peter – in our sorrows, our separation, our doubts, our fears, our weakness, and our wandering. He wants to come to us again and again, assuring us of his forgiveness, drawing out from us our love for him and sending us on our way to live and work for him.
Like he did to Peter, Jesus also commissions his church, through the work of its servants saying, “Feed my lambs…, take care of my sheep…, feed my sheep.”
As Christian Church and communities, we are included in the ongoing work of the risen Saviour’s shepherding of his people. Jesus also says to us, “Feed my lambs…, take care of my sheep…, feed my sheep.”
As we daily feed the lambs and sheep of God already in the fold and seek those who are not there yet, may God continue to strengthen, shepherd, and nurture us in the beautiful, hope-giving reality of his grace.
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania