Following on from my ten questions for church leaders post, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into John 21 and highlight a couple more themes.
The key question for Peter – and for us – was,
Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?
It’s a searching question that really allows for no dodging or prevarication. It’s the sine qua non of genuine discipleship and effective leadership.
Each of Peter’s affirmations is followed by some variant on the theme of feeding Jesus’ sheep. The fisherman who was commissioned as a ‘fisher of men’ now becomes a shepherd – and this, in the gospel where Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
The leader’s second question (after, ‘do you love me more than these?’) is ‘will you serve me?’
Jesus connects Peter’s love for him with his care for the sheep. The best starting point for feeding the sheep is loving the Good Shepherd. Just as feeding the sheep is an expression of love for the Good Shepherd. Anything else slides quickly into the realm of the hireling.
Then Jesus gives Peter a sobering look into his future. A day will come when he will lose his autonomy and actually lose his life. Thence to the third question: ‘will you follow me?’
At one level the first time Jesus asks Peter to follow him could be as simple and as literal as asking him to take a walk along the beach. But he asks him again in verse 21 in a way that points to Peter’s future path of following in Jesus’ steps.
But what about John? For he is following too. What’s his future like? Will he have to endure what Peter endures? Will his path be different?
With words that challenge us about our own tendency to compare ourselves to others and to get distracted, wondering about their pathway, Jesus gently and politely tells Peter that that is not his concern.
What is that to you? You follow me!
Three questions that allow a leader (or any believer, really) to explore three aspects of their life:
- Our heart, the level of our devotion to Jesus;
- Our calling: how does that devotion express itself in being part of Jesus’ plan?
- Our journey, the extent to which we are focussed on following Jesus.