Loving Jesus; April 14, 2023

John 21:16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

As much as I think Jesus enjoyed the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension, He still had some very important work to do in that period, and one of them was establishing succession. Peter was a natural leader, but he needed to lead on the right basis. Much has been made of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved Him, with discussion of the use of agape and phileo, but the point is, love engenders obedience, (John 14:15) and Jesus wanted it to be perfectly clear to Peter that his love for Jesus needed to be expressed in loving service to Jesus’ flock. It’s interesting that the Japanese for this verse has Jesus telling Peter explicitly, “Pastor my sheep.” We might not think of pastoral ministry as love for Jesus, but we should. As John pointed out in his first letter, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21) And remember, John was the one hearing and recording this interchange between Jesus and Peter. I think all of Jesus’ disciples learned that love that doesn’t act is meaningless. After all, they lived with Jesus for over three years and then they saw Him give the ultimate expression of love by going to the cross for them. Not everyone is called to specifically pastoral ministry, but everyone is called to love God and love their neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-39) How that will be expressed is different for each individual, but it is inescapable for us all.

Of course this applies to me as much as it does to anyone, but the specific terminology in this verse gives me a real twinge. I first served as a pastor in a rural church in Virginia, not long after I graduated from seminary. I was moved to accept their call by a cassette tape “letter” I received from the Baptist pastor in Sasebo, where we had lived for two years before going to seminary. He knew that my grasp of written Japanese was not sufficient for all he wanted to say to me, and I’m grateful the Lord showed him how to do it verbally. (This was in 1978, before the Internet.) He talked about his trials in ministry, and some of the blessings, and I realized that if I was going to minister to Japanese pastors (which I felt was my calling) I needed to understand the whole business of pastoring a small church. Seminary, sadly enough, had seemed to be focused on ministering in big churches. Actually, that “small rural church” would have counted as a large church in Japan! When the Lord brought us to Omura I still didn’t see myself as ministering to one local congregation, but then the Lord started bringing people into His family through the English Bible class I taught, and in short order I had a flock, whether I wanted one or not. It has frankly been a struggle. I don’t feel I am gifted as a pastor, but I love to teach the Word. What I have had to learn has been that if I love God and love His Word, then I’ve got to love His sheep as well. Like Peter, I’ve got to “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) And that includes my sins as well!

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your patience in teaching me to love You and love my neighbor. May I do that more and more effectively, so that more and more people may be drawn to repentance and faith, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
This entry was posted in Christian, encouragement, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s