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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:15-18)
We remember that Peter denied Jesus three times just before the crucifixion. He did this shortly after he told Jesus that he would never leave Him. Peter had good intentions. Many of us have good intentions. Following through on our intentions is quite another matter.
God often calls us to do the impossible. He calls us to do things that we would not be able to do by ourselves alone. That is the very nature of God’s call. Jesus was asking Peter to do what He did while on the earth. Peter would be responsible for “feeding” the disciples of Christ. This meant spiritual nourishment as well as physical nourishment. How would Peter be able to do what Jesus asked? He already felt defeated and incapable of following Jesus as he had desired.
On the other hand, Saul thought that he could do no wrong in carrying out his ministry:
Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:1-6)
Peter was deflated and Saul was misguided. Neither one of them was capable to do those heroics that we read about in the New Testament. How did they manage? On their own they proved that they were not able. Of course, this was true of Jesus as well:
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
Jesus makes it very clear that what was true for Him is true for us:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
As disciples of Christ we are all called to the ministry. Our ministries may be different but they all have a commonality. We need the renewing power of Jesus Christ working in our lives on a continual basis. Sometimes we may find ourselves in need of a gentle restoration as in the case of Peter. At other times we may need a jolt from God to help us get on track. We need His love which can be jolting as well as gentle. We need His forgiveness. We need His Spirit. We need His empowerment and His direction. Our first ministry is always to allow Christ to minister to us.