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.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
~ John 21:15 - 19
Having been blessed to know most of my great grandparents and grandparents, I have to say, I learned a lot about living, growing old, and dying.
Our ability to grow old gracefully involves many factors. Our health of course, but also, the circumstances that meet us each day.
While physical abilities are something we all worry about, the mind is also something we can focus on. Questions like, "Will I remember, or know others?" "Will I still be independent enough to take care of myself?" are just a few of many.
Jesus first begins asking Simon Peter a basic question, "Do you love me?"
While he declares his love for Jesus, Jesus then tells him things that he must do. Feed and to tend his sheep. He then tells him to "follow me." But first, he describes something that most of us would describe as aging.
I think we all realize that when we were younger, we were capable of many things. Tying our own shoes. Fastening our own belt. Deciding what our own choices were for the day, and striking out on our own. I watched my grandparents as they aged, these things become more difficult.
It's not just tying your shoes as fingers find their way to fashion shoe strings, it's also about bending over to tie them. Deciding what to wear, and will it be appropriate for the weather? Things that once never entered our mind, consciously, now possess time in our day.
Jesus seems to touch on this very process, sharing that at some point, someone else will fasten our belt and will lead us. This was true in the case of nearly all my grandparents.
While this is something to consider, Jesus is more concerned about something else. BUT FOR NOW... will you follow me?
No matter what our circumstances, ultimately our decision to follow Christ is ours to make. What does this mean? Well it means something different for every single one of us! While scripture shares how this worked for Jesus and his Disciples years ago, and the communities they resided in, it serves to help us see what some of these relationships looked like.
As a chaplain I always found it interesting that when I would introduce myself to a patient, the patient would often begin to tell me about the church, or faith, that he or she belonged. Whether Jesus was part of the faith tradition, or no tradition at all. Whether the person prayed, or experienced faith. Often these all seemed to encompass some kind of Biblical understanding.
Many times I would listen to a list of things that described their faith, but ultimately, if the person was Christian, I would respond, "So you follow Christ."
It is not always about what you do, how you worship, or for that matter, what others believe. It is the words that Jesus shared with Simon Peter that day, "If you love me, follow me."
While there are many things within my faith tradition that I cherish, as these are the things I do to practice my faith, ultimately my life is about a choice to follow Jesus. That is the one choice all of us must make, and how that looks, will be different for each of us!
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.