FEED MY SHEEP
Simon sat adrift in thought and remorse so intense that all else was drowned in its depths. Even the nearby chatter of Thomas, Nathaniel and the others was dull and remote, as if coming from the distant shore mixed with the sounds of the wind and waves. Each wave that lifted the old weather beaten boat towards the heavens brought a flood of joyous memories, only to recede as the boat sank ignominiously back towards earth and Simon, with it, back into the trough of despair. “How could I have denied him after all that I witnessed?” Simon thought, as a groan involuntarily escaped his lips. “Did I not tell him that I was a sinful man? Why did he trust me? Why didn’t he just leave me where He found me instead of showing me the wonders of the possible through trusting him, only to leave me alone?”
The similarity of the present situation with Simon’s first meeting with Jesus brought into sharp focus that first miraculous encounter. Now, like then, he had fished all night, using all the skills and knowledge acquired through years of fishing the sea, with not one catch to show for the calluses on his hands or his aching back. Jesus had been preaching to the crowd on the shore while Simon was washing the nets after the fruitless night of fishing. He had stepped into Simon’s boat and asked to be taken out a little way from the shore, for the crowd was pressing Him. “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon remembered his words as if it were yesterday. His blistered hands and tired muscles from last night’s fishing reminded him, as well, of his response on that first morning with the Lord, but he had done as Jesus said. Simon recalled his joy and amazement with the miracle that followed, and then, as the boat slid into another trough, recalled a feeling more in tune with his present state. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Oh Lord.” “His eyes pierced into my very soul,” Simon recalled.
Simon’s mind raced forward as the boat creaked and moaned and began to rise on the next wave. “What glory we beheld as he was transfigured before us,” Simon thought, his heart nearly bursting with the remembered joy of that sacred moment, and then nearly rending in two as he also recalled seeing himself in the light of the holiness of God. The boat slid into another trough as Simon played back the scene, for the thousandth time, of his denial of the Lord. A gentle breeze began to blow, drying the tears on Simon’s face, as he lifted his eyes and looked towards the shore. Someone was standing there, their form barely visible as the dawn was just now breaking, the sun rising on the shore’s eastern horizon and casting its glow on the now shimmering waters. The man called out to them, his voice drifting across the waves in the stillness of the morning, “Children, you do not have any fish do you?” “No!” Thomas blurted out, kicking the empty net as if to emphasize his point. Simon, still lost in his grief, barely noticed the exchange. “Cast the net on the right hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” Simon looked at John, his heart beginning to race, and saw in John’s eyes the same question that his own heart was screaming. “Could it be?” Hurriedly, he picked up the net with the others and cast it upon the waters, leaning this way and that as it sank, peering intently and hoping expectantly. It seemed like forever as Simon waited for the net to sink, as if eternity hung in the balance and this cast was his last hope. “Pull it in! Pull it in!” Simon cried, and as they grabbed the ropes and pulled, they went taut with the familiar feel of a great number of fish. “It is the Lord,” cried John, and Simon, no sooner had these words left John’s mouth, was in the water furiously swimming towards the Lord.
The others followed, dragging the net full of fish behind them and, when they arrived at the shore, found a charcoal fire prepared with fish placed upon it and bread. Simon looked at the fire and then on his Lord. It was around just such a fire that he had denied him. Jesus said, “Bring me some of the fish which you have now caught.” Simon went over to the net and drew it in to the shore. Afterwards, Jesus broke bread with them. Simon recalled his boastful statement at that last supper before his denial and his lord’s crucifixion; “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” As he was recalling his boast, as if reading his thoughts, Jesus spoke to him. “Simon, son of John, do you love me with a Godly love more than these?” Simon’s heart was pierced recalling his boast, his denial, and his failed attempt to follow the Lord in his own strength as Simon, son of flesh and blood, not Peter, the rock, born of the Spirit. “Yes Lord, you know that I have a warm, longing love for you.” Simon looked down at the ground. He had not yet looked into the eyes of the Lord. “Perhaps he will think that I misunderstood him,” Simon reasoned. Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Looking on him intently, Jesus then asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me with a godly love?”
Again Simon’s heart was pierced because he asked him, not if he loved him more than the others loved him, but only did he love him. More humbly, Simon replied, “Yes Lord, You know that I have a warm longing love for you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.” Then Simon looked into the eyes of his Savior and heard him speak yet again. “Simon, son of John, do you have a warm, longing love for me?” With this, Simon’s heart became completely broken, and he cried out, as in a cry for help, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you with a warm, longing love.” Jesus said, “Feed my little sheep.”