The Series - Jesus, Unique & Unequaled Teacher (46/50)

Focus Text: John 21.15-17

Some living things just can’t survive without special care; this is true of plants, animals, and people. Unless weak animals get intense attention, they may perish. Without tiny gardens in which diseased plants can be tended tediously, they will die. It is well understood that these principles apply to human beings and their critical needs at certain times in their lives. Today’s lesson transfers these principles from the physical realm into the spiritual realm and takes a brief look at how Jesus had a nature to nurture.

On at least two occasions, Peter had acted in ways that almost seem incomprehensible to us – that is as we look at them two thousand years removed from the emotion of the moment. When Jesus declared that His betrayal and death were imminent, Peter rebuked Jesus and charged Him not to allow these things to happen (Matthew 16.21-23). In what might be seen as out and out cowardice on the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied on three occasions that he had any knowledge of the man that was being illegally tried and brutally beaten (Matthew 26.69-75). There were ten other apostles that had not acted so outrageously contrary to what Jesus would have wanted them to do (twelve minus Judas the betrayer and Peter the denier). Why didn’t Jesus just “throw Peter away” and cast the mantle of leadership on another apostle? Why didn’t He give up on Peter, a man who certainly had many chances, but who had in the crucial hours, incredibly and completely blown those chances? Why didn’t Jesus give up on Peter? I posit that it was (and is) Jesus’ nature to nurture; that’s why He didn’t throw him away!

Peter’s failures were not out of a lack of devotion, or even a lack of desire; they were simply human frailties to which all men are subject. Nor were Peter’s errors done with forethought and malice; in fact, just the opposite was true. Consistent with the obvious personality of Peter, they were all “spur of the moment” things done with out a careful weighing of the facts and consequences. They were classic Peter, through and through. So there was no fundamental flaw in Peter; just a need for nurturing so he could grow stronger and more useful to the Lord’s cause. It was Jesus’ nature to nurture so we read an account of intensive care recorded by John.

“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’”

I don’t know for certain, but I think that the atmosphere that prevailed when Jesus asked Peter these repeat questions was so thick that one could have “cut it with a knife.” Yet, Jesus loved Peter too much not to nurture Him with such intensive care; it was His nature to nurture!

Questions:

1. What evidence is there from the Old Testament that God preferred nurturing over punishment?

2. What evidence is there from the New Testament that Jesus preferred the same?

3. What was a fundamental difference in the sins of Peter (as noted above) and the sin of Judas in betraying Jesus? Was a difference in intentions a significant factor? Why or why not?

4. If we are to follow Jesus, what ought to be our attitude toward nurturing? Why do we find it so difficult to nurture? What impact will our failure to nurture have on those about us who need that type of treatment? What impact will that failure have on us?