Few things press onto us the weight of obligation more than the final requests of those that we love. Survivors hold sacred the desires expressed by those peering soberly at their final moments on earth. Sometimes requests are put into writing and sometimes they are spoken with voices draped in weakness. Such words rise to a power rarely equaled.
Those who bear the responsibility of others may expend considerable effort and resources insuring that spouses or children are properly provided for. The recognition that one must leave to others a task so dear is itself a terrible weight. Only the most loyal, the most trusted, can bring peace to the one who must leave the future in their hands.
There are impressive dynamics in the last personal conversation between the Lord and Peter in John 21. That Jesus had already died bears prominently. Peter had already grieved the death of Jesus, struggling with all of the implications and loss. Despite the many warnings from the Lord, the disciples were not prepared for either the Lord’s death nor his resurrection!
Now Peter’s feeble coping attempts had taken him back to fishing as he contemplates life without the Lord. Since God had not yet poured out the Holy Spirit upon them, and with it a full understanding of the events they were involved with, Peter lacked a valid perspective of his life, the Lord’s life and what the future would hold.
With Peter in that overwhelmed and disoriented state, Jesus gives Peter his final wishes. John records that Jesus three times pressed upon Peter the charge to “feed my sheep,”(v. 15-17). Finally these words would come to have meaning and Peter spent the rest of his life in the service of the Lord and the Lord’s church.
Peter’s own final writings to the church reflect just how seriously he took the Lord’s final charter to himself (2 Pet. 2:12-15). Peter said he felt such responsibility to keep the Lord’s final wishes that Peter had taken steps to keep doing the Lord’s will even after he too was gone.
No one who truly loves the Lord can fail to love the Lord’s church. No one who truly loves the Lord can fail to love each sheep within the Lord’s fold. (1 Jn. 4:20-21). Without fail then let us who love the Lord assure that we also take those last words of our Lord to heart so that we care for and provide for the Lord’s people for as long as we have breath within us.
- Tim Orbison