Scripture Reading: John 21:4-14

Sermon Title: Tend My Sheep

Sermon Text: John 21:15-17

Memory Verse: Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)

MAIN IDEA: Examine your love for Jesus and demonstrate your love by caring for His sheep.

NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.


The Messiah: Savior & King

During this season of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, we are focusing on Jesus as the Messiah. The Messiah of Israel is both Savior and King.

We began our series two weeks ago, and we see how Jesus makes a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people wave palm branches and cry out, “Hosanna,” which means, save us. Jesus rides a donkey to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah which says, “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey.” His role as Messiah, the Savior King, is evident in His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

On Good Friday, we see the Messiah on a cross. Jesus is a Savior, pouring out His blood as a sacrifice for sins. His blood atonement saves His people from the punishment they deserve for sinning against a holy God. As He dies on the cross, we see a King’s crown on His head and a sign above Him stating, “King of the Jews.” He dies as the Savior and King.

Scripture tells us that Jesus’ obedient death on the cross pleases God. It is because of His obedience on the cross that God highly exalts Jesus. He is given first place in everything (Colossians 1:18).  God’s wrath is satisfied by the anguish of His soul (Isaiah 53:10-12). Because of the Son’s obedience to death, God highly exalts Him and gives Jesus the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:8-11).

On Resurrection Sunday, we see the Risen Savior in His glory. The Messiah is the King of glory. He is the Lord of hosts who is strong and mighty in battle. He is the Savior who is the victor over sin, death, and the devil. The King of Glory is mighty to save all who put their faith in Him as their Lord and Savior. If we confess Jesus as our Lord and King and if we believe in our heart that Jesus is our Savior, we receive salvation in Him.

Jesus is our Messiah who we celebrate as the glorious Savior and King.

This morning, we look at yet another view of the Lord’s Messiah. We are going to see His love for His people. Jesus is a King who saves His people and cares for them as He reigns on His heavenly throne.

The Post-Resurrection Jesus

To see how the King cares for His people, we need to “zoom out” and look at the ministry of Jesus after His resurrection and before His ascension. What does Jesus see as His first responsibility as King. How does Jesus use His authority as the risen Savior and King?

When Jesus is on the earth, He is always busy doing something. Before His death, His primary tasks are three-fold. First, He makes claims to His divinity and His position as Messiah. Second, He refutes false-teaching while teaching His disciples and followers the truth about Scripture and God. Third, Jesus proves His divinity with signs and wonders. Everything Jesus does before the cross fits into one of these three categories of ministry.

After the cross and resurrection, everything Jesus does also fits into three categories. There is not a large amount of material we need to sift through. Matthew (chapter 28) and Mark (chapter 16) use only one chapter to tell us all the events from the resurrection to the ascension. Luke uses one chapter of His gospel and one chapter of the Acts of the Apostles to tell us of the same period. John tells us of the resurrection and ascension in two chapters (20 & 21).

Jesus’ post-resurrection, pre-ascension ministry

(note: sermons are online)

1 Ministry Objective: Prove followers He rises from the grave.

In looking through the gospel accounts, we see the first ministry of the risen Messiah is to prove He is alive. There is a need to help His followers believe He rises from the dead. Surviving a crucifixion is unheard of in that day.

The gospels of Matthew and John give us the account of Jesus revealing Himself first to Mary Magdalene and the other women. They are taken back at His appearance, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid. His message to them is, “It’s me. I am alive. Go and tell the others.” (Matthew 28:10; John 20:15-18)

The gospels of Luke and John tell of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and then the disciples who gather in a room in the city of Jerusalem. The first time without Thomas and the second time with him.

When He first appears; the disciples are frightened because they think they see a ghost. Jesus says to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? "See My hands and My feet, that it is I; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and He took it and ate it before them. (Luke 24:36-43). John’s gospel gives a similar account (John 20:19-20).

Jesus reproaches the disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. (Mark 16:14)

Eight days later, Jesus appears again, but this time with Thomas. We are familiar with that account as Jesus has Thomas touch His wounds. Jesus’ goal is that his disciples are “not to be unbelieving, but believing." (John 20:26-29)

Let’s think a moment about the importance of Jesus task of ensuring the disciples believe He rises from the dead. These men are the founders of the church. They are going to proclaim Jesus rises from the dead. There will be people who do not believe. The unbelief of others will give rise to persecution. If the disciples don’t believe in the risen Lord, Christianity disappears. There is no church.

But, if the disciples believe in the resurrection, they are willing to go to their death. Nobody will die for a lie. The disciple’s willingness to die for their belief in the resurrection is an incredible fact upon which the church is built. It gives testimony that they believe in their resurrection. The disciples live believing, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” with confidence and assurance.

Jesus first ministry objective is to make sure His disciples believe in His resurrection from the dead.

Do you believe Jesus rises from the dead? If you do, you are blessed. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29). Believing Jesus rises from the dead is essential to our faith.

2 Ministry Objective: Teach His followers how the law and the prophets speak about Him.

Second, Jesus teaches how He is the Messiah, the Savior, and King, according to God’s Word. He begins with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke writes, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27)

Luke also tells us how Jesus teaches the disciples when they gather in the room. Jesus says to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-45). Luke also tells us that Jesus tells His disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.” (Luke 24:46)

Christ’s objective to teach that the law and the prophets speak about Him is very important. The church is founded upon truth. Jesus wants us to put our faith in God’s word. The fall of man takes place because of unbelief in God’s word. Jesus proves God’s word may be trusted.

Jesus shows us that all of God’s promises find fulfillment in Him. The previous covenants of the Old Testament are the foundation of the New Covenant. God is faithful to His word. God may be trusted. His word is true. Jesus requires His followers trust and believe in God’s word.

Do you trust God’s word? Do you believe Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture? What a joy we have in having the word of God to direct our lives, give us hope, and to give us life!

3 Ministry Objective: Command His followers to gather and care for His church.

Jesus has one more objective He accomplishes before His ascension. He gathers His disciples, and He gives what we know as the Great Commission.

We are familiar with the Great Commission. We find it in all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

Matthew’s gospel reads, “Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Mark writes that Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15)

Luke writes Jesus as saying, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)

And John writes, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’” (John 20:21)

I believe there is one more Great Commission passage. It is found right after the passage we have for today’s Scripture reading (John 21:4-14). The commentaries don’t list this passage as part of the Great Commission, but I believe that this is precisely what John speaks about.

John writes his gospel after Matthew, Mark, and Luke write theirs. John’s gospel is unique. John takes a different approach because he seeks to write from a personal nature. Instead of giving us the command of the Great Commission, John gives us a personal view not found in the other gospels.

There is a lot going on in this passage (John 21) which we could speak about.

  • We see the miracle of Jesus providing a great catch of fish after the disciples were fishing all night and having caught none.
  • We can speak about the disciples going fishing after the resurrection and how they seemingly don’t know what they should be doing.
  • We can talk about the encounter between Jesus and Peter. We can look at Peter’s humility compared to His pride before Jesus’ death. We may examine the details of the Greek words used for love and taking care of the sheep and the kind of sheep.

It is easy to spend hours on this passage. Instead of looking at the details, let’s look at the big picture. When we look at the three categories of what Jesus accomplishes after His resurrection, we see this passage fits well into the third category of commanding His followers to care for His church.

  • 15 So 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." He said to him, "Tend My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, 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, "Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Let’s put ourselves in Peter’s shoes for a moment. What do we think we will remember as Jesus’ main point in this dialogue? What we will remember if we are Peter is that Jesus really wants him to care for, love, and shepherd the church. “Care for my sheep, Simon Peter!”

As Peter lives out the rest of his life Peter sets out to care for the church because Peter loves Jesus.

The miracle of the great catch reminds Peter, and those who are with him, of their first encounter with Jesus and a similar miracle occurs. Luke’s gospel tells us of how Jesus speaks to a crowd and afterward tells Simon Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon responds by telling Jesus, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” The men put their boats out a second time and catch such a great quantity of fish that their nets began to break. They fill both boats so much that they began to sink. Back at the shore, Simon Peter falls at Jesus' feet in amazement and says, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Jesus responds with, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” That day, Simon Peter and the others left everything and followed Jesus. (Luke 5:4-11)

With the first miracle catch, Jesus calls Peter and his fishing partners to leave their nets to be fishers of men. With this second miracle, Jesus again calls Peter and the other men to leave their nets for full-time ministry. It is a call to care for the church.

At the cross, John is given a personal responsibility of taking care of Jesus’ mother. But here, Jesus gives Peter the more incredible responsibility of taking care of Jesus’ bride.

The church is Jesus’ bride. The church is Jesus’ body. Peter is the leader of the disciples. We know this because every time the listing of the Apostles names is given in Scripture, Peter’s name is listed first. The convention of the time is to list the most important name first, and Peter is always first.

Jesus singles out Peter because He is the leader. Jesus humbles Peter. In doing so, He prepares him for the ministry of establishing the church. Peter lives the rest of his life, searching for lost sheep, tending them, shepherding them, and laying down his life for Jesus’ sheep.

After Jesus ascends to sit on His heavenly throne, Peter fulfills his ministry. Peter is the first to give a sermon on the day of Pentecost, and we see how he remembers the teachings of Jesus by quoting God’s word to show that Jesus is a fulfillment of the law and the prophets. We see Peter having full confidence in the resurrection. And, we see that after Peter’s sermon, over 3000 souls come to Christ (Acts 2:14-41).  

In this passage in John, we see how Jesus loves His bride. Jesus wants those who love Him to take care of His bride. He wants His bride to have shepherds who will lovingly care and tend the sheep. They will wash His bride with the word and make her clean and prepare her for her wedding.

In this beautiful passage, John shows us the personal nature of the Great Commission. It is not a command to make people obey Jesus. The Great Commission is not to make people obey rules and regulations. It is a command to love. The Great Commission is an opportunity for those who love Jesus to prove their love by tending for and shepherding Jesus’ sheep; His bride.

What About Us?

The Gospels are written for our behalf. God reveals them to us so that we may read these words.

We need to ask ourselves some questions.

1) Do we believe Jesus rises from the dead? Do we believe enough to have the confidence in this truth no matter what?

2) Do we trust God’s word? Do we believe Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture? Do we believe all the promises of God, such as eternal life and the blessings of heaven, find their fulfillment in Jesus?

3) Do we love Jesus? Do we love Him enough to invest our time, efforts, talents, energy, abilities, and all which God gives us to do what Jesus asks, which is to tend His sheep?

All those who love Jesus are called, just as Peter is called, to tend and shepherd the sheep. There is no higher calling. The Bible says we may begin in our home. The home is our first calling. God equips the church with apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to nurture the bride of Christ.

We may take great joy in knowing the work and struggle we place, from being an usher, working in nursery, making coffee before ABF, sharing the gospel, serving as deacon, discipling one another, and giving of our tithes and offering is all part of caring for the sheep. Every part of ministry is tending Jesus sheep. In the eyes of Jesus, there is no greater task.

Rejoice servants of God that Jesus gives us the privilege and responsibility of serving in the church and caring for those He saves.

Let’s endeavor to continue to show our love for Jesus by caring for His bride.