What does growth look like?

On Sunday I was wondering about that little conversation Jesus has with Peter where he ask him three times “Do you love me?”.

Each time Peter says “yes, of course I do!” and after each reply Jesus says something odd.

Feed my lambs.  Look after my sheep.  Feed my sheep.


I wondered aloud about the progression.  Are the lambs the spiritual babies?  Do the sheep, the more mature followers, also need guiding and protecting?  What should the sheep be fed so that they remain healthy and strong?

Is Jesus asking Peter to ensure that the conditions for growth are in place?  Is He asking Peter to make sure that the new church takes its members seriously, that they make sure people can grow in faith and that they are supported to do so?

What does that kind of growth look like?  And are we anywhere close to it in our churches?

4 thoughts on “What does growth look like?”

  1. I was having similar thoughts on Sunday (although I didn’t preach on this aspect of the passage in the end). I was thinking along the lines of: “Lambs want fed, they’re easy to deal with, they’re eager and willing to ‘learn’ and accept the food offered. Sheep are bit more recalcitrant. They can feed themselves, but still need cared for. Only when you have cared for them though are they in a position to accept other food.”
    So, a slightly different line of thought to your one, but along similar lines.

  2. I took the angle on Peter needing to be restored but not knowing how to do it. His inability to articulate his ‘sorry’ meant that Jesus took the initiative and helped him by asking the ‘do you love me’s. His command to ‘follow me’ also mirrored exactly his original call. For me it was Jesus wiping the slate clean for Peter to allow him to be reestroed and forgiven and for Peter to know it. The Lectionsry did pair Peter up with Paul and Paul needed a change of direction.

  3. I get that too David… and the three questions echoing Peter’s three denials. Jesus follow ups interested me though. What do you think he was getting at with the talk of feeding and tending lambs and sheep?

  4. ‘Are the lambs the spiritual babies? Do the sheep, the more mature followers, also need guiding and protecting? What should the sheep be fed so that they remain healthy and strong?’
    There does seem to be an age progression in Jesus statements and I think you’ve got it right in terms of the wee ones. The mature followers certainly do need to be guided and protected and fed. Paul writes about new Christians needing spiritual milk and then going on to more ‘meaty’ stuff. It’s one of the tensions that I feel as a preacher and educator to try and work out how much ‘meat’ can go in to a sermon when so often folks act and seem to think kids big kids.
    To be given such a responsible role must have added to Peter’s initial confusion and later added to his humility. Not only was his restoration complete, his forgiveness total, but his responsibility was increased indicating Jesus renewed confidence in him.

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