Yet Peter was the first among the disciples to give up the struggle. He forsook his calling and returned to his old career, telling the others, “I’m going fishing.” What he really was saying is, “I can’t handle this. I had thought I couldn’t fail, but nobody ever failed God worse than I did. I just can’t face the struggle anymore.”
By that point, Peter had repented of his denial of Jesus. And he had been restored in Jesus’ love. Yet he was still a frayed man inside.
Now, as Jesus waited for the disciples to return to shore, an issue remained unsettled in Peter’s life. It wasn’t enough that Peter was restored, secure in his salvation. It wasn’t enough that he would fast and pray as any devoted believer would do. No, the issue that Christ wanted to address in Peter’s life was neglect in another form. Let me explain.
As they sat around the fire on shore, eating and fellowshipping, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me more than these others?” Each time Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I do,” and Christ responded in turn, “Feed my sheep.” Note that Jesus didn’t remind him to watch and pray, or to be diligent in reading God’s Word. Christ presumed those things had already been well taught. No, the instruction he gave Peter now was, “Feed my sheep.”
I believe that in that simple phrase, Jesus was instructing Peter on how to guard against neglect. He was saying, in essence, “I want you to forget about your failure, forget that you drifted from me. You’ve come back to me now, and I’ve forgiven and restored you. So it’s time to get your focus off of your doubts, failures and problems. And the way to do that is by not neglecting my people and to minister to their needs. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”