Spiritual Leadership 

Scripture       John  21: 1-19


        “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...

                          Lord, you know everything, You know that I love you.”




Today’s Gospel is Peter’s reinstatement ceremony.  With a gracious tenderness and mercy Jesus restores the spiritual leadership to Peter once again. "Go and feed mysheep." That call once it has been given and received cannot be revoked…it will endure.  However, in the man Peter, the chosen minister, there has been a significant change and growth during these first three years of discipleship.



A reflection on this encounter with Jesus and Peter at the Tiberias seashore, points out some basic principles for all those called to share in some capacity as spiritual leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ. The first being that spiritual leaders grow, mature, are always becoming - they don’t just happen! They are born very really and often very painfully out of their call. This emergence is gradual throughout the course of one’s life circumstances and events.  Between Peter’s first call: “Simon, son of John, you will be called Cephas…upon this Rock I will build my church”, and the call: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me? Feed my sheep,” there is clearly evident, a much more spiritually mature Peter.  In his youthful days Peter demonstrates all the haste, impulsiveness, over-eagerness and self-confidence of a ‘beginner’. Whereas now, we recognize a more subdued, serene, surrendered, maturer disciple. 



The Peter who knew Tabor has now experienced a Gethsemane.  The Peter gifted with divine perception and with bold clarity proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of theliving God”  has likewise undergone and suffered Jesus’ rebuke “Get behind me, Satan” when he tried to interfere with God’s will.  But possibly more than anything else, it is Peter’s personal sin and his acknowledgement of it, which in God’s plan for this spiritual leader, effected the most radical transformation in Peter.

Peter abandoned Jesus.  He played the coward in the face of fear.  He disowned and denied that he even knew Jesus.  All his self-confidence and self-reliance before the fall is shattered.  He has even boasted of his love – “Thou everyone else disown you, I will neverdisown you, even unto death.”  All promises of great heroics for Christ. He thought he knew his love for Him but in his ‘hour’ when it was tested royally – he ran.  He ran from his boast.  Now the truth of who he really was is known to him.  He is humbled in his threefold denial, but even more so, he is set free in the truth, in this threefold confession of truth. In this new freedom Peter now knows that the only true response that he can give to Jesus’ call “Do you love Me?”  is a “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  No longer is he trusting or putting any confidence in what love he sees in his own heart for Jesus.  It is Your knowing me that I henceforth count on.  You know all things. You can see the worst and the best and You still choose me, love me, forgive me.  In this being known as I am known, I am confident.  Others may only see my weakness and defects and doubt possibly my authenticity as a spiritual leader… but I know that you know me … you see my heart.  You are the only one who is the knower of hearts.  So you take my whole person, again and again and again, and make it into something that will abound to the glory of God. 



A second revelation points to a pattern that is manifest in all pastoral leadership ministries in the Church.  There is a call – a response – followed by a command. To each one he says: “Do you loveMe? to which we respond like Peter.  “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You." And we receive our ministry, our command: “Feed My sheep.”  Following this pattern, the one Jesus here firmly establishes in his relationship with Peter, reveals that there is only one prerequisite for all service, for all spiritual leadership.  It is not moral perfection, nor is it academic excellence, nor is it a great desire to work for the building up of the Church. No, there is only one thing -  the necessary requisite – and that is, "What is your love relationship with the person of Jesus Christ?"  It must be a true, devoted love that fosters a personal, intimate relationship with Christ. This is the core of all pastoral ministry.  “Do you love Me?  Yes … then feed My sheep. Teach My people. Take care of them. Shepherd them wisely. Educate them by your words, your life, your example. And let it be this love that is the dynamism of your ministry, of your leadership from the beginning to the end.



Love will create the shift, the change of posturing, out of our youthful self-sufficiency and self-reliance, into a more trustful dependence upon Him.  Love will effect the change of centering out of self and more and more into Christ. Love will mature us.  Love will teach us to “stretch out our hands” into a life of total abandonment and openness to the will of God.  “Let another gird you” and come to know what it is to be so bound, grasped, affixed to the person of Jesus Christ that your only security is in this bondage. Let that “Other” lead you into a life wholly surrendered, completely taken over, without resistance, leading you “where you would rather not go” – to the Cross, to suffering, to death. But it is a suffering and death that will glorify God.  ONLY LOVE CAN CHOOSE THE CROSS.



And Divine Love too will climax the surrender of our love.  “Do you really love Me?”  Then let Me lead you along each and every stage of the journey. Let Me make you into the servant-leader that I have called and consecrated you to become. Each day’s response: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you?



Carrying Grace        Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.


#5 arletteh 2010-04-19 22:27
Love:"what KEEPS us on our path of transformation. "
#4 Chi 2010-04-19 04:51
Dear Markd,
I really needed to read your reply this night. Thank you
#3 Mark Dickinson 2010-04-18 23:29
... under a Divine blanket of Love, always present, always secure, always surrounding us. It is the Way of Jesus .. love, hope, charity .. but the greatest of these is love.
#2 Mark Dickinson 2010-04-18 19:38
A beautiful message, and a wonderful comment, Emmanuella ... thank you both! Love must always be the center of our person -- what drives us, what sets our direction, and what keeps us on our path of transformation.
In this special Scripture passage, Jesus reconfirms his love for Peter. Recall the 3 denials Peter made of Jesus during his arrest and trial; now, we see Peter confirm his love and his commitment to Jesus, 3 times. A complete restoration .. it was a message that the early church needed to hear. The shadow that hovered over Peter was now removed. "On this rock (petras) I will build my church".
As with so many of the significant figures of the Bible, Peter once again represents each one of us: we fail only to live with doubt and guilt because of our human weaknesses ... but then, at a moment we least expect, comes our restoration. In this moment of renewal, we are reminded that the Love of God never abandons us. Let us live each day knowing that we live under a Divine blanket of Love, always present, always secure, always surrounding us. It is the Way of Jesus .. and the call to endure.
#1 arletteh 2010-04-18 18:00
'"The call will endure:" "You have the words of everlasting life!" Many Gethsemanes come after: the weaknesses,the denials, betrayals, sin.In our re-commitments, we are set free;My trust must be only in Jesus knowing me,and calling me again and again,and showing me step by step,where i must follow.I stretch out my hands to be bound,and led.My only security is in this bondage(this confinement)--w herever it leads.Yes, Lord, you know that I love You!" Thank you, rosemary for this tremendous work!

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