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, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.” 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19)
A very wise man once said, "Only he who obeys a rhythm superior to his own in free." I wonder if that was a little of what Jesus was trying to teach Simon Peter as they walked together on the beach only days after the resurrection? Of course he was doing much more than that. Of course he was offering a beautiful restoration to Peter, giving him three opportunities to profess his love after the three times he had denied he even knew Jesus only days ago. And of course he was trying to teach Peter that the most important question in all of the spiritual life is "Do you truly love me more than these?" Whatever these may be. And of course he was trying to show Peter that in the days and weeks, and even years, ahead that undying, passionate love for Jesus is the only way to truly feed the sheep without feeding on the sheep. But I also have to wonder if one of the main things he was really trying to teach Peter was that until our lives are ordered and determined by Jesus' love and His kingdom, then we really aren't following Him at all, but only following ourselves. I think that's why he makes that disturbing statement in verses 18-19. Almost as if to say, Okay, okay, when you were younger you kind of called your own shots and determined your own agenda. But when you get older, when your life of faith grows and matures, you must put yourself completely under my control. That's what this life of faith is really all about. You must stretch out your empty hands and let me do all the leading. You must operate by my plans, my agenda. I must be the one that determines how and where you spend your days, even if it means going to places that you'd rather not go. That's what following me really looks like. There is a shift that must take place deeply within you; a shift from leading to being led. First you get led (by Me), then, and only then, you lead. How incredibly challenging. So the question for me becomes: "Who or what determines my rhythm each day?" Because only he who obeys a rhythm superior to his own is free.