Feed My Sheep

“He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, 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.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’”

John 21:17

Each time Peter affirmed that he loved Jesus he received a similar response; “Feed My lambs;” “Tend My sheep;” and “Feed My sheep.” One who has a genuine love for Jesus will have a genuine love for the objects of His special love – other believers.

Jesus commands Christians to love one another (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; 1 John 3:11) but we may lose sight of what that means. Jesus gave an illustration to His disciples recorded in John 13 when He washed the disciples’ feet. Peter got the point as we can read in Acts and Peter’s letters where he writes, “Above all things have fervent love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8) and then goes on to reveal that fervent love is expressed by exercising the spiritual gifts given to us (1 Peter 4:9-11). If we love Jesus we will love His people expressed by serving His people.

“Feed My lambs” means that we will have a special concern and care for those who cannot care for themselves, especially new believers. That means we will go out of our way to disciple and mentor them.

“Tend My sheep” means to shepherd His people. We can all be  shepherds who look to the needs of others (Philippians 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:2). This will include providing what they need, guarding them against the enemy, warning, encouragement and comfort (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

“Feed My sheep” means that we nourish other Christians with the Bread of Life – God’s word developed in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We will teach God’s word to others. In all of these we note that the lambs and sheep are His and we are under delegated authority to engage in activities that express His sacrificial love for His flock. We may differ in the expression of these depending on opportunity and gifting but we cannot affirm we love Jesus if we are not so engaged. Singing songs of love to Jesus is hypocritical if we are not serving His people out of genuine love (John 14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6). To love other Christians with God’s kind of love (1 John 3:16) is to serve one another without condition or expectation of anything in return.

The Look of Jesus

“So Peter went out and wept bitterly” Luke 22:62

This kind of weeping does not come about suddenly and without warning. If we follow some of the events in Peter’s experience we can discover why he and perhaps ourselves arrive at an occasion where we weep bitterly knowing we have failed the Lord Jesus.

Let us begin on the Mount where Jesus revealed Himself to Peter, James and John in His glory. Moses and Elijah were there also. Seeing Jesus in this way provoked Peter to believe that Jesus was about to establish the throne of David in Jerusalem at that time. That is why he wanted to erect booths. The Father’s response to this was to exhort the three disciples to listen to Jesus – “Hear Him” He commanded.

In the days that followed we discover that Peter and the other disciples had selective hearing. They did not understand what Jesus was talking about when He told them plainly on three occasions that He must suffer, die and rise again but they essentially ignored it. On most things they did not understand they asked Jesus to explain or clarify it for them but on this saying of Jesus they did not.

When Jesus shared the Passover with the Peter and the other disciples He mentioned again that He must suffer (Luke 22:15) and three times mentioned that He would be with them in the Kingdom (v 16, 17, 30). But what was on the minds of the disciples? They were discussing which of them Jesus spoke of when He said that one of them would betray Him (v 23) and then, unable to resolve that question began disputing among themselves which of them was the “greatest” (v 24).

They were not listening to Jesus. Their minds were still filled with the wrong explanations and understandings of Scripture. So when the Scripture was fulfilled in their presence they totally misread and misunderstood what was happening. Peter cut off the ear of one who came to take Jesus away. No doubt he intended to cut off more than an ear! Imagine the confusion in his mind when Jesus replaced the ear. He followed as they took Jesus away.

Peter was convinced that he would die to protect Jesus and his actions demonstrate that he meant it and would carry it out but when Jesus didn’t act as he expected he fell to pieces in confusion. He had not been hearing what Jesus had been saying and this lead to him denying even knowing Jesus. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (v 61). That look pierced Peter’s heart until the risen Lord later restored him.

If we do not want to be in that place where Peter found himself; denying Jesus and weeping bitterly, we need to be hearing what Jesus says. Hearing not just the audible sounds but believing to the point of living them out.

Events in our world today shout out that that the Day of the Lord is not too far off. If we have heard Jesus we will not be surprised when, in the twinkling of an eye, we are in His presence face to face.