Feed My Sheep
By Steph Nickel
The phrase, “Feed my sheep,” is at the heart of the instructions that the risen Jesus gives Peter the disciple. Stephanie discusses the significance of these words.
A Private Conversation
It’s truly amazing that 2,000 years later, we get a front row seat as Peter has a private conversation with the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.
John 21:15-19 (ESV) reads like this:
“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.’”
Repeatedly, Peter denied knowing Jesus. Understandably, he was afraid of the consequences. After all, the religious leaders had arrested the Master. And he did make it as far as the courtyard, which was more than was true of all but one of the other disciples, as far as we can tell from the gospel accounts.
Do You Love Me? – Feed My Sheep
I’m certain it is not a coincidence that Jesus asked Peter three times if the disciple loved Him. Three times Peter had denied knowing Jesus. And now, after the Lord’s resurrection, as they share breakfast on the beach, the disciple has the opportunity to declare three times that he does, indeed, love the Lord.
And Jesus’ response? He commissioned Peter to feed His sheep, to care for others. We know that after Pentecost, Peter delivered a message that brought 3,000 people to faith in Jesus. Of course, sharing the Good News of salvation was an important part of how Peter went about feeding the sheep.
But it wasn’t because the Lord valued Peter more than the other disciples that He gave Him a special commissioning. It was because of God’s truly awesome grace. Such a small word but such a huge concept—something that is beyond our comprehension.
The Meaning of Grace
When used as an acronym for “God’s riches at Christ’s expense,” we begin to understand a little more clearly what grace means.
Peter did not deserve to be forgiven and sent out as an apostle to share the gospel. But God did have special plans and purposes for him. As we read through the recorded events of the three-and-a-half years the disciples spent with their Master, we read of times Jesus invited only Peter, James, and John to join Him.
As I’ve mentioned often in this series of devotionals, we do not earn God’s favour and there are many times we deny Jesus by not living in a God-honouring way and by not speaking up and sharing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Some of us are impetuous and impulsive, as Peter was. In fact, there are several character traits we can think of that can get us into trouble.
A Special Assignment
And yet, like Peter, the Lord just may have a special assignment for us. And He does call each of His children to feed the sheep, to care for others.
In fact, in Matthew 25:40, we read, “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
You may remember that the good works Jesus was referring to were feeding the sick, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, etc.
You and I may not preach a sermon that results in the salvation of thousands, but we can all ask God to fill us with His love and compassion. We don’t have to look very far before we find “the least of these.” We may travel across the world or across town, but we must be willing to feed His sheep.
Forgiveness And Grace
As Peter learned, there is forgiveness. There is grace. If it is our heart’s cry to know the truth and to live in a way that honours the Saviour and makes Him known, God will show us the way. He will give us the strength and the desire to do what we should. And when we blow it—which we will, He is there to set us on our feet again and walk with us every step of the way.
And it all begins with love for Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour. If you have not experienced that love—if You are not growing to love Him more day by day, ask God to reveal the truth to you and fill you with an ever-increasing love for Him and for others.
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Images courtesy of:
Jesus’ Charge To Peter – Raphael
Sheep – A Berg
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