Feed My Sheep

This simple, yet profound command, which was given to Peter after the Resurrection of our Lord, shows both our relationship with our Lord and clearly lays-out the duties and responsibilities of those who are called to be His under-shepherds. To set the stage, we will look at this command in its context.

Breakfast by the Sea
21 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Jesus Restores Peter
15 So when they had eaten 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.”

16 He said to him again 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.”

17 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 all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. (John 21:1-17)

Peter had fallen HARD! He had denied his Lord, not just once, but three times, and the weight of his sin had come crashing down on him. Jesus had been crucified, and Peter hadn’t even had the guts to be there for Him. Peter couldn’t see how Jesus could ever forgive him, let alone restore him to fellowship, so after the resurrection, he went back home to Capernaum…and went fishing. Even if he couldn’t be one of Jesus’s inner-circle again, at least he could still fish. Then, Jesus appeared on the shore…

1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

“Children, have you any food?” We can feel His love and compassion for those men who had been with Him for over three years, and for their struggles as they tried to find answers to what they had experienced during the last few days. They were like orphans who had lost their best friend, and Jesus was there to bring them back “home“. Even though they had probably fished all night, they were empty-handed.

They answered Him, “No.”

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Jesus was Lord over all creation, so He had the power to summon a multitude of fish into their net. This should remind us of when Jesus called the four fishermen back in Luke 51:1-11. They got another net-busting catch of fish, except that their net didn’t bust.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

When was the last time Jesus fed His disciples, and why? Just before He was crucified, Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples, and after that meal, they had the Last Supper, which we know as the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a meal of remembrance, to remind us of the awful cost of our salvation. As we eat, we remember that His body was broken for us, and that His blood was shed for us, so that we can be saved.

This breakfast by the sea was a meal of restoration. Peter, who had denied His Lord, was being restored to full fellowship with Jesus Christ. This meal should have rich significance for us also, because after our sins have been forgiven, we are restored to a right relationship with God.

Jesus Restores Peter
15 So when they had eaten 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.”

16 He said to him again 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.”

17 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 all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Jesus uses two metaphors for His people, “lambs” and “sheep“. “Lambs” are those who are new to their faith or immature in their knowledge of God and His Word. “Sheep” are more mature Christians. He also issues two commands, “feed” and “tend“. “Feed” carries with it the connotation of leading God’s people to where they may feed on His Word and proclaiming and explaining His Word. “Tend” carries with it the connotation of caring for the other needs of God’s people. Under-shepherds are to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel as pastor-teachers, and to love, pray-for, comfort and counsel those who are under his care.

This should remind us that there is a LOT more to being a pastor than just preaching or teaching every Sunday. Part of our task is to build relationships with the people God has entrusted to our care. We are to be there for them when they need us. I haven’t felt the full weight of this responsibility yet, but that time will come. I haven’t been called to the bedside of a dying loved-one, or called to pray for someone in the hospital…yet, but I minister in a community with a lot of elderly people. One member of our group was in the hospital recently, but he forgot that he could call me to come be with him. I would have been delighted to go visit him in the hospital.

As those who have been called to be under-shepherds under our Great Shepherd, we have the awesome privilege of serving in God’s kingdom, and an incredible responsibility to minister properly because we are accountable to Jesus Christ for how we do our work. We are under-shepherds, and He is the Great Shepherd. We work for Him!

In Christ,
Steve

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