May 29th 2010

Lost And Hungry Sheep

“Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord you know all things, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’”
John 21:17 (NIV)

Those who love Jesus Christ are to feed other people. 

Peter was obviously frustrated with the resurrected Jesus. He was hurt by being asked the same question three times, and perhaps had forgotten that he had denied Christ on three separate occasions. “Stop asking silly questions!” he seemed to be saying. 

Christ’s own response is intriguing. He could have said, as he did to the rich young ruler, “Well, that’s great, Peter. Love God and love your neighbour as yourself”. Or, “I love you too, Peter. In fact you love me because I loved you first”. Or, “That’s good. Don’t forget the new commandment to love one another”. 

Instead, Jesus uses an analogy to do with shepherds. “What you have to do, Peter, is to be someone who feeds others. Don’t deny my sheep or neglect to feed them. There is always more to do and be than you think there is”. In all likelihood Peter, like any faithful believer of his time, would have tithed and given offerings, and would have laid aside something for the poor as well. He would have fulfilled his duties, as he saw them. Christ seems to be implying there is more expected of his followers. 

Who are the sheep and the lambs? Are they more than the church? In Matthew 9:36, when “he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. Maybe everyone we meet is part of Jesus’ massive flock of sheep and lambs. 

Is Jesus telling Peter (and therefore us) literally to feed others? Why not? If we see someone in need and can do something about it, why don’t we? Does it also imply feeding others spiritually because we have Jesus, the Bread of Life, to share? Of course it does. Like Christ’s assistant shepherds, we are to lead others into the green pastures of the Good Shepherd, not into the barren land of futile philosophies or into thorny patches of doctrinal debate. 

Do you love Jesus? Yes? Then the message is: there are lost and hungry sheep out there so get involved and do something about it. 

Feed his sheep and nurture his lambs. 

Prayer

Wonderful Jesus, Lamb of God, help me through your Spirit to feed your sheep
and nurture your lambs.

Amen 

Study by James Henderson 

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