In John 21:15-17, Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection and has a conversation with Peter. During this conversation, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” and each time Peter responds, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” After Peter affirms his love for Jesus, Jesus says to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Shepherd The Flock
This passage has long been understood as a charge to Peter (and by extension, to all believers) to care for and shepherd the flock of Christ. But what does it mean to feed Jesus’ sheep, and how can we fulfill this important responsibility as believers?
To begin with, it is helpful to understand the context in which this conversation takes place. After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to his disciples on a number of occasions (John 20:19-29, 21:1-14). During one of these appearances, he had a conversation with Peter in which he asked him three times if he loved him. This was significant because earlier in his ministry, Peter had denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75). By asking Peter three times if he loved him, Jesus was giving him the opportunity to repent and reaffirm his love and commitment to him.
One key aspect of feeding Jesus’ sheep is understanding that it is a calling from God. In John 4:34, Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” This passage teaches us that serving and following Jesus is not just about fulfilling our own desires or goals, but about doing the will of God and accomplishing his work. This means being willing to put aside our own agendas and desires in order to serve and follow Jesus.
After Peter affirms his love for Jesus, Jesus charges him to feed his sheep. This charge is not just given to Peter, but to all believers who are called to serve as shepherds in the flock of Christ. In other words, we are all called to care for and nurture the people of God, to lead and guide them, and to help them grow in their faith.
What is Feeding Jesus’ Sheep?
But what does it mean to feed Jesus’ sheep, and how can we do it effectively? There are a number of biblical passages that can help us understand this important responsibility.
First and foremost, feeding Jesus’ sheep involves sharing the message of the gospel with others. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This passage teaches us that one of the primary ways we can feed Jesus’ sheep is by sharing the good news of salvation with those who do not yet know Christ. Whether it is through evangelism, sharing our faith with friends and family, or serving in missions, sharing the gospel is a crucial part of caring for the flock of Christ.
Feeding Jesus’ sheep also involves caring for the physical and spiritual needs of others. In James 2:15-16, it says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” This passage teaches us that caring for the needs of others is an important part of feeding Jesus’ sheep. Whether it is through acts of compassion and mercy, serving in a ministry that meets physical needs, or simply offering a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on, caring for the needs of others is a crucial part of being a shepherd in the flock of Christ.
Helping Others Grow
Finally, feeding Jesus’ sheep involves helping others grow in their faith. In Hebrews 10:24-25, it says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This passage teaches us that one of the key ways we can help others grow in their faith is by encouraging and supporting one another in our walk with Christ.
This can involve meeting with other believers for Bible study and prayer, participating in small groups or accountability groups, and simply being available to offer encouragement and support to others in their faith journey. God calls us to be the body of Christ and support and encourage one another as we grow together in faith.
A Lifetime of Commitment
It is also important to remember that feeding Jesus’ sheep involves a lifetime of commitment and service. In John 21:18, Jesus says to Peter, “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 passage suggests that following Jesus and caring for his sheep involves a willingness to serve, even when it is difficult or inconvenient.
In conclusion, John 21:15-17 reminds us of the important responsibility that we have as believers to care for and shepherd the flock of Christ. This involves sharing the gospel, caring for the needs of others, and helping others grow in their faith. May we all strive to be faithful shepherds in the flock of Christ, following Jesus and feeding his sheep with love and dedication.
On the side note, you might find the following resources helpful: