Feed My Lambs

by LA UBF   10/29/2005     0 reads


Feed My Lambs��

Feed My Lambs

(The purpose of His calling)

John 21:1-25

Key Verse 21:15

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 

Thank and praise God for blessing us with the word of God thus far. John 21 is mysterious. Its meanings are profound. Bible scholars, evangelists, pastors, and certainly all Christians love this chapter and so they wrote tons of articles, messages, and sermons, and are still doing so. As mysterious and profound are its meanings, so are the questions contained in it: For example, the disciples caught 153 fish. Why 153? The gospel records tell us that Jesus helped Simon Peter to make a huge catch of fish not just once but twice. However there are slight differences between these two catches. For example, Luke 5:6 says that at the time of the first catch, their nets “began to break”, but here in John 21:11, it reads, “even with so many the net were not torn”. Why? John 21:12b reads, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’” Then 21:12c says, “They knew it was the Lord.” They “knew” for sure that it was the Risen Jesus Christ! Yet, the expression “none of the disciples ‘dared’ ask him” suggests that all of them were “dying” to ask him, “Who are you?”, and yet “none” of them was “audacious” enough to ask, “Who are you?” Why? John 21:14 says, “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” The word “third” means the Risen Jesus appeared to his disciples two times prior to his appearance recorded in John 21. The previous time when Jesus appeared to the disciples, the Risen Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish. He took it and ate it in their presence. Luke 24:41-43 But this time it does not seem that Jesus ate anything. The disciples ate, but he didn’t. Why? In John 21:15-17 the word “love” is repeated 7 times, of which Jesus used 3 to ask Simon Peter, “Do you truly love me?” Now in asking Simon Peter the same question again and again, the first two times the English word “love” is written in Greek “Agapeo”, but the third time “phileo”. Why? In this way we can go on and on to delve into the depths of the profound meanings of this Bible passage. 

This morning however we would like to set aside all these questions and focus on one point, that is, the purpose of His calling. Why did God call us? 

First of all we can say that, in a broad sense, Jesus calls Christians for two purposes. What are they? The two purposes are reducible to two words: fishing and shepherding. So let us briefly think about these two purposes of calling.  

Firstly, fishing

Jesus is the God of economy. Jesus does not do anything that is not needed. Each time he does something, he always does so for a specific need to be addressed. This is particularly true when we see Jesus doing something repeatedly. For example, in the four gospels we see Jesus giving the disciples “storm” training twice, and he did it for a reason (which we are not going to cover now). Jesus also fed a multitude of people with a small amount of food brought by the disciples, two times, and he did it for a reason. Likewise in calling Simon Peter to himself, Jesus helped him to make a huge catch twice. And there is a slight difference between the two miracles, and he did that for a reason.

A few years before then, during the beginning part of Jesus’ discipleship ministry, Jesus went out to the Sea of Galilee for “fishing”, not to fish the regular fish swimming in the Sea of Galilee but to fish men. There while he was preaching, Jesus saw Simon Peter, a Galilean fisherman. Jesus saw that his life was empty. In his love and power Jesus helped him to make a huge catch of fish. Then Jesus called him saying, “From now on you will catch men.” Jesus also said to Simon, “I will make you a fisher of men.” 

Here the expression “catch men” or “fisher of men” refers to a specific category of work, that is, the “need” to invite people to Jesus that they would be saved. And this is the first purpose Jesus had in calling Simon Peter. Jesus called Simon Peter not just for Simon but for other people to be invited to His kingdom through the service of Simon Peter. He called Simon so that Simon Peter would invite people to Jesus Christ and His sheep pen. God saves people through people. Evangelism is another name for this work of saving souls through Christians inviting unsaved souls to Jesus. Witnessing is another name for the work of invitation. Outreaching is another name for it. And fishing is still another name. Acts 2:42 and 47 describe this category of work as adding “to their number” daily those who were being saved.  

Secondly, shepherding

When you type in “I want to find a job now” using the Google search engine, you will find websites listing up all kinds of job categories listed up in an alphabetical orders: accounting, banking, construction, etc. Yahoo also maintains job categories for job searchers, and nowadays healthcare and technology are described as “hot”. Among Jewish people, traditionally, they consider three categories of jobs as hot: lawyer, CPA, and medical doctor. But when we study the Bible, we find that among all the job categories, two occupations emerge as the most predominant among those called to serve God. For example, of the 12 disciples of Jesus, 7 are fishermen. Then from the day of Abraham to the day of Jesus, shepherding remained as the major industry for the chosen people Israel: they made a living primarily out of shepherding. For example, Abraham lived as a shepherd. Moses lived as a shepherd. David was a shepherd. And even the Prophet Amos was a shepherd. He was a prophet, but he made a living out of shepherding. And it was shepherds who heard the good news of the Christ’s birth the first time. So let us stop for a moment and think about shepherding. Why is shepherding important in God’s eyes? 

The reason is obvious: fishing is not enough; fishing must come with shepherding. Inviting people to Jesus, so that they would believe in Jesus, and be saved is not enough. It is just the beginning. It is like a man sowing a seed in a field, and see the seed sprouting. It is to see people being born again in the Lord. And a new born child must grow strong. Just like a seed that comes out of the ground needs to be taken care of, until it grows and bears fruit, and be harvested, so also a man who is born again needs to be nurtured and trained until he becomes mature, and then goes out bearing fruit that lasts forever. 

For this reason during the ending part of Jesus’ messianic ministry here on earth, as we see in John 21:15, the Risen Jesus made another visit to Simon Peter, and helped him to make another catch. After serving the disciples breakfast, Jesus secured from the mouth of Simon Peter the confession of love three times, so he would overcome the senses of failure, and restore a love relationship with the Lord. Then, Jesus gave Peter a command: feed my lambs. This command is the command for Peter to live as a shepherd for the flock. 

And shepherding is a lot different from fishing. It consists of different categories of work such as exalting, encouraging, edifying, equipping, or empowering the new born Christians. Shepherding requires helping new born souls to grow through spiritual programs such as worship program, fellowship program, discipleship program, and service program. Describing these categories of works, Acts 2:42-46 read, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” 

Second, what then makes a regular Christian to be a shepherd? What qualifies him to function as a shepherd? Or simply how can we shepherd over the flock of God? 

We can find an answer to this question in John 21:1-17. When we read this passage what one word stands out? The answer is easy: love. Jesus fully loved the disciples, especially the “erring” Peter. Peter might have thought that he deserved a severe scolding from Jesus. But Jesus did not scold him. Rather, in love, Jesus helped him to make a huge catch of fish and thereby helped him overcome the sense of failure. Then after the breakfast, before commanding Peter to shepherd God’s flock, Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: “Do you love me?” Again when we see Jesus repeating something not just once or twice but even three times, Jesus has a special message to deliver. What is the message? LOVE. Do I truly love Jesus? Do I have God’s love for sheep? Then you are a shepherd. This reveals to us that loving Jesus more than anything or anyone else is the only requirement for one to live as a shepherd.

Again before appointing Simon Peter as the shepherd for God’s flock, Jesus first asked him whether or not he truly loved Jesus. And there was no second or third requirement. Shepherding does not require great intellect, a good education, degrees, the ability to talk, or even much Bible knowledge! After all Simon Peter was an ordinary man. He was a typical Galilean hill-billy. He did not receive formal education. He was not from one of the famous Rabbinic schools of Jesus’ day such as Hillel or Shammai.  

But there is one requirement that must be there: love Jesus and love sheep. [I added “love sheep” because Jesus loves sheep.] For this reason Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Do you truly love me more than these?” 

If anyone truly loves the Lord more than anything or anyone else, then he is ready. One may try to live as shepherds, but without this love of Jesus, one will end up becoming a hired hand. 

Third, what should a shepherd do for the sheep?

We already know the answer, for Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” This command raises three questions though: who are lambs; what is feeding; and to whom do they belong? 

Firstly, who are lambs?

In John 21:15 Jesus commanded Simon Peter, “Feed my lambs.” Then he said, “Feed my sheep” twice. Then “Who are lambs?” According to the Miriam-Webster’s dictionary lamb refers to a young sheep, especially one that is not yet weaned or without permanent teeth. It also means the one who can be duped or cheated easily. According to the Prophet Isaiah sheep are the ones who are prone to veer off from the right path and get into all the wrong ways, as Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” These descriptions indicate that the lambs or sheep are like infants or children who are yet to become mature. 

Let us think about little babies for example. The major problem with them is that they cannot feed themselves. They have a brand new life and need to be nurtured fully. But they cannot feed themselves. And little ones do not even have teeth to chew solid food. In this way, lambs or sheep are the ones who cannot feed themselves with the food they need for life. 

Another problem is that although they may think they can find food somewhere, somehow,  they cannot. To search food they go to all different places, only to fail. Then they go hungry and thirsty.  On many occasions, they are so lazy that they do not rise to go find food. In this way, they are unable to find food on their own. 

This is particularly true with lambs, for they are yet to develop permanent teeth. Everyone knows that teeth are important, for without teeth it is very difficult if not impossible to eat solid food like New York Steak. I love New York Steak. I love Kimchi. But without teeth how can you eat them? We have dentists attending this conference. Two thirds of my teeth are not my naturally grown teeth. Only one third is real. It is thanks to the dentists that I got all of my teeth right. And I can eat solid food. I am not sure about you but to me because I have had terrible times with my teeth, each time I see dentists strangely I feel more comforted than ever. And lambs are yet to develop their spiritual teeth. 

Sheep are more or less the same. They are short-sighted; they are yet to develop the spiritual wisdom to discern what is wrong from what is right. They need to be equipped with the ability, and the will power to choose what is right, go for it, and stand for it, for without this capability they are bound to be duped, and then go astray. When they go astray they soon get stuck in a pit or in a place between rock and a hard place, not knowing how to get out. And there are tons of people like this from among the “saved” souls attending church worship services regularly! 

Secondly, what is feeding?

The main duty of a shepherd then is feeding. “Feed my lambs,” “take care of my sheep,” “feed my sheep,” says Jesus. Feeding is spiritual feeding. It is to feed the flock of God with the word of God. God’s word makes man wise to know what is right and what is wrong. It is the only weapon to uncover the devil’s schemes, and defeat the devil’s temptations. 

And it is the only resource for one to know God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and thereby develop a personal, intimate relationship with God the Father through Jesus. The Bible came from God. In John 1:1-4 the Apostle John says that Jesus is the Word. So a shepherd must feed the flock with God’s word, until sheep develops a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In the business of feeding, timing is critical. I realized this firsthand as I have been babysitting my granddaughter Christyn every once in a while. Like all other babies, she loves eating. And she needs to be fed more than five, six, or even seven times a day. But this does not mean that she eats all the time, or any time, for sometimes she does not want to eat. When she is full, she wants to do something else, like sleep, play, or exercise. She eats only when she feels “hungry”. The same is true with human sheep. And a shepherd must feed sheep regularly, I mean “on time”. Speaking of the need to feed sheep regularly Jesus asks his disciples, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?” (Luke 12:42). 

In talking to Shepherdess Little Sarah Kim I realized that feeding is an art. And we must master the art of feeding. And we need to adopt different approaches in feeding different groups such as the members of CBF (consisting of BBF, KBF, EBF, JBF, HBF), people with special conditions such as physical, mental or spiritual problems, unmarried people, married couples, parents with children, etc. and so on. And there are a lot of fine subjects we need to cover in feeding the member of each group, such as when to feed, what to feed, how to feed, and how to even help them feed themselves, etc. and so forth. The task of mastering “the art of feeding” and putting it into practice requires a whole new batch of spiritual training I would encourage everyone to pray for us to develop the necessary programs towards this goal.  

Thirdly, to whom do they belong? 


In feeding sheep, a shepherd must realize one more important truth: sheep do not belong to a human shepherd, but to Jesus. We can easily understand this concept when we think about the position of a baby sitter. In order for the parents to attend the conference they left their children with baby sitters. This is what I did last Friday also, for Rebekah and I left Christyn our grand daughter with a baby sitter who lives in an apartment across the street. The baby sitter knows that Christyn belongs to us, not to her. So she better take good care of her. Once I find out that she has done anything improper to our granddaughter, she is going to be in big trouble. Nowadays the LA laws on child-abuse are tough. And while I was here on this mountain every once in a while my thoughts ran to Christyn and all the kids left with baby sitters. 

The relationship among the baby sitter, my granddaughter, and myself is similar to if not the same as the relationship among Jesus’ disciples (the human shepherds), sheep, and Jesus Christ. Every little one left under the care of the disciples of Jesus belongs to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ shed his blood for all of them. Jesus bought them for his blood sacrifice. Because Jesus invested himself in his sheep, Jesus is mindful of each of them. In order for the disciples to know that Jesus means business on this point, in Matthew 18:10 Jesus says, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  

“Feed my lambs.” The adjective “my” then shows us the direction in serving sheep. What is the direction? It is to lead sheep to Jesus Christ, so they would grow as Jesus-like people. All of his efforts or programs such as bible studies and prayers must be directed to helping sheep to know Jesus better, be united with Him, knowingly, willingly, and joyfully, and grow to Jesus’ greatness.

This means that even in giving a Bible study, a shepherd must do so with a specific purpose in mind: to reveal Jesus as the Christ of God, so sheep would come to love Jesus and be attached to Him.

The Apostle Paul set a good example. For example, when we read first Corinthians we see the brothers and sisters in the church of Corinth suffering from all kinds of problems: lawsuits among themselves, mutual hatred, divisions, fornication, adultery, tongue problems, etc. and so forth. Then in two long letters Paul strove hard to open their eyes to know the love of Christ. Towards the end of second Corinthians he says, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”  

In conclusion, let us read verse 15 once again. “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 

One word: Feed my lambs