As we approach the Christmas season, we find ourselves continually reminded of the shepherds in the fields, on the eve of Christ Jesus’ birth. To those blessed few, an angel appeared and declared the birth of the Messiah and in obedience to the message of angel, they went to see a baby in a manger… And inasmuch as their eyes beheld the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, the reality of what they witnessed was among the first to behold, God in the flesh. Oh, what they would have missed out on, had they not been obedient to the Lord’s direction. And so, with this in mind, I hope to lead you into reflection of what it means to be a tender shepherd…
I love the message of John 21:15-17! For it teaches us of the amazing opportunity for restoration between man and Christ, even when we fail miserably as a witness and Christ follower. And yet, it also holds what I believe to be an outline of significant responsibility in our being obedient shepherds. I’m not referring to the specific role of a pastor, but rather that of our charge as disciples to love and care for one another… watching over the flock.
John 21:15-17: “After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
In this most famous dialogue, there are three questions, three responses and three commands. And it is the commands to which I want to draw our attention:
1) “Feed my lambs.” The lambs, those young in the faith and who need to be weaned from milk to solid food. To be taken from the basics of the faith, into a deeper knowledge of the Word through personal study and examining with other believers.
2) “Take care of my sheep.” The continual watching over of one another… This is the new commandment Christ gave to us, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34,35
3) “Feed my sheep.” And as we grow up in Christ, maturing from being lambs in the faith into adult sheep of the Great Shepherd, we must feed upon the whole Word of God.
Knowing the heart of God towards His sheep, should stir within us a deep desire to pursue that, which matters to God… and His sheep matter greatly.
Ezekiel 34:11-13,16 “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live… I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak…”
I can’t help but wonder, the impact we could have upon the lives of one another, if we earnestly pursued those who’ve been scattered from the church… looked after those who had been injured by a fellow Christian, and of course, those who are weak in their faith. The Lord knows His own, and we can be assured, that if we seek His direction, He will lead is to those who are in need. Perhaps the only thing now, is for us to be willing to utter the words… “Here I am Lord, send me!”