A Disciple After God’s Own HeartJohn 21:1-19Theme: Yes, Lord!In this week’s lessons, Dr. Philip Ryken teaches us about restoration and obedience.
LessonIf we are filled with love for Christ, then what shall we do? Jesus teaches us as he taught Peter that the task of the disciple is to feed Christ’s flock. Once Peter has reaffirmed his love for Jesus, then Jesus gives him this command: “Feed my sheep.” This is how complete Peter’s restoration is – that the Lord will now trust him with his most prized possession, his own sheep.
We need to be careful not to lift this command out of its proper context in Scripture. It is true, of course, that every one of us has a responsibility to feed the other members of Christ’s flock. Elsewhere the Holy Spirit says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). But the command to feed the flock of Christ is given especially to Peter as an apostle of Christ. Therefore the command to feed Christ’s lambs is especially given to those who are gospel ministers, who carry on the apostolic task of making disciples of all nations. Surely we find in Jesus’ command to feed his flock a reminder that the primary task of the Christian minister is to preach and to teach the Word of God. Here in this passage the emphasis falls, not on the evangelistic calling of the apostles, but on their pastoral calling. While Peter’s apostleship included many kinds of ministry, this was his main business at all times and in all places: to feed the lambs of Christ, to feed them by teaching and preaching good things from the Word of God.
Now, because Jesus’ command to feed his flock is given especially to gospel ministers, I want us to take a look at Jeremiah, chapter 3, where we read, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jer. 3:15). The word “lead” there is really the word for shepherding. It’s a form of the word that David used in Psalm 23 when he wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.” So we might translate Jeremiah 3:15 like this: “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart who will shepherd you with knowledge and understanding.” Or like this: “…shepherds after my own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
What does it mean to be a shepherd after God’s own heart? Surely it means that a gospel minister must have a deep and pure love for Christ. But it also means that a minister must be devoted to feeding the sheep of Christ in knowledge and understanding. A minister after God’s own heart is a teaching minister, a preaching minister. A minister is a shepherd of the flock of Christ, serving under the authority of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And if a minister is a shepherd, then he ought to display some measure of all the qualities that the Bible ascribes to shepherds. And so, as a shepherd, a minister is called to a life of sacrifice like the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep. He is called to seek for the lost, just like the shepherd who left the ninety-nine to seek for the one lost sheep. He is called to a life of compassion for the suffering, just as the Good Shepherd gives comfort to his sheep. He is called to know the sheep, just as the Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name. He is called to love the sheep just as the Good Shepherd loves his sheep. But a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ is especially called to feed the lambs of Christ, giving them just the right teaching to grow strong in the Lord’s pasture. This is the unceasing task of the minister, whether he is comforting the sick in the hospital, or counseling the troubled in his office, or visiting singles and families in their homes, or sharing the gospel on the streets of the city, or teaching a Bible study, or especially, preaching to saints and sinners on the Lord’s Day. At all times and in all places he is feeding the lambs of Christ.
I need to add that he is always feeding them from the same pasture – the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, infallible and inerrant. A minister after God’s own heart stands firmly on the Word of God, immovable. He knows that the Word of God is the one safe pasture for the sheep of God, and there he will remain. Let other men try other things, but he will do the one thing that the Lord commands. Let other men lead their congregations to the junk food of man-centered religion, but he will keep the Lord’s flock in the green pastures of biblical truth, allowing the Word to be the Word so that the Church can become the Church in all the glory of Christ.
What is the proper context for understanding Jesus’ command “Feed my sheep?”
What things should characterize a minister after God’s own heart?
With what are ministers to feed Christ’s sheep?
Further StudyRead Jeremiah 3:14-15.