Dear Members and Friends of IBCZ,
As Jesus reinstates Peter in John 21:15-19 as a disciple and leader for His church, he allowed Peter to confirm Jesus publicly as many times as he had previously denied him in the court yard of the high-priest. And while Peter wouldn’t dare to claim agape – a self-sacrificing – love towards Jesus, he ultimately gave himself into the hands of Christ by exclaiming in verse 17 ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I phileo you – you know that I’m font of you, you know that you are dear to me’. – Peter trusted Jesus, like a sheep would trust its shepherd.
In addition, with every confirmation, Jesus points Peter to what is on His heart primarily: namely, for Peter to look after His flock. The flock being the people in the world who didn’t know Jesus, yet, but who will – also through Peter – get to know Him in the subsequent years. Therefore, not only will Peter become a fisher of man, as Jesus had told him 3 years earlier. He calls Peter to ‘tend’ and ‘feed’ his sheep and lambs.
While a fisherman, Peter will of course have been familiar with the concept of tending sheep. He knew it from his own life-context, as he will have seen shepherds and sheep all across Israel and Judea. But also, he would know it from the stories heard about in the scriptures. – For instance, in the context of the Psalms of David and there particularly Psalm 23.
In John 10, Jesus describes what a good shepherd does: he calls them by name, he guides them to good pastors, meaning food – and in the case of Jesus, it is literally ‘soul-food’. In addition, Jesus informs us that he lays down His life for his sheep. That’s what a good shepherd does. He has got the best interest of his sheep in mind. – And that has got a lot to do with the nature of sheep and lambs.
Because not only are we are like sheep that easily go astray and getting lost. We are also – like sheep – consume all kind of stuff that is not healthy or even deadly. Sheep would happily chew away on poisonous roots – and die, just as we would unwittingly – or knowingly – consume things in our lives that can cause spiritual damage or even spiritual death. That’s why it’s so critical to understand Jesus to be that good shepherd and follow him wherever he may lead.
However, just like Peter has been called to be a shepherd, so have many of us have been called to be good shepherds for others. This could be as a pastor, elder, deacon or ministry leader. It could be as believing parents, entrepreneurs, team or department heads. It could be as children towards our elderly parents who have not yet accepted Christ.
In that, shepherds need to focus on their flock and ensure that they can get the spiritual food they need. That means to patiently directing them to good sources of spiritual food, to staying with them while they are out there in life; it may even mean looking for them and carrying them back when they are lost, alone and helpless.
Yet, we mustn’t forget that our shepherds are also first and foremost sheep, too. Even Peter after he’s been reinstituted and after he’s started to spread the gospel and lead his church, he was still struggling. Plus, spiritual shepherds are also a prime-target for Satan: because bringing down the leader of a church or ministry will often destroy or handicap that very church or ministry. – So please pray for your leaders, pray for your shepherds, and trust in the chief-shepherd Jesus Christ.