Commands of Christ

Feed My Sheep

Where is this command found?

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

John 21:15–16

Applying This Command

This command has a direct parallel to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He describes His functions as a shepherd in the following passages. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life” (John 10:11–17).

The prophet Ezekiel also revealed the mission of Christ in his condemnation of false shepherds. “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? . . . The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. . . . I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out . . . . I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:2, 4–15).

Bible Verses for Meditation

In addition to meditation on John 21:15–17, meditating on the verses below will provide you with further insight and understanding of Christ’s command: Feed My Sheep.

I Peter 5:2–4

“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

Psalm 78:72

“So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.”

Acts 20:28

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

I Timothy 4:16

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”

Ezekiel 34:2

“… Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”

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Study Question

Q: Since the Lord knows every sheep by name and laid down His life for them, why does He entrust their daily feeding, encouragement, and protection to under-shepherds who may be inadequate or inconsistent in carrying out these vital tasks?

In the New Testament, God gives detailed requirements for those who would be under-shepherds of His flock. Peter was the disciple whom Jesus commanded, “Feed my lambs,” “Feed [tend] my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” Peter was also the one who recorded God’s precise instructions to the under-shepherds of His flock.

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (I Peter 5:1–4).

In the Book of Titus, Paul lists more qualifications of those who would shepherd others: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate” (Titus 1:6–8).

However, because we all have a sin nature, no one serving as an under-shepherd will perfectly represent the Chief Shepherd all the time. Because of His great love for His sheep, God will hold those who lead them to a higher standard. James addresses this tremendous responsibility placed on under-shepherds: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1).

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