On a recent trip to Parchman Prison, Pastor Bobby Fields, one of our evangelists with ThunderHeart Ministries Prison Team, and I discussed the passage of scripture that describes the incident where Jesus was presented with a situation of no food and a bunch of hungry people. Bobby reminded me of a specific directive that Jesus gave to His disciples when He said “You give them something to eat.”1 The disciples acted just as many of us would have. Their reaction is one of dismay and they began immediately to present obstacles that would prevent them from accomplishing the command given by Jesus. They replied “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”2 The disciples got hung up on resources and failed to remember who told them to take action. In that moment they were focused on what they didn’t have and failed to look at what they did have … or better yet WHO they had.
Today, we see with our “Christian/Biblical” eyes. We already know the outcome. So it is easy for us to sit back and criticize these men for their lack of faith and understanding. However, we continue to see God’s men doing the same thing today! We have been provided an abundance of “spiritual” groceries yet there are people spiritually starving to death all around us. The same Jesus that ordered the disciples to give the people something to eat is the same Jesus that directs God’s men to provide spiritual food to those around them. In a conversation with Peter, Jesus said
“‘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.’
Again Jesus said “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?’
He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’
He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ “3
When Peter answers each question affirming that he loves Jesus, Jesus gives Peter three mandates in this exchange; “feed my lambs”; “take care of my sheep”; and “feed my sheep.” I don’t think these commands were unique to Peter but apply to anyone who is a disciple of Christ. The analogy of a “shepherd” is used numerous times in God’s Word and Jesus is using the terminology of a shepherd because it is the way that scripture often describes Him. Jesus said “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” 4 If we are to model ourselves after the “good shepherd” then we must behave as the good shepherd behaved.
“Feed my lambs” is the first command given by Jesus. We generally think of a lamb as a baby and while that is absolutely true, in the spiritual sense, a lamb can be a baby Christian no matter what their chronological age may be. Jesus is telling us, as He did His disciples, that we have a responsibility to care for the lambs — the babies.
The prophet Isaiah writes “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”5 As disciples, we must keep a close eye on the lambs because they are vulnerable and at the risk of falling prey to the snares of the enemy, Satan. A good shepherd must invest time, energy, and resources to help a lamb mature spiritually. Peter tells us “Be Shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 6
The second command “take care of my sheep.” So many people today are facing difficult circumstances and just a word of encouragement can be so powerful. Jesus tells us “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life”7 We can show care and compassion by doing what Jesus did in his ministry. He did not immediately start cramming his thoughts and beliefs down someone’s throat. He met them right where they were and He gave them hope that only comes from knowing Him in a very personal way. Jesus’ approach to other people was to give them respect and His full attention. In doing so, He earned their full attention and they would listen to what He had to say and offer them. Jesus demonstrated how it should be done … how God’s men must be actively pursuing opportunities to give people a drink of living water and the spiritual food that satisfies the appetite.
The third command is “feed my sheep.” While some would argue that Jesus is just being repetitive, He wants to make a point. Often we want to take care of the “sheep” that are just like us but we tend to ignore those “sheep” that are different in some way from our own background and/or experience.
Jesus said ” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
‘Then the righteous will answer him, Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”8
You see the command does not instruct us to only take care of the sheep just like us, it tells us to take care of the sheep … that means all of the sheep. Not just those we are most comfortable caring for or those we want to be with the most.
I firmly believe that Jesus is directing God’s men today just as He did that day with His disciples; “You give them something to eat.” Are you up to the challenge of meeting the same three commands He gave Peter that day? Our nation is in such a critical need for God’s men to step up, step out, and shepherd those that God has put in our path. Stop looking for others to take it on and do what you are called to do. We need to ask ourselves “Am I mentoring my younger brothers in Christ? Am I teaching others how to bring someone else to the saving grace of Jesus? Am I doing what God has commanded me to do?”
YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT and there will be blessings in the present and eternal rewards in the future for doing so!! Go and be blessed!
1 Mark 6:37a (emphasis added), All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV 1984 translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
3 John 21:15-17
4 John 10:14-16
5 Isaiah 40:10-11a
6 1 Peter 5:2-4
7 Matthew 6:25-27
8 Matthew 25:35-40