GOD demands we love to Feed Others

A compilation of notes on Jn21 from CLS & JV daily summaries.
     Jesus’ question “Have you any food?” in v 5 sets the stage for the lesson to Peter in vv. 15-17.
     V 7, ‘outer garment,’ obviously refers to the clothing of righteousness, as in Rev16:15. Note that Peter was the first and only person to jump straight out of the boat to go meet Jesus. In the next few verses, Jesus feeds the disciples with the fish he supplied for them.
     In v 11, GOD showed me that ‘153 fish’ is a representational number: Broken down, it is 7 x 21 with a remainder of 6. More on this below.
     When we get to v 15, there are some issues in the Greek that should first be noted. The following section, with minor emendations, was originally posted at http://www.wordoflife.uk.com/letters/lets1990/letter_for_april_1990.htm.

     Our English translation of the original Greek of the New Testament fails completely to bring out what was being said between Jesus and Peter. The reason is that we only have one word for love in English, and in this passage two words are used in the Greek.
     When Jesus asks the question of Peter the first two times, he uses the word 'agapao'. This word is a very strong one. The love expressed in this word is one of sacrifice. The well known prayer gives the idea -- the willingness to give and not count the cost, to labour and not heed the wounds, to give and not ask for any reward except that we know we are doing the will of Jesus. It is more concerned with action rather than feeling. It is the love which Jesus demonstrated to us when He died on the cross to save us from our sins.
     The word Peter uses all three times is the word "phileo" which means something like affection and friendship. This word is much less strong and does not encompass the commitment that "agapao" does. "Phileo" is a lesser love.
     The level of our love for Jesus will determine how much we are able to put up with from others before we stop caring for them or turn away from them. The level of our love for Jesus will determine how much our own wishes and desires and conveniences we are willing to sacrifice to feed the sheep of Jesus. The level of our love for Jesus will determine how much hurt, pain, misunderstanding, ungratefulness, criticism, etc., we are able and willing to accept from others in our service for Jesus. The level of our love for Jesus will determine the degree we put away sin, put to death our evil affections, and walk obediently in His will.


     Before delving further into the significance of the usage of the terms translated into English as ‘love,’ it is necessary to see the growth that Jesus’ commands to Peter in these three verses portrays. Each time Jesus is referring to sheep or lambs in His questions (as opposed to goats—see Mt25:31-46). We must understand that He is deliberately referring to overcomers, the righteous, saints of GOD.
Feeding and Tending
     Vv. 15-17 indicate a type of growth that Christians, even overcomers, must go through to become fully mature in spirit. They also show the duties that every shepherd of GOD has to fulfill.
     In verse 15, Jesus commands Peter, “Feed My lambs.” The lamb is an obvious symbol of spiritual “babehood,” yet to grow into maturity. The word “feed” in the Greek is “bosko,” which is defined as “to pasture, fodder, graze... i.e. feed, keep.” So, in v 15, Jesus is calling Peter to the basic feeding of a spiritual babe. One is reminded of 1Cor3:2; Heb5:12-13; 1Pet2:2. [Note: “Babes IN Christ,” i.e., soul-saved, but still carnally minded.]
     In verse 16 (NKJV), Jesus commands Peter, “Tend My sheep.” The Greek word used here for “feed” is “poimaino” (Strong’s Grk. #4165) which is defined as “to tend as a shepherd.” This word actually appears 10 other times in the New Testament. A few examples are as follows:
     Mat2:6.. For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel."'
     Acts20:28.. Shepherd the church of GOD which He purchased with His own blood.
     1Pet5:2.. Shepherd the flock of GOD.
     Rev2:27.. He shall rule them with a rod of iron.
     Rev7:17.. The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them.
     Rev12:5.. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
     Rev19:15.. He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.
     So, in v 16 when Jesus says, “Tend My sheep,” He is calling Peter to fulfill all the responsibilities of a shepherd of His holy flock (note Jer23): to feed, guide, lead, protect, or rescue those that are in danger of being lost (see Mat18:11-14; Lk15:4-7; Jn10:11-15). These sheep in v 16 represent those who are already in Christ who are growing out of carnal-mindedness. They are more fully focused on Christ than the spiritual lambs or babes in Christ, but are still just as much in need of the Shepherd’s guiding staff and corrective rod.


     Finally, in v 17 when Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep,” He is referring to the most mature sheep of the flock.
     The simple progression in these three little verses that GOD illuminated to me this morning is that it takes more love to feed the carnal Christian and comparatively less love to tend and to feed the more mature believers in Christ. These three verses give a glimpse into the high calling to that of a true shepherd, true apostle or elder. To fulfill such a calling, Peter had to be willing to love Jesus Christ more than the rest of those whom Christ called.
     The deeper significance of the 153 fish caught also support this concept of the great responsibility of those whom Christ calls to be His true shepherds. In the number of fish that were caught we can see that there was a complete supply for each of the seven workers (3 x 7 fish per). But even by dividing the fish equally among themselves--which is likely how they were paid for their work--there would still remain only six. One of the workers would have to be shorted.
     The obvious message here is that Peter, who alone was asked if he loved Christ “more than these,” would have to be be willing to share the gospel at his own expense. Jesus wanted to know of Peter, in going above and beyond the call of duty (as Paul in 1Cor9:11-18, see below): Would he be willing to sacrifice for the sake of others? This is the calling of the apostle-level of faith which Jesus was challenging him to take up.
     11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 15 But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
     And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.