So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes…
I. HOW DID THE APOSTLES GATHER THE SHEEP OF CHRIST? A man must gather a flock before he can feed it. And the apostles, we know, had a very small one at first (Acts 1:15). All men are represented in the Word of God as sheep which have gone astray. Therefore the commission of our Lord to His apostles is, to seek out His sheep (Ezekiel 34.). And our Lord tells us that His own mission was "to seek and to save that which was lost." So His commission to His apostles is, "Go ye into all the world," &c. Now the apostles fulfilled our Lord's command by the free and full proclamation of the glorious gospel of Christ (Acts 2.). Now look at Acts 13. and you will see the same means used by Paul. Look again at Acts 10. and 16. The apostles went to sinners, they proclaimed to them their guilt, and pardon through the blood of a crucified Saviour. You see the effect. Those who "gladly received their word" instantly became the disciples of the Lord, and joined themselves to the flock of Christ.
II. HOW THE APOSTLES FED THE SHEEP OF CHRIST when they had gathered them to the fold. They fed them with Christ Himself. "I am the Bread of Life."
1. As proclaimed in His salvation.
2. As revealed in His Word. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom."
3. As exhibited in His ordinances.
4. As teaching in His commandments.
5. As coming in glory.
(R. J. M'Ghee, M. A.)
Feed My lambs (A Sabbath-school Sermon): — Read the whole chapter, and observe the change of scene. First, they are on the lake fishing, and dragging to land a multitude of fishes. They have all come on shore, and their faces are turned to the pastures on the hillside. Herein lieth a parable. The first work of Christ's servants is comprised in that commission, "Go ye into all the world," &c.; or, parabolically, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught." After this is done, souls converted, and brought up from the depths of sin, the scene changes: we see a flock, "the Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood." This shepherd work is so important that three times the Saviour bids us attend to it. We must never so evangelize the outside mass as to forget to fold and feed those within. Concerning this shepherdizing let us note —
I. THE SPHERE. To whom does He refer?
1. To such as are little in grace. They have but a grain of mustard seed of faith as yet: their love is not a flame, but a spark apparently in danger of being suddenly blown out, and there-fore needing great care.
2. To the weak in grace. All such as are doubting, slenderly instructed, easily bewildered, cast down in spirit. If our kindness should neglect the strong it would be a sad pity, but it might not entail so much damage as if we neglect the weak. "Comfort the feeble-minded; support the weak." I think the reason why the weak were committed to Simon Peter was because he had been very weak himself. He who is himself compassed with infirmities knows the heart of the weaklings.
3. To the young in grace. They may be old in years, and yet they may be mere babes as to the length of their spiritual life, and therefore they need to be under a good shepherd. As soon as a person is converted and added to the Church he should become the object of the care and kindness of his fellow members. Young converts are too timid to ask our help, and so our Lord introduces them to us with an emphatic command. This shall be our reward, "Inasmuch as ye have done it," &c.
4. To those who have been converted while young in years. How much there is of brightness and trustfulness about children which is not seen in elder converts! Our Lord evidently felt deep sympathy with children, and he is but little like Christ who looks upon them as a trouble, and treats them as if they must needs be either little deceivers or simpletons.
5. These are to be fed because —
(1) They need it. The second "feed" means exercise the office of a shepherd, but this means distinctly feed, and it directs teachers to the duty of instructing children in the faith. The lambs do not so much need keeping in order as we do who know so much, and yet know so little. Christian children mainly need to be taught the doctrine, precept, and life of the gospel. If there be any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher's conception of it than of the child's power to receive it. A child has not only to live as you and I have, but also to grow; hence he has double need of food. Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the devil will be sure to teach them error. The only way to keep chaff out of the child's little measure is to fill it brimful with good wheat.
(2) They are so likely to be overlooked. Our sermons often go over the heads of the younger folk. Blessed is he that can so speak as to be understanded of a child!
(3) This work is so profitable. Do what we may with persons converted late in life, we can never make much of them. Train up a child, and he may have fifty years of holy service before him. It is also most beneficial work to ourselves. It exercises our humility and trains our patience; let those who doubt this try it.
II. THE MAN. Not Peter only, but those who are like Peter. Christ selected him as —
1. A leading man. He was one of the triumvirate that led the van. But though a leading man, he was to feed the lambs, for no man may think himself too great to care for the young. The best of the Church are none too good for this work.
2. A warmhearted man. Simon Peter was not a Welshman, but he had a great deal of what we know as Welsh fire. He was just the sort of man to interest the young. Children delight to gather round a fire, whether it be on the hearth or in the heart. Certain persons appear to be made of ice, and from these children speedily shrink away.
3. An experienced man. He had sinned much and had been much forgiven. We want experienced men and women to talk to children, and to tell them what have been their dangers, their sins, their sorrows, and their comforts. The young are glad to hear the story of those who have been further on the road than they have.
4. A greatly indebted man. He owed much to Jesus Christ, according to that rule of the kingdom — he loveth much to whom much hath been forgiven.
III. THE PREPARATION. Peter was prepared for feeding Christ's lambs —
1. By being fed himself. The Lord gave him a breakfast before giving him a commission. It is quite right for you to be teaching a great part of the Lord's Day; but I think a teacher is very unwise who does not come to hear the gospel preached and get a meal for his own soul.
2. By being with his Master. I commend the study of instructive books, but above all the study of Christ. An hour's communion with Jesus is the best preparation for teaching either the young or the old.
3. By self-examination. "Lovest thou Me?" Often the vessel wants scouring with self-examination before the Lord can fitly use it to convey the living water to thirsting ones. Mainly that examination should be exercised concerning our love; for the best preparation for teaching Christ's lambs is love — love to Jesus and to them. We cannot be priests on their behalf unless like Aaron we wear their names upon our breasts. A shepherd that does not love his sheep is a hireling and not a shepherd. Our subject is the love of God in Christ Jesus. How can we teach this if we have no love ourselves?
IV. THE WORK. Every lesson should be a feeding lesson. It is of little use to thump the Bible and call out, "Believe!" when nobody knows what is to be believed. I see no use in fiddles and tambourines; neither lambs nor sheep can be fed upon brass bands. Feed the lambs; you need not pipe to them, nor put garlands round their necks; but do feed them. This feeding is —
1. Humble, lowly, unostentatious work. Shepherds are generally quiet, unobtrusive people. They are never made knights or peers, albeit they do far more useful work than those who are floated into rank upon their own beer barrels. So in the ease of many a faithful teacher of young children; you hear but little about him, yet his Master knows all about him, and we shall hear of him in that day; perhaps not till then.
2. Careful work; for lambs cannot be fed on anything you please. You can soon half poison young believers with bad teaching. It is careful work the feeding of each lamb separately, and the teaching of each child by itself the truth which it is best able to receive.
3. Continuous work. Lambs could not live if the shepherd only fed them once a week; therefore good teachers of the young look after them on week days, and are careful about their souls with prayer and holy example when they are not teaching them by word of mouth.
4. Laborious work. Nothing so exhausts a man as the care of souls; so it is in measure with all who teach — they cannot do good without spending themselves. You must study the lesson, &c.
5. All this has to be done in a singularly choice spirit; the true shepherd spirit is an amalgam of many precious graces. He is hot with zeal, but not fiery with passion; gentle, and yet rules his class; loving, but does not wink at sin; he has power over the lambs, but he is not domineering or sharp; he has cheerfulness, but not levity; freedom, but not license; solemnity, but not gloom. He who cares for lambs should be a lamb himself; and there is a Lamb before the throne who cares for all of us, and does so the more effectually because He is in all things made like unto us.
V. THE MOTIVE.
1. The motive was to be his Master's self. Had Peter been the first Pope of Rome, surely Christ would have said to him, "Feed your sheep." The work that you have to do is in no sense for yourselves. Your classes are not your children, but Christ's.
2. Yet while this is a self-denying occupation, it is one of the noblest forms of service. How wonderful that Jesus should commit them to us! Jesus in effect says, "I love you so that I trust you with that which I purchased with My heart's blood."
3. We are to feed Christ's lambs out of love.
(1) As a proof of love. If ye love Me, feed My lambs.
(2) As an inflowing of love. If you love Christ a little when you begin to do good, you will soon love Him more. Love grows by active exercise.
(3) As an outflow of love. A person may go home and sit down and groan out, "Tis a point I long to know, Oft it causes anxious thought," &c., but if he will rise up and work for Jesus, the point he longs to know will soon be settled.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, 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.
WEB: So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."