In this last part we shall see how Jesus wants us to feed His sheep. But at the very end of this post we shall also consider another surprising aspect of the grace of God.
Let us first look at how Jesus calls upon us to feed His sheep. In the Kingdom of God we cannot do things just as we want, because God has the blueprint for every tiny thing concerning His Kingdom and it is that which we must follow.
So, how do we feed Jesus’ sheep? Is it by preaching? Or praying for God’s people?
Yes, that could be true. Indeed, the biggest ministries and churches today are based on prayer and “power preaching”. But the true manner in which we are called upon to feed Jesus’ sheep is by laying down our lives for the sheep. That is how Jesus did it and we cannot substitute it (Jn. 6:48). This is the reason why the church needs to understand the cross of Christ in a deeper sense. It is through the cross that God reveals His love for His church.
Some cultures have trivialized the reality of love with husband and wife calling each other “Honey!” and “Baby!” while they rush to divorce one another. But how can you call someone “Honey” and divorce them? It would more honest if you called them “Mara” or “Bitterness”, like Naomi did.
True love is different. Attaining to true love is the toughest, grittiest dirty-job business on earth.
In the scripture above, therefore, the word “feed” is very significant. It cannot be simply to preach. That is too easy! But the word “feed” here talks of the true gospel, the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel that singularly declares: deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ.
There are other gospels that do not feed Jesus’ sheep. These are gospels of deception and self-gratification. They are the very anti-thesis of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. These gospels are preached by people who do not care an iota about the welfare of God’s people.
Jesus knew that once He had gone, there would come people proclaiming, “I love Jesus” but preaching a gospel of self-gratification. And sure enough, the church was hardly out of its crib when it encountered these very people. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians:
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
When Jesus therefore told Peter: “Feed my sheep”, He meant “Preach and live the true gospel – the gospel of the cross. Give your life. Become an example.”
And now, finally, let us look at another extremely interesting aspect of the grace of God. Jesus does things eminently differently than we can fathom, and we can hardly be prepared enough for the singularly unique ways in which He surprises us.
Here we see that Peter left ministry and went fishing (Jn. 21:3). He even instigated the other apostles to do the same. This was a mark of selfishness and a lack of faith on Peter’s part. This was enough to disqualify him from the ministry. He was unstable.
But Jesus took this incredibly weak man and gave him the greatest responsibility by telling him, “You lay down your life for my sheep!”
It was the same with the Apostle Paul. In the natural Paul was the least of all men because he persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. But the amazing fact was that it was to him that God gave the unmatchable responsibility and grace to preach “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” amongst the Gentiles (1 Cor. 2:2).
No wonder Paul wrote:
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
All this speaks of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus takes the weakest among us and makes them the strongest. He takes the unlovable and makes them the most lovable.
Christ calls us to Himself. But He wants us to continue and carry the same grace that He has towards other people. This responsibility is an incredible grace, and we should guard it well.
[Below: In Singida, as in many other parts of central Tanzania, the land is so flat one can see to the ends of the earth!]