Feed My Sheep

 

Tomorrow is the day of Pentecost; also know as the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of First Fruits. My subject is, “Feed My Sheep” and I think it is not much of a stretch to tie the two ideas together. Without the Spirit of God, the Comforter, the Counselor one would find it impossible to feed the sheep. I think that is why Jesus told His apostles to wait for the gift.

*   (Acts 1:3-5 NIV)  After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. {4} On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. {5} For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

And the gift arrived on the day of Pentecost appropriately enough for this was the First Fruits by which many others would be fed.

*   (Acts 2:1-42 NIV)  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. {2} Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. {4} All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. {5} Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. {6} When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. {7} Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? {8} Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? {9} Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, {10} Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome {11} (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" {12} Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" {13} Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine." {14} Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. {15} These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! {16} No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: {17} "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. {18} Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. {19} I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. {20} The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. {21} And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' {22} "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. {23} This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. {24} But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. {25} David said about him: "'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. {26} Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, {27} because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. {28} You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' {29} "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. {30} But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. {31} Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. {32} God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. {33} Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. {34} For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand {35} until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."' {36} "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." {37} When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" {38} Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." {40} With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." {41} Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. {42} They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

 

Now let’s look at feeding sheep.

*   (Ezek 34:1-19 RSV)  The word of the LORD came to me: {2} "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? {3} You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. {4} The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. {5} So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts. {6} My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.

This is not a story about animals but about people. Shepherds have a responsibility to care for and protect. And truly that is a responsibility that we all share. Certainly, some are more responsible than others. Still we all have a ministry.

*   {7} "Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: {8} As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; {9} therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: {10} Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. {11} "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. {12} As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. {13} And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the fountains, and in all the inhabited places of the country. {14} I will feed them with good pasture, and upon the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on fat pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. {15} I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. {16} I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice. {17} "As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, rams and he-goats. {18} Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must foul the rest with your feet? {19} And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

I submit that this story is as modern as today’s news. It always has been and it will continue to be until the Lord returns. Many of us have been entrusted with caring for God’s people and then took better care of ourselves than of the sheep. Let’s hear some more.

*   (Ezek 34:20-31 RSV)  "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. {21} Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, {22} I will save my flock, they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. {23} And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. {24} And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. {25} "I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. {26} And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. {27} And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. {28} They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them; they shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. {29} And I will provide for them prosperous plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. {30} And they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord GOD. {31} And you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord GOD."

John is a second witness to what we saw in Ezekiel.

*   (John 10:14-16 NIV)  "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- {15} just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. {16} 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.

 

Now John goes on to relate a discourse between Jesus and Peter.

*   (John 21:15-17 RSV)  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love (Agapao) me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love (Phileo) you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." {16} A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love (Agapao) me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love (Phileo) you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." {17} He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (Phileo) me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love (Phileo) me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (Phileo) you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

Phileo, fil-eh'-o; has the connotations of being a friend with a strong fondness for an individual and one having affection for and a personal attachment as a matter of sentiment or feeling. Agapao is wider, embracing specifically the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety. Peter was expressing his feelings not simply his intellect. One is more of the heart and the other is more of the mind.

 

Loving your neighbor and loving your enemies are both agapao, mind, love. The love of the Father for the Son is phileo, heart, love as is the love the Pharisees had for their positions and being seen by men.

 

One of the things I admire about Peter is how he stands up for what he knows. Here he three times stays with phileo even though Jesus is suggesting agapao. Another time he is in a trance when the Lord tells him to eat something unclean three times. Each time Peter refuses. In both of these cases Peter did the right thing. Oh how I hope we can be firm about what we know is right!

 

Anyway the command is to feed and tend the lambs and the sheep. All I want to consider today is how well are fulfilling that command. Are we feeding the sheep junk food? Are we feeding them the right kinds of food? Is the food we feed them spoiled, that is impure? Are we feeding them too much or perhaps too little? Are we feeding the mind but not the heart or spirit? Are we taking from the sheep but not giving to the sheep? What kind of love are we giving to the sheep? Jesus was ready to lay down His life for the sheep. Are we ready to do the same?