Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times Peter responded that he did to which Jesus told him to feed His sheep.
In a previous post we looked at how different Greek words were used for “love” in John 21:15-17, pointing to our motivations. And in another post, we saw that two different Greek words were used for sheep … little lambs, sheep … indicating that those whom He entrusts to our care will be at different levels in their spiritual growth which must be taken into consideration when shepherding them. Here we will make some conclusions about the priorities of a shepherding ministry by noting that two different Greek words are used for tending to the sheep.
v. 15 – “feed [bosko] my lambs”
v. 16 – “take care of [poimen] my sheep”
v. 17 – “feed [bosko] my sheep”
The word “bosko,” which was used twice, alludes primarily to providing nourishment. “Poimen” includes feeding but goes broader to overall care and is the same word used in 1 Peter 5 for shepherding.
Why didn’t Jesus use the same word, “bosko,” all three times for added emphasis? Maybe He wanted to communicate that the flock needs more than feeding. They need to be protected and sometimes rescued. They need to be cared for when injured and comforted when afraid. Click on the link below to learn more about the needs of sheep and the implications for shepherding them.
Why didn’t Jesus just use the word “poimen” all three times since it includes feeding? Jesus could be stressing the priority of feeding the sheep. Overseeing the flock is important but of prime importance is feeding the flock. Perhaps this is why one of the qualifications for leaders is to be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Remember, teaching is not limited to the pulpit or classroom. There are many ways to teach (feed) others.
Feeding is a top priority because:
- People need to become thoroughly equipped for every good work which comes through the Word. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
- People need to learn to distinguish good from evil which requires constancy in feeding on the meat of the Word. (Heb. 5:14)
The more equipped and discerning people are, the better they are prepared to meet the demands of this life and be light and salt in this world. Anemic believers do little to advance the cause of Christ. They are too weak and lethargic. So, feed them. Tend to other needs as well. And, feed them some more. Feeding must be a regular occurrence. Feeding must get beyond the milk (basics) to the meat of the Word.