In the Bible God’s people are often called sheep. We encountered this metaphor earlier in John 10, where Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, and his followers are the sheep who listen to his voice. Now he applies the sheep and shepherd metaphors to Peter. He is the shepherd and the other followers of Christ are the sheep that must be fed and cared for. So what is involved in feeding and caring for the sheep?
The shepherd (or pastor’s) primary role is to teach God’s Word. As it is written in the “Ordination of Ministers of the Word” (Psalter Hymnal [Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988], 995): “The minister of the Word is called to preach the gospel of his kingdom. This preaching has the twofold object of calling sinners to reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ and nurturing believers in the faith and life of the kingdom of God.” In order to do this well, the pastor must not only receive a rigorous theological training, but he must also regularly and consistently immerse himself in God’s Word, so that he can effectively teach it to others over the long haul. It’s through the teaching ministry of the pastor (and other spiritual leaders) that the sheep are effectively fed and cared for.
I invite you to imagine that you, not Peter, are sitting at that campfire with Jesus. And he turns to you and asks: “Do you love me?” So what is your response? Don’t worry about what others will think. Jesus is talking to you! And he asks, “Do you love me?” If you can’t truly say “yes” to that question, then I invite you to begin or resume a relationship with Jesus that will hopefully lead to your loving him. I invite you to join his school of discipleship as an apprentice for life. As you begin to follow him through the pages of the New Testament gospels, and as you seek to emulate his example as you go about your daily life, you will experience his love and will come to love him more than anything or anyone in the world.