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. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? (John 21:15-21)
The scene is after the resurrection of Jesus, by the Sea of Galilee. The Disciples had gone back to what they were doing before Jesus had called them. Among them was Peter, who had deeply and vehemently denied Jesus.
The resurrected Jesus had already met with the disciples at least once, having told Mary,
But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.(Mark 16:7)
Jesus had singled out Peter, because Peter needed to hear that Jesus had called him by name. Peter had been so sure he would never deny Jesus even if all of the other disciples did. Now He wasn’t as sure of himself as he had been. He had collapsed in the day of trial, and disowned his LORD.
Jesus had a charcoal fire going, reminiscent of the charcoal fire Peter had warmed himself on the night he denied Christ. He then asks of Peter,
“Peter, Do You Agape Me more than these?” In other words, ‘Do you love me to the highest degree , and do you still think you love me more than the rest of the disciples? ‘
Peter answers this way, “Yes LORD you know that I Phileo You”…in short, You Know my heart, and you know that the best I can say now is that I am fond of you, and that I no longer compare myself favorably to my brethren.
This occurred three times, but on the third time, Jesus only asked Peter if He was fond of Jesus, and Peter was grieved, and exclaimed, “Lord You Know All Things!”… .
Peter thought He knew himself, but the arrest and trial of Jesus revealed to Peter something about Peter. He may have had good intentions but he collapsed in the time of trial. Peter was shocked and surprised at his own cowardice and weakness, but Jesus wasn’t shocked at all.
He already knew what was in Peter, but still he called Him to be a Shepherd. This may have been what the apostle John was referring to when in his epistle he said,
“Bretheren, if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things...” (I John 3:20)
After each of the questions Jesus’ answers with a pastoral call,
If You Love Me, feed (bosco) my lambs,…bosco means to feed
if you love me, feed (Poimein) my little sheep,…poimein means to shepherd
If you love me, feed (Bosco) my sheep… .
Knowing full well who Peter was, in all of his flaws and weaknesses, and knowing that Peter could only say he was fond of Jesus at this point, Jesus called Peter to be a Pastor (Poimen) of his flock. He was to lead, guide, feed, and protect the lambs, little sheep and the mature sheep of God’s flock.
This is what it means to be a Pastor and an Elder, and Overseer. Jesus, the true Pastor, bought people with His own blood and appointed men to watch over them, and feed them. Sheep are to be led, not driven, and they need nourishment which is true.
The example is the good Shepherd, the LORD Jesus Christ, the true Shepherd and bishop of our souls. See how he led the flock in the days of his flesh, feeding them (Teaching the Word) constantly, binding up their wounds and confronting the wolves and hirelings who only sought power band trampled on God’s heritage without regard?Imitate Him, Shepherds!
That is what it means to be a leader in the church of God. There are many obsessed with church government in a quasi political way; they seek power and position, and especially to be able to corral in Pastors and bring them under their authority. None of this has anything to do with the welfare of the sheep, who need the Word of God, and protection from wolves.
We believe in a plurality of elders, but unashamedly acknowledge that within that plurality, there will always either be a leader or de facto there will evolve a leader among the elders. There is nothing wrong with this although I have heard many decry it cynically as a “One man show”.
Obviously in a healthy church, the business of the Kingdom is no “show” and furthermore, the fact that there is a visible leader within a plurality of elders, doesn’t indicate that such a leader is autocratic, “doing his own thing”. Behind a gifted preacher or sent out ambassador of any healthy church is a board of elders He is accountable to, and of course the accountability of all of us is really to the Word of God.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go. Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me!'” (21:18-19, NASB)
Peter was told that He would one day give the ultimate witness to Christ, He would lay down his life in martyrdom, in the discharge of his duties as a Shepherd. He would go willingly where He normally would have never gone, and He would also be crucified (Stretch out your hands) as His final witness to Christ.
Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.( John 21:20-22)
Having heard his own calling, and of his ultimate martyrdom, Peter was curious about John’s future and fate as a fellow disciple. “What shall this man do? .
When it comes to various forms and principles of church government, there are many spiritual busy-bodies doing what Peter did; concerning themselves with the ministries of others, seeking to delegitimize them based on inferences in scripture about how it ought to be done, and in some cases , they have even shown a willingness to try to split churches based on such differences.
There are many valid expressions of church government; Plurality of Eldership, Rule by overseers, or by an overseer, or even congregational style. What matters is, are the Lord’s Lambs being fed, protected and guided properly? Are the Sheep being ministered to? Is there a setting provided for organized worship, teaching and LORDS Supper?
Would it be ethical to destroy a church because you no longer agree with the church Government? To call the members and undermine the leadership, whether they be singular or plural?
What shall this man do…?
The short answer Jesus gave to Peter should suffice here, “…What is that to you? Just follow me!…” .