“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.” (John 21:16 KJV)
Sheep… In how many illustrations have you heard that sheep are somewhat stupid creatures? I am not totally convinced this idea is entirely true. They know their own names. They can distinguish voices really well. They flock together since they have very few natural defenses. I can probably think of other creatures that have far fewer good characteristics. Notwithstanding, it is a quite different point that is really fascinating. If someone thinks another is stupid (accurate or not) how do you think they will treat them? It is one of the most natural reflexes that we seem to have. If we think that the person that we are dealing with is a few cards short of a full deck, the time that we spend with them shrinks rapidly. It becomes time to move on or see beyond them for something else that interests us.
Why would we be instructed to feed sheep? Could we not get much better mileage feeding a more noble animal? Something with either a higher present value or good prospects for a future value? And they are not even our sheep; they are His! Part of the training involves getting them to recognize His voice; not ours. Discipline, logic, and sensibility is what we would like to instill. Yet, it is our (or really His) love that we will be known by. Notice that in the three times that Jesus questions Peter, He never expects an answer that shows a track record of well managed actions. Jesus is looking for that love that is somewhere deep in that heart, and trying to connect our love for Him with the duty that He requests of us. His Spirit has placed a deposit of His love within us. Jesus would like to see that investment grow. It is not that we have not, and in several cases continue, to go astray. There is a need to recall clearly on whom our iniquities have been laid.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6 KJV)