Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Yeshua in the Counting of the Omer part 6: Feed My Sheep

The period of time on the Biblical Calendar known as the Counting of the Omer is the 50 day period from the day after the regular weekly Sabbath which falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot.  In Christian circles this holiday is known as Pentecost but is little known beyond recognition as the day the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples and they spoke in tongues.  But this Feast has great significance in the life and ministry of Jesus (Yeshua) and in the lives of his disciples including those of us who follow Him today.  Yeshua was very active during this time teaching and preparing His disciple to go out into the world and preach the Gospel.

After the breakfast of fish and bread by the Sea of Galilee, Yeshua calls Peter aside. Peter needed a special touch from Yeshua. On the night Yeshua was betrayed, Peter declared twice that he would not abandon Yeshua, that he would follow Him into prison and even death.

Luke 22:33-34 KJV 33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

First, the phrase “cock crow” doesn’t refer to a rooster! The Talmud records in the book “Yom Sukka” that the cock crow is the call of a man, specifically that of a priest. At the end of the first watch, a priest is designated to call the priests and Levites to their duties. He calls the priests to “arise for the platform” and the Levites to “arise for your posts.” The cock crow is a call to duty; to fulfill the roles ordained for them.

So when Peter denied Yeshua for the third time just as the “cock crowed,” he was unworthy and unprepared to take up His ordained role.

Luke 22:60-62 KJV 60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. 61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter’s anguish was great; perhaps greater than that of the other disciples. Yeshua though is compassionate with us. He understands our frailty and He understood Peter’s frailty. The gospel of Mark records that the angel’s words reporting Yeshua’s resurrection instructed the women to go tell His disciples and Peter that Yeshua would meet with them in Galilee.

Mark 16:7 NKJV 7 "But go, tell His disciples--and Peter--that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you."

Yeshua had a special commission for Peter. When Yeshua told Peter that he would deny Him, he also told him that when he had been “turned around,” he was to strengthen His brothers. Peter had fallen and been restored.

Luke 22:31-32 NKJV 31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

There in Galilee, Yeshua called Peter aside. Three times Peter had denied he knew Yeshua, three times Yeshua asks Peter if he loves Him.

John 21:15-17 NKJV 15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

Yeshua gives Peter instructions three times. They all seem the same to us but there is a difference in the word choice. The first time Yeshua tells Peter to feed His lambs. The word feed is a Greek word meaning to bring to pasture. This isn’t feeding sheep by pouring some grain into a manger; this is feeding by bringing them to pasture. It is an active role; you can’t just take them to pasture and leave them. Peter is to bring Yeshua’s lambs, the young ones to pasture and care for them while they are there.

The second time Yeshua tells Peter to tend His sheep. The word “tend” means to tend as a shepherd, to feed, to rule. The Greek word translated sheep means something that walks forward. Peter is to provide guidance and protection for those who walk forward in Yeshua. Finally, Yeshua tells Peter to feed my sheep, to pasture those who walk forward!

God spoke through Ezekiel about the bad shepherds of His flock.

Ezekiel 34:2 KJV 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

The word feed is a Hebrew word that means to pasture just like the Greek word for feed. The shepherd should bring his sheep to pasture and care for them. God continues His case against the shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:4 KJV 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

The shepherds not only didn’t take care of them in the pasture, they ruled over them with cruelty. Yeshua’s instructions to Peter are that he is to tend and rule them but not like the bad shepherds of Israel.

As we read Peter’s epistles, we see that he took Yeshua’s instructions to heart. He strengthens and has compassion for his brethren in Yeshua. In his first epistle he encourages and exhorts us to have strength as we face trials from without. He encourages us to live holy lives, to love one another deeply, and have compassion on each other.

1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV 8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

1 Peter 4:7-8 NKJV 7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."

Finally, Peter exhorts the elders of the assembly to be shepherds of God’s flock willingly and with love not as a cruel task master! He passes on the instructions Yeshua gave to him.

1 Peter 5:2-4 NKJV 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

In his second epistle, as Peter faces his own death, he warns against bad shepherds, about false teachers. His last thoughts are about the sheep Yeshua entrusted to him.

2 Peter 2:1-2 NIV 1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

God also warned against those same bad shepherds and pronounced judgment against them.

Ezekiel 34:20-22 NKJV 20 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: "Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. 21 "Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, 22 "therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I can’t help but think of the contrast of the good shepherd described in Psalm 23.

Psalms 23:1-6 MKJV 1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

This is the task Yeshua had for Peter while he waited for Him to come. “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

The disciples continued to count up to day 50, each day with more and more eagerness as Yeshua explained what they were to do in the days to come.

שלום ברוך
Shalom and be blessed,
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

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