Just before Jesus left this earth, He instructed Simon Peter to care for the dearest object of His love—His sheep. How could anyone care for them as Jesus cares? Only out of love for Him. There is no other way.

Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Each time, Jesus answered, “Feed My sheep.”

Was Jesus unaware of Peter’s love? Of course not. His threefold question was not for Himself, but for Peter. He asked His questions to underscore the essential truth that only love for Christ would sustain Peter in the work that lay ahead—that arduous, demanding work of caring for people’s souls—perhaps the hardest work of all.

Jesus did not ask Peter if he loved His sheep, but if he loved Him. Affection for God’s people in itself will not sustain us. His sheep can be unresponsive, unappreciative, and harshly critical of our efforts to love and to serve them. In the end, we will find ourselves defeated and discouraged.

The “love of Christ”—our love for Him—is the only sufficient motivation that will enable us to stay the course, to continue to feed the flock of God. Thus Jesus asks you and me, “Do you love Me? Feed My sheep.”