Martin Bucer’s (d.1551) pastoral theology book Concerning the True Care of Souls is a wonderful resource. I recently came across this section that I had marked up – it’s a good reminder for those of our readers who are pastors!
When St. Peter is asked for the third time if he loves the Lord, and himself for the third time protests his love, then for the third time the Lord says to him: ‘Feed my sheep.’ It is as if he were saying: ‘If you love me so much and want to show this by your actions, feed my sheep, because there is nothing you can do for me which is preferable or more pleasing to me.’
If we really love Christ, he is everything to us; therefore if anyone is called to this ministry, whatever unpleasantness, sufferings and crosses he may have to bear in the course of his ministry, he will be upheld and strengthened against all unpleasantness, sufferings, and crosses only by the fact that the Lord Jesus has commanded him to do this, and commanded it as the highest ministry of love that we can show him. Then each one will feel as Paul did when he writes about himself in 1 Cor. 9: ‘Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.’
‘I am simply discharging the trust committed to me,’ says the dear apostle; for that should be more than enough for any Christian, if he is called to this ministry, to accept it and carry it out with all faithfulness, withstanding and suffering whatever trouble, labor, abuse, shame, suffering, and cross he may meet in the course of it. …There is so much delightful consolation for us in the fact that in this way we are showing the greatest love to our Lord Jesus, by serving him in his dear church which he has purchased with his precious blood, which is his dear spouse and his body.