The twenty-first and last (and I believe, later added) Chapter of the Fourth Gospel is intensely mysterious and difficult (relevant passages are reproduced below). It focuses on the disciple Simon Peter, and also the author of the Fourth Gospel himself (the disciple 'whom Jesus loved' - and who I believe to be the raised Lazarus).
It begins with the episode of the resurrected Jesus appearing to the disciples when they are fishing. This is clearly freighted with what we regard as symbolism, but what was then a kind of depth and multiple-applicability of language, that was due to a different form of consciousness, a different way of thinking and being in the world - and which is sometimes possible for us to intuit or express poetically, but which cannot be explained in prose. But the episode seems to be about the disciples gathering of what we would term 'converts', as well as about 'feeding'.
The matter of feeding is very difficult to grasp in the Fourth Gospel - there are many passages about eating, feeding, bread, meat, flesh... and at present I find it hard to grasp and impossible to express what they mean altogether; but the feeding of the five thousand is probably the main key to it - with the idea of food being God-given, and the Food of Jesus potentially giving of eternal life (in contrast to the manna of Moses).
After the disciples had gathered fish and dined; Jesus asks Simon Peter three times whether he loves him (three times in an echo of Simon Peter's earlier three denials of Jesus).
But the first time Jesus asks 'Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?'- these presumably being the other disciples. After Simon Peter says yes, then Jesus tells him to feed his lambs.
Lambs imply sacrifice, and I think this refers to Simon Peter's role in leading the other disciples. Simon Peter is told, prophetically, the manner of his own sacrificial death. So, Simon Peter, and most of theother disciples, are sacrificial lambs.
The next twice, Jesus repeats the same phrase: 'Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? This time Jesus leaves-out 'Peter', which is his disciple name, given him by Jesus. So, presumably what follows relates to Simon Peter not as leader of the disciples, but in a different, more general role - perhaps as future 'bishop'?
And then his instruction is to 'feed my sheep' - not lambs. The symbolism of sheep is very different from lambs. Lambs are disciples, but sheep are the followers of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
So, Simon has to feed the lamb/ disciples and the sheep/ people... but wait a minute! People don't feed lambs or sheep. Lambs are fed by their mothers (by female sheep), while grown-up sheep feed themselves.
So this passage is Not about Simon Peter becoming a Shepherd, or Pastor; because the Shepherd's job was to protect and lead the flock - not to feed them...
And anyway, Jesus is The (Good) Shepherd - and this symbol is close to being his essence - Jesus, and only Jesus, will lead us through death to to life everlasting.
So, whatever 'feed' means in the Fourth Gospel, Simon Peter is being asked (for his love of Jesus) to do this both for the disciples, and for the people in General...
But not for the beloved disciple, author of the fourth Gospel, who has a different task and role. Jesus asks Simon Peter to 'follow me' - meaning, through death to eternal life. Simon Peter is himself one of the sheep/ followers, as well as a lamb/ sacrifice.
But a different identity and fate apply to the beloved disciple, who is not one of the sheep who follow the Good Shepherd through death (because, being Lazarus, he has already died); but instead he is to 'tarry' until Jesus 'comes' again...
Fourth Gospel ('John') Chapter 21: 11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
15 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.
16 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.
17 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.
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst 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.
19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20 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?
21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.