John 21:15-19

The beautiful time around the fire with the fish and bread diner is now over. There are two possible settings for the conversation that takes place in the following verses. Either Jesus takes Peter for a walk and a talk or the entire group is on their way and Jesus has Peter aside talking directly to him. Compare verse 20, “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following …”The beautiful time around the fire with the fish and bread diner is now over. There are two possible settings for the conversation that takes place in the following verses. Either Jesus takes Peter for a walk and a talk or the entire group is on their way and Jesus has Peter aside talking directly to him. Compare verse 20, “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following …”

Regardless, this conversation has had a lot of attention over the centuries. The Lord Jesus Christ presses Peter about his love for Him. Imagine it would make you feel if someone asks you straight out, “do you love me” let alone three times by the resurrected Son of God.

I. THE STABBING QUESTION OF SIMON’S LOVE. Vs. 15.

A. THE QUESTION IS ADDRESSED TO PETER’S ORIGINAL NAME.

Jesus addresses Peter by his old name. The name he received from his parents at his first birth. Peter was the name that Jesus gave Simon, the son of Jonas, when he first came to Him.
(John 1:42) “And he (Andrew) brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.”
Cephas is the aramaic word for stone. And the word translated stone in John 1:42 is the Greek word “petros” or Peter.

B. THE QUESTION ADDRESSES SIMON’S LOVE.

“Lovest thou me more than these?”Who do you love more? Do you love others more than Me? Who has first place Simon? That seems like a simple question. God is to come first then others. But what does an examination of our heart and our life reveal? Is our love for the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in our life? It is difficult for physical beings to relate to the spiritual world. I once had a Christian friend confess that he didn’t know if he loved the Lord more than his wife.

He had a daily relationship with the woman he loved. He knew he deeply loved her. If we are to love the Lord with all our hearts as He commands we must develop is very close and special relationship with Him.

If we love the Lord above all it means that every decision, every action will be governed by our supreme love for Jesus. We cannot say we love the Lord and live for self. We cannot say we love the Lord and put others before Him.

C. SIMON’S AFFIRMATION OF HIS LOVE FOR JESUS. Vs. 15b. “Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Peter declares “Yes Lord, Of course I love you.” But there is a problem. The word for love that the Lord Jesus uses in His question of Simon is that special word that describes the highest of all kinds of love. It is the love that Jesus has for us. It is the love that is defined by Jesus sacrificial and eternal love for us. But, when Simon answers he uses the word  (phileo) that describes a brotherly love or an affectionate love. Simon’s answer is, “Yes Lord, You know that I have a great affection for You.”

D. JESUS INSTRUCTS PETER CONCERNING HIS FLOCK. Vs. 15, “Feed my lambs,” Vss. 16, 17, “FEED MY SHEEP”

Three things to take note of here.

1. THE FLOCK BELONGS TO THE LORD. “My lambs” and “My sheep.”

This flock known as MBC does not belong to any individual. It does not belong to the pastor. It is the Lord  Jesus Christ’s flock. His blood was the payment made to purchase it. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when talking to the pastors of the church of Ephesus.

(Acts 20:28) “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

The flock belongs to the chief shepherd Jesus Christ. The pastor is His under shepherd who oversees it.

2. LAMBS AND SHEEP NEED FED. Vss. 15, 16.

Who will eat more, a baby or an adult? Of course an adult does. But, our churches can fall into the trap of focusing on feeding the children and forget that adults need fed too. This point is  two sided. As a church we need to provide great spiritual food for everyone, children and adults.

But, there is responsibility for the sheep here. Adult sheep need to put their lambs in the place where they can be fed. But, it doesn’t stop there. Adult sheep need to eat too. Adults should not neglect the opportunities they have to feed on the good bread of life. What happens if we no longer eat physically? We die. Many are dying spiritually because they are not feeding on God’s word. We not only have Bible classes for every age group of children we have four different adult classes to take advantage of. That is not even mentioning the opportunities to grow in the word of God in our TTU classes. It is our desire and goal to have well fed lambs and sheep.

3. THE FLOCK NEEDS FED AND LED.

In our beloved King James Bible we have the word feed in all three occurrences. But in the Greek we have two different words. In verses 15 and 17 the word translated “feed” has the meaning of pasturing the flock. It describes getting the flock to food. Jesus wasn’t telling Simon to start a soup kitchen. He is instructing Peter to feed His flock. What does that mean? Simon was to teach and preach the word of God.

But the word in verse 16 is the word describing being a shepherd speaking of the shepherd’s work to tend to the flock. It speaks of pastoring the flock. After 27 years of ministry I can testify that the feeding of the flock is the easy part. I love teaching and preaching the wonderful truth of the word of God. The hard part of the ministry is pastoring God’s people.

There are the heart wrenching times with dear families at the bed side of their loved ones. Often times not knowing if their loved one will live or die and you are supposed to be a spiritual help to encourage them and you have no words to encourage and take away the pain.
There are the times when the sheep are straying for one reason or another. Times when a sheep may simply grow complacent to the things of God and drift from their walk with the Lord. There are times when a sheep doesn’t like the food you give them and they decide they want another shepherd and pasture. With physical sheep you can fetch them back to the flock but with human sheep they can ignore or reject the shepherd’s efforts to restore. I confess that along the way the human shepherd he can wear down and wear out in that duty.

There are also times when a sheep gets themself into a mucky, filthy mess where the shepherd needs to pull them out and clean them up. Yes, there are times when folks that  profess to be saved find themselves in sin. They have rejected the teaching you have given and choose sin over the Lord. The human shepherd can warn and plead with the sheep but he cannot force anyone to do right.
Do you understand why pastoring (tending) is much harder than pasturing (feeding) God’s flock.

II. THE TWICE REPEATED QUESTION OF SIMON’S LOVE. Vss. 16, 17.

A. THREE TIMES JESUS QUESTIONS SIMON ABOUT HIS LOVE FOR HIM.

The second and third time the question does not include the reference to the others. The Lord is no longer asking Peter to compare his love for Him with his love for others.
How many times did Peter deny the Lord on the night of His arrest? Three times and now Jesus presses him these three times concerning his love for Him. On that fateful night it was on the third time that Peter broke down.

(Matthew 26:75) “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.”

B. THE CHANGE IN JESUS’ THIRD QUESTION. Vs. 17.

The third time Jesus questions Peter He uses Peter’s word for love. “Simon, son of Jonas, do you have a deep affection for me?”

As on the night of his betrayal this third question breaks Simon. It says, “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, do you love me (have a deep affection for me)?”
This word “grieved” is a strong word. It speaks of a sorrowful heart. A heart of distress and heaviness. Peter’s answer is to cast himself on the Lord’s divine knowledge. “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (have a great affection) thee.”

Forgive me, I am not trying to give you a language lesson but every word of the Bible is inspired and there are two different Greek words for “know” used by Jesus. The one used by Peter when he said, “yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee” describes something you are aware of, have knowledge of. But in verse 17 the second word for “know” describes something you have come to know from experience.

Peter’s heart is breaking. He KNOWS how he failed his Master. All he can do is cast himself on the perfect KNOWLEDGE of the Lord. “Lord, you know everything. You know my heart. You know that I am imperfect, You know from our experience together that I love You.

III. THE LORD’S AFFIRMATION OF PETER’S LOVE. Vss. 18, 19.

A. PETER’S LIFE WOULD TESTIFY OF HIS TRUE LOVE FOR THE LORD. Vs. 18.

Peter spent the rest of his life serving Jesus Christ his Maser. In his youth before he was saved, Peter lived for himself, as we all do. But, when Jesus saved him everything changed. He chose to live the rest of his days for Christ.

B. PETER’S DEATH WOULD TESTIFY OF HIS TRUE LOVE FOR THE LORD. Vss. 18b, 19.

Tradition tells us that the day would come when Peter would be arrested and taken outside the city of Rome and crucified. But, at Peter’s request he was crucified upside down so as  to not take anything away from His Master’s sacrifice.

CONCLUSION. The Lord’s next words in the conversation were, “Follow Me.” Peter obeyed those words with every fibre of his being. He was a “follower of Jesus” to the end.
What about us? Will we be followers of Jesus?

The chorus of the old hymn, “He Leadeth Me” goes:
He leadeth me! He leadeth me!

By His own hand He leadeth me;

His faithful follower I would be,

For by His hand He leadeth me.

There is no question that Jesus will lead us as we seek to faithfully follow Him. Will we be those faithful followers?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Want more life saving content? Join our FREE email list now for exclusive content just for YOU!