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Gospel of John - Chapter 21 - Lesson 4

Posted on August 15, 2016 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Peter Restored by Jesus


There are two different Greek words for love in this conversation between Jesus and Peter. It is important to note this. We will point out which word is being used in each instance as we go through these verses. Following are the New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible definitions with their Strong’s numbers.


25 – agapaŏ – to love (in a social or moral sense) (be-) love (-ed) related to 26 – agape – affection or benevolence – a love-feast – charity, dear, love.

5368 – philĕō – to be a friend to (fond of), have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling: while 25 is wider embracing espec. The judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety; the two thus stand related; the former (25) being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head; spec. to kiss (as a mark of tenderness) – kiss, love.


John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love25 me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love5368 you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”


Why did Jesus single out Peter? Peter was the one in need of restoration. Jesus had already forgiven Peter, but Peter had not forgiven himself and needed reassurance that Jesus had forgiven him. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than the others. He used the term for moral, willing, choice to love regardless of feelings. How did Peter answer Him? Peter answered that he felt brotherly love and affection for the Lord as Jesus already knew. I believe this kind of love was all Peter or anyone else was able to have without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What did Jesus mean when He told Peter to feed His lambs? Did He own a flock of sheep? Jesus was letting Peter know that he did have the authority to carry the Gospel message as a witness, and He was counting on him to do so by the power of God by the Holy Spirit working in and through him to do His will thus feeding the “sheep” the followers of Jesus.

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Specifically, what would feeding Jesus’ lambs, those who already trusted Him, consist of? Jesus was telling Peter to make disciples, teaching them everything Jesus had commanded. He gave these same intructions to all the disciples as well:


Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


We feed the lambs when we teach them God’s word and teach them to internalize it in order to live it out (obey it) as a testimony to other people.



John 21:16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love25 me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love5368 you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”


I believe that Jesus knew that Peter would eventually be able to truly say he had the self-sacrificing, deliberate choice type of love for Jesus. He posed the same question again. Peter again answered honestly that he had brotherly love for Jesus. This time Jesus commanded Peter to “tend” his sheep. Is there a difference between feeding and tending the sheep? Anyone can carry dinner to the sheep. Tending has more of a connotation to nurture and preserve. Tending the sheep involves inspecting for injuries, watching out for infestations, protecting from dangerous predators, caring for every aspect of the lamb. The shepherd puts his life in harm’s way on behalf of the sheep. David fought off lions and bears who preyed on his father’s sheep. Brothers have the capacity to feed, but only shepherds have the capacity to lead. So Jesus was telling Peter to shepherd the believers, the early church. He did so in his teaching at Pentecost, his leadership of the early church, and later in his letters warning of false teachers (predators) and admonishing the church to stay true to the things Jesus taught even amid persecution.



John 21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love5368 me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love5368 me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love5368 you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”


Why did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Him three times? Jesus knew that Peter was still beating himself up every day because he had denied knowing the Lord three times to complete strangers on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested. At the time Jesus needed his friends the most, Peter denied ever knowing Him. Is it significant that Jesus changed from agapaŏ to philĕō when He asked the third time whether Peter loved Him? Perhaps Jesus was acknowledging that Peter was not yet fully capable of god-like love and was being respectful of Peter’s honest response that he had brotherly affection. He knew that after the Holy Spirit filled Peter at Pentecost, he would be infused with agapaŏ. Why was Peter grieved that Jesus asked him if he loved (philĕō;) Him the third time? I think maybe Peter was grieved because he knew that he could not love Jesus with agapaŏ love yet, and he wanted to. Peter acknowledged that Jesus knew everything and already knew he loved him as a brother. Jesus again instructed Peter to feed the sheep. Is there a significance to the fact that He did this three times? Peter had denied Jesus three times, humiliating himself; and, therefore, Jesus entrusted His followers to Peter three times to show him that he was completely restored to his position of leadership within the band of apostles.


John 21:18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”


Jesus then foretold that Peter would be crucified – the stretching out of his hands and being led where he would not want to go. History reports that Peter was indeed crucified for following Jesus, and tradition says he chose to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to die exactly as Jesus had. After the hardest words that Jesus had spoken about Peter to Peter, Jesus hits him with, “Follow me.” This was the seal of the restoration process of Peter. Peter must choose to follow Jesus even after he had been told how he would leave this world in an excruciating death. Jesus had said if anyone wanted to be His disciple, he would need to take up his cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). He now called Peter to literally do just that.


Q – Peter had done exactly as Jesus had predicted and denied Him three times before the rooster crowed. However, Jesus restored Peter to a place of leadership three times as well. Have you fallen so badly you think the Lord can no longer use you? I know I (Susie) felt that way after my husband left and I became a divorced person. The Lord used the stories of David still being used mightily after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered and the fact that Peter was restored after his denials even becoming a significant influence in the early church to encourage me that I could still serve in His kingdom. It was a process, but I eventually taught in a Christian school, taught adult Sunday School, and am now serving with Precious Jewels Ministries. Whatever wrong path you have traveled Jesus is able to restore you and enable you to walk in His light. Pray for His forgiveness and turn your life over to His complete control afresh. Then hang on to your hat as He places you exactly where He wants you to serve!