The Gospel of John, The Epilogue Part IV, John 21:15 - Lesson 206
Before we enter this passage of John 21 we must remember the context of the text.
What has come before in the life of Peter?
Why is the Lord dealing with Peter at this breakfast of bread and fish?
What is happening here and why is it happening?
In short Peter has fallen and the Lord is here to lift him up.
Peter is in need of restoration and the Lord is in the restoration business.
Remember what the Lord said that Luke recorded in:
Luke 22:31,33 ... Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Simon Peter boasted as recorded in the 33rd verse:... I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
The Lord did not pray that Peter not fall, only that his faith not fail him.
The Lord knew that the fall was necessary to reveal to Peter the condition of his heart.
He needed the fall to show him the worthlessness of self confidence.
He needed the fall to humble his proud spirit.
Immediately after the Lord tells him that Satan desires to sift him, Peter verifies his proud spirit when he says without any foundation: I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
Peter was the kind that thought he standeth, the kind the Paul admonishes in 1 Cor 10:12 to take heed lest he fall
His life contained all the ingredients for a fall.
And apparently the fall is necessary to the remedy.
Again without Christ ye can do nothing Peter.
Without Christ you are not ready to go with him, both to prison and to death.
Peter was quick to boast in the flesh where no good thing dwells.
Peter showed that same spirit when Jesus desired to wash his feet.
Wasn't Jesus teaching restoration in the washing of the disciples feet?
But Peter questioned this as something greatly below his Master.
His own status would suffer by following a great teacher who stooped to a slaves duties of washing feet.
He was astounded!
Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
Peter reacts in the extreme with: Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
Jesus had told his disciples before he washed their feet that: What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
This event recorded in John 21 is the hereafter event as far as Peter is concerned.
His feet needed washing and the the Lord was about to apply the washing of the word to Peter.
Peter was about to be restored in full fellowship with Jesus Christ and to his position of prominence among the disciples.
Jesus Christ had gathered Peter and the other disciples around a fire of coals, where they warmed themselves as Peter had warmed himself so recently with the enemies of Christ.
Perhaps Peter recalled the crowing of the cock that Jesus had said would crow upon Peter's third denial.
I am not one of this man's disciples he had said twice.
I was not in the garden with him.
Oh, how Peter's conscience pricked him at this time as he eat this breakfast prepared by the Master.
How could he possibly be restored?
To him this was impossible but to God all things are possible.
And Jesus Christ intended to the do the impossible on the shore of the Galilee.
John 21:15, 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.
The meal was over and the Lord now gives his attention to his disciple Peter.
A meal in itself is meant to express close fellowship.
Not a word of rebuke had come from Jesus Christ to his disciples.
So he turned to Peter and said: Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?
Jesus Christ addresses Peter in his original name.
Jesus does not use the name Peter that he himself had given him.
Peter means stone.
It is what Christ intended for Peter to be, yet here he calls him Simon, son of Jonas.
Perhaps this was a reminder that Peter had been true to his natural rather than his apostolic name.
Jesus was pressing Peter to a knowledge of his true weakness.
Hadn't Peter boasted to the Lord of his superior loyalty as Matthew recorded in:
Mat 26:33,... Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Peter was sure of his stand for the Lord.
He thought he would stand under all circumstances.
He had not learned to take heed of confidence in the flesh which brings a fall.
So Jesus, in the spirit of meekness, now asks, Simon, Do you love me more than these disciples love me?
Jesus used the word for love which describes godly love.
Love that is not dependant upon the one loved but is only dependant upon the one loving.
It is how God loves!
Paraphrased it would be, Dost thou in the full determination of the will, in profound reverence and devotion, love me?
We know how the old Simon Peter would have responded.
He would have jumped at the chance to say that he loved Christ more than any of the other disciples.
Hadn't he boasted "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended."
How would this Peter respond?
If it was the self confident Simon Peter before the cross he would have no trouble responding with a resounding 'yes Lord I love thee with the same meaning of love that you asked.'
But this was not the same Simon Peter.
This was a humbled disciple.
A considering disciple.
A disciple who now recognized his heart to be a heart that is deceitful and wicked.
Hadn't he proved that by his triple denial?
He is careful to measure his response.
He is careful to be accurate.
He knows where his boasting led him.
Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.
The word love that Peter uses is not the word love that the Lord used.
He did not dare to use the same word the Lord used which expressed the highest affection.
Peter's love expresses personal, emotional love and friendship.
It is dependant upon the one being loved as lovely.
Its use implies Peter's consciousness of his own weakness and his inability to love as Christ loves.
It is love that is based upon what Christ is not what Peter is.
A man named Alford wrote what he thought Peter meant:
"Thou knowest me; I dare not now declare this fixed determination of the will, but in the fulness of personal affection I dare answer, and Thou knowest that even in my denials, it was true, I love thee."
And Peter no longer boasted that his love exceeded the love of others as he did the night before the crucifixtion.
Peter had been greatly tempted.
Peter had come to a knowledge of his weakness and sinfulness.
He said to the Lord, thou knowest.
I cannot hide my true self from you.
Thou knowest the measure of my love.
Jesus Christ was satisfied with Peter's reply and knew that Peter was now ready to become a pastor to the his lambs.
Therefore Jesus: ..saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
The word is lambkin, little lambs!
The lambs in the first of Christ's three feeding commands are the little lambs.
These are those newly won to the Shepherd.
These are believers who are young in the faith and lack in spiritual experience.
These are those that need the shepherding of caring, feeding and defending.
They could be children, they could be adults.
Jesus said my lambs. He does not say Peter's lambs or John's lambs.
Peter nor any Pastor that serves the Shepherd, is to think of the lambs as his lambs.
They are Jesus Christ's lambs.
Augustine said: They who feed Christ's sheep as if they were their own, not Christ's, show plainly that they love themselves, not Christ; that they are moved by lust of glory, power, gain, not by the love of obeying, ministering, and pleasing God.
Feed my lambs Peter.
This means keep feeding my lambs.
In feeding my lambs you must yourself be fed.
You have been greatly tempted, you now have an understanding of your own weakness and frail condition.
You see my compassion that I show upon you in your weak and frail condition.
You know the weakness and frail condition of little lambs and you are ready to pastor them for me.