The Gospel of John, The Epilogue Part V, John 21:16-19 - Lesson 207
Read Verses 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.
John 21:16, 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.
The first time Jesus had asked Peter if he loved him more than the other disciples loved him.
In this verse he does not ask for a comparison of love but simply asks Peter if he loves him.
He again uses the word for love that expresses godly love.
The love from the will that comes from one who only has the welfare of the one loved at heart.
It is the deep sacrificing love that has its source in God.
Again Peter answers with the same word for love as he had in the first reply.
Yea Lord you know that I have a deep affection for you.
Peter was being honest.
Peter was a changed man after his denials of Christ and his witness of a risen Christ.
Feed my sheep, the Lord replied.
He does not use the word lamb but uses the word sheep indicating that Peter is to shepherd the full range of believers be they babes in Christ or mature believers.
And this time the Lord used a different word for feed then he did when he said feed my lambs.
The first "feed" expressed the idea of providing the flock with food but this "feed" means to tend or to shepherd the flock.
Guide and guard my sheep.
Peter was to govern, rule and discipline the people given to him to shepherd.
He was to feed and he was to lead but he was to remember that they were not his sheep, but they were the Lord's sheep.
Paul captured the meaning of the two words for feed when he wrote to Timothy in:
2 Tim 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season. reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
Instant means to be at hand.
Be there at all times like a shepherd is there at all times to see that the flock is nourished.
And feeding includes the guiding, guarding, governing, ruling and discipline of the flock.
This is the feeding of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with all longsuffering and doctrine.
John 21:17, 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.
Upon asking this question the third time Jesus Christ chooses to use the word for love that Peter has been using.
He asked Simon, son of Jonas, "Do you have affection for me?
He asks with that word which Peter feels will alone express all that is in his heart.
This is as high a love that Peter is able to express.
Three times Peter had denied his Lord, three times the Lord challenges Peter to search his heart as to his love for Christ.
The first challenge concerned the superiority of Peter's love.
Hadn't Peter said: Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended?
The second challenge concerned whether Peter had any love at all.
Peter said he had affection for the Lord choosing not to use the word the Lord used for love.
The third challenge concerned whether Peter had any affection for the Lord.
Peter knew that in light of his denials it was right for the Lord to question his love.
Not that the Lord did not know Peter's heart.
But the Lord asked these questions in order to shed light on Peter's heart.
The word of God is like that! It is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword.... a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
That is what Christ was doing for Peter.
His word was designed to make Peter face his own limitations and to confess in truth rather than in his natural boasting way.
This third question of his love grieved Peter.
Perhaps it pricked his heart as he remembered the three times he denied his Lord.
But the lesson for us is that the Lord is careful to give us that which we need, even pain and grief, to point out our weak love for him.
God gives pain and grieving of chastening so that we may seek his cleansing and healing.
Is not this what we do to our own children if we love them?
Isn't the chastening of our children designed to bring cleansing and healing and then service.
This is what this conversation is about.
The Lord wounds so that he may heal.
This is what the Father's will was for Jesus Christ when Jesus was wounded for our transgressions.
When he was bruised for our iniquities and with what are we healed?
We are healed with His stripes.
The chastisement of God is designed to bring healing and so it was with Peter.
So Peter is humbled.
He does not any longer boast about his superior love.
He no longer can even say that he loves Jesus Christ with godly love.
Even his knowledge of his affection for the Lord is on shaky ground as he appeals to Christ's omniscience.
Lord, thou knowest all things.
You are the only one who knows the extent of my love for you.
If men judged me I will be condemned for my denial of you.
But you and you only can know my heart.
So Peter appeals to Christ. You measure my love!
Man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart.
And that works both ways.
We know that seeing a good outward does not necessarily mean that that outward comes from a cleansed heart
And likewise an evil outward doesn't necessarily come from a evil heart.
So here Peter appeals to Christ's all knowing to look not on the outward appearance of his three denials but look on his heart.
Peter knew that the Lord knew the depths as well as the surfaces of things.
He yielded to the Lord's judgment.
The strong man is now the weak man who is fit to strengthen his brethren
So Jesus directs a prepared Peter to feed his sheep!
He is now restored to a position of apostleship, capable of instructing others in the faith.
Jesus Christ could not have given Peter more proof of his confidence than by committing to his care those for whom he shed his precious blood.
Without this conversation and the Lord's careful leading of this fallen disciple Peter would have been useless to the Lord's service.
His denials were public and the Lord restored him publicly in the presence of six disciples.
No doubt this difficult but wonderful experience of Peter was recalled in his later years when he wrote in:
1 Pet 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
And only by this humbling can a man be used of God to feed the sheep of God.
And only by this humbling and recognition that God only knows the extent of Peter's love for him, could Peter be restored to his position of Apostle.
He now has the liberty and the authority and the calling to serve Christ.
And because of this no man is to despise him because of his denials.
That whom God forgives and restores, no man should condemn!
John 21:18,19, 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. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
Peter had boasted that he would go to prison with the Lord and die with him.
Peter had said this in the flesh and had failed the Lord in this.
Notice that Peter had said these things in his full physical strength of youth but this strength of the flesh had failed him.
In this passage we see that Jesus Christ will give him the opportunity to die for him for Jesus Christ tells Peter what will happen to him when he is old.
Peter had just confessed that Jesus Christ knew all things.
Jesus Christ takes this time to show Peter that he even knows the time and the manner of Peter's departure from this life.
At this time Peter was in the prime of his life.
As such he went where he chose, he girded himself as he had done on the little ship as he chose.
But the Lord said that Peter will live until he is old but when he is old he will not be at liberty.
Jesus told Peter that his hands would be stretched forth, he would be bound as a prisoner with ropes, he would be carried where he chose not.
He was telling Peter that his death would be caused by crucifixion.
Peter wrote of this in his old age when he wrote in:
2 Pet 1:14, Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.
It is interesting to note that Peter was able to stand for the Lord in his old age, weak and only depending upon the Lord, but when he was young he failed him because he depended upon his own strength.
And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
To follow Christ means to deny self and take up the cross.
It means to be conformed to his death.
It means to follow him on the path of suffering
It means to put your wants and desires away and put God's will in their place.
And in the case of Peter it meant to follow the Lord to his own cross.
Peter was probably in his middle years and old age was years ahead but he now knew that following Christ would lead him to a martyr's death.
Jesus knows this but it does not alter the command to Peter to follow him.
Peter had affection for Christ but Christ wants Peter to love him.
So he commands him to follow him for those who truly follow Christ will truly love him.