"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'" (John 21:15)
Yesterday we saw where Jesus appeared to the disciples as they were fishing. He invited them to have breakfast with him on the lakeshore. *The Sea of Tiberias (or Galilee) is actually a lake. (freshwater) Can you just imagine the aroma of the fire with fish cooking upon it? One of my fondest memories is that of being on the lake early in the morning and smelling breakfast cooking within the campsites.
In our text this morning Jesus has a dialogue with Peter. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Of course, Peter answers each time with a "Yes, you know I do." The three times in which Jesus asks Peter this question parallels Peter's three-fold denial of Jesus. The wording is also interesting. The first and second time Jesus asks Peter if he loves him Jesus uses the word agapon, which is the same word used in John 3:16 for love. The third time Jesus uses the word philein, which is often used to indicate a lesser type of love.
We are told that "Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me.'" (John 21:17b) I'm sure that Peter immediately recalled the moment he denied Jesus the third time and the rooster crowed. Of course, Jesus gives Peter commands after each affirmation of Peter's love. Jesus instructed him to "Feed my lambs" and "Feed my sheep." There are all kinds of understandings as to what this means, but it undoubtedly refers to Peter's leadership in the early church.
It is almost as though this entire passage found in the twenty-first chapter of John is all about Peter. Did Jesus appear at the lake just for Peter? Well, I would argue, "Yes." Think about it. The first act that had to happen before the church could exist was forgiveness. Peter had to know the Lord's forgiveness.
Leave it to Peter, however, to open his mouth one too many times. Jesus warned Peter that eventually he would be killed. (John 21:18-19) Jesus said "when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus was not telling Peter that he would be placed in a nursing home. It is said that Peter would be crucified during the reign of Nero. Peter requested to be crucified upside down. But, then true to form Peter spoke. "Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, 'Lord, what about him?'"(John 21:20a,21b) This scene brings to mind two siblings fighting over equal treatment. "If I have to clean the kitchen, then what does (name) have to do?" "Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" (John 21:22) Tradition has it that John (often believed to be the disciple whom Jesus loved) lived to an old age. In fact, he was the only one of the original twelve who did not suffer a violent death.
John's gospel comes to an end with the conclusion: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25) The conclusion reminds us of how John's gospel began. John began by stating that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) So, how in the world can one contain the works of God to just one book? Hmm...I leave with that thought for today.
Tomorrow we will begin the Book of Acts. You will not want to miss our work on this magnificent book. In this study we will begin our look at the person and work of the Apostle Paul. This will be our most in-depth work yet. God Bless!