John 21:12-25

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 27, 1997


After Jesus had appeared a couple of times to His disciples in Jerusalem, He met them again up north in Galilee.

He had told them to be fishers of men, but they had just gone fishing.

They fished all night but they caught no fishes.

He appeared to them early in that morning, and when He told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat, they caught 153 large fish.

Jesus had breakfast ready for them by the time they made it to the beach.

21:12-14 Breakfast is served

:12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.

Or, better yet, "Come and have breakfast".

Jesus is setting an example for the disciples, He's feeding them.

21:15-19 Peter's Restoration

:15 Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?

Jesus is saying, "Simon, do you love me more than these other disciples love me?"

Back a few weeks ago, on the night that Jesus was betrayed, Peter had had this discussion with Jesus:

Mat 26:31-35 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. {32} But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. {33} Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. {34} Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. {35} Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter kind of had a chip on his shoulder, thinking that he was better than the other disciples.

But he ended up denying Jesus publicly, just like Jesus said.

Even here in John 21, Peter had to be the first one to get to the Master.

He didn't even wait until the boat got to shore like the other disciples, but dove in and swam to Jesus.

:15 He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee

Yea - nai - this word carries the idea of a strong, emphatic, absolute "YES!"

Note what's missing:

Peter doesn't use the "more than these".

He's not going to try and put himself up on a pedestal, he knows now how easily he can fall.


Learn humility. Know your limits.

Peter had to learn that he was capable of falling.

He's not trying to put himself above anybody else any more.

It was Peter himself who would write:

1Pe 5:5-6 … Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

I love thee -

Peter uses a different word than Jesus did.

Peter uses phileo - In the King James, it's translated "love" 22 times, and "kiss" 3 times. It means to love; to like; to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, to kiss

It comes from philos, the word meaning "friend", and even sometimes means "best friend", as the "best man" of a wedding.

On the other hand, the word Jesus used was agapao (the verb form of agape).

It's a love based on a choice, not an emotion.

Agapao is loving a person because you choose, in your own will, to place value upon them.

Phileo is loving a person because you feel affection towards them.

Agapao is the word usually used to describe God's love for us, the love we are to have towards one another, and how we are to love even our enemies.

I think we have to be careful that we don't make phileo out to be a bad kind of love.

God has phileo for Jesus:

Joh 5:20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

God has phileo for us, because we have phileo for Jesus.

Joh 16:27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

We talk about agape being the best kind of love, but the way we talk about it, it can kind of come across as cold, lifeless, and uncaring.

We can say, "Well, I don't really like you, but I do choose to value you because I'm supposed to".

I think that if my wife said that to me, I might be kind of hurt a little.

In reality, in our humanness, we want to be warmly and affectionately loved!

Maybe Peter was saying something like this, "Yes Lord, I really love You, maybe not yet with perfect agape love, but I do really affectionately love You."

:15 He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

Lambs - arnion - not just a "lamb", but a "little lamb" (a diminutive form)

We might translate this as "feed my little lambs"

The "little lambs" might refer to new believers, but it could be that Jesus is talking about all His followers, in a tender, kind manner.


Feed the flock.

I think this is one of the primary goals of what ministry ought to be all about.

In the early church, there was a point where the apostles almost got off track, as they were trying to be servants to a growing church.

An issue came up where certain people in the church felt they weren't getting enough attention from the apostles.

So the apostles appointed seven men to be "servants" or "deacons", to take care of the things they couldn't get to.

They needed to keep their priorities straight, they said,

Ac 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

We have a lot of good things going on in our church. But I'm learning that I have to keep my priorities straight and focus myself on feeding the flock by teaching the Word.

That's not to say that we still can't have all the other ministries, but that I'm just not going to be able to be everywhere at once.

:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?

Jesus now repeats the same exact question to Peter, using the same words.

"Peter, do you choose to value me?"

Note what's missing:

Now Jesus drops the "more than these".

It seems that Jesus is kind of lowering His question down to Peter's level.

:16 He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.

Peter responds with the same language as before, "YES Lord, You know that I affectionately love You!"

:16 He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Here Jesus' response is just a little different, using a different Greek word for "feed".

We probably should translate this "shepherd my sheep".


Shepherd your flock.

What does a "shepherd" do? (listen up parents!)

1. Guidance.

The shepherds in the Middle East don't "drive" their flocks to pasture, they lead them.

They call out to the sheep, and the sheep follow them.

This is what the Lord does, leading us:

Psa 23:1-2 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Peter wrote later to the elders,

1Pet. 5:2-3 (NAS) shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

This is kind of important, because we often think that "giving guidance" means to tell people what to do.

A good shepherd gives guidance mostly by leading the way, by setting the example.

If you're in the place of giving advice to others, the best advice you can give is "follow my example".

2. Protection.

This was part of Paul's last instruction to the elders at Ephesus before he left.

He warned them:

Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

He was warning them to protect the flock against those who would want to come in and harm them.

There are times when we need to warn others about the wolves, and maybe from time to time even chase off a wolf or two.

3. Healing.

A good shepherd will watch out for the health of the flock and take care of the sick and wounded sheep.

A bad shepherd doesn't heal the sick sheep.

Eze 34:4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

Part of being a good shepherd is realizing you're going to have sick or wounded sheep every once in a while.

A shepherd who drives off every sheep that gets sick or wounded will soon not have a flock around to tend.

The church is not to be a "museum for saints" as much as a "hospital for sinners".

:17 the third time

Why does Jesus keep coming at this "love" issue so many times? Why three times?

Peter had denied Jesus and sinned publicly, and now Jesus allows him to publicly be restored.


Jesus restores sinners.

You may have felt like you have totally blown your witness as a Christian.

But God isn't finished with you yet, He wants you back!

Jesus will come back to you over and over again, getting you to search your heart and see that you indeed to love Him, and that He loves you.

:17 Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?

Jesus' language changes again.

Now, instead of using agapao, Jesus changes His words to use Peter's choice of words, and uses phileo.

It's kind of like Jesus is saying, "So Peter, you're trying to say that you're not sure you have the noble agapao for me, but you do have this kind, warm, affectionate love for me, huh?"


The motive for ministry is love for Jesus.

You may have noticed that this whole passage is about Jesus putting Peter back into ministry.

It's also about Peter telling Jesus that he loves Him.

The people that Jesus tells to "Feed My sheep" to, are people who are in love with Jesus.

Paul wrote,

1Co 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

If you are in a ministry, and don't have a sincere love for the Lord, you're in the wrong place.

On the other hand, if you do have a love for Jesus, and even though you blow it at times, Jesus wants you to serve Him, and take care of His sheep.

:17 Peter was grieved …

Grieved - lupeo- to make sorrowful; to make one uneasy

Perhaps Peter isn't so sure he likes the fact that Jesus has changed words lowering them to adapt to his idea of "love".

:17 Lord, thou knowest all things …thou knowest that I love thee

Before Peter has said, "Lord you know that I love you", now Peter says, "Lord you know all things!"

Peter uses a different Greek word for the second "know"

Peter is saying, "Lord, You know all things, and really know from experience that I have this affectionate love for You."

:17 Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Jesus uses the word He used in verse 15, to "feed" the sheep.


Get back to ministry.

Notice that Jesus didn't say, "Strike Three, you're OUT!"

Some of you can identify with Peter, because you felt like you've denied the Lord.

Often people who feel like they've let the Lord down, will lower their heads and just try to slink away.

Jesus comes back to send you into ministry, at whatever level you love Him.

21:18-25 But what about him?

:19 … signifying by what death he should glorify God.

Jesus was telling Peter how he would die one day.

Church history tells us that sometime during Nero's reign as emperor of Rome, Peter was arrested and sentenced to death.

:19 And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Peter would indeed follow Jesus, even to a cross.

Church history has it that Peter had been visiting in Rome when he heard that there was a warrant out for his arrest. The believers in the church persuaded Peter to leave the city and flee. Tradition has it that Jesus met Peter outside the city and said "Quo Vadis?", which is Latin for "Where are you going?". Peter turned around and went back into the city, and was arrested. When he was crucified, Peter did not feel himself worthy of being crucified in the same way that his Master was, and was asked to be crucified upside down.

:20 seeth the disciple …

Peter turns around and looks at John.

:21 Lord, and what shall this man do?

Misery loves company. Will John get it bad too?

:22 follow thou me.


Don't worry about the other guy, just follow Jesus.

We get into so much trouble when we focus too much on what other people are doing.


Willie Mays was one of the greatest athletes baseball has ever produced. But he wasn't always like that. He idolized Joe DiMaggio. He watched how DiMaggio stood, how he walked, how he swung the bat, how he ran; he tried his best to be another DiMaggio. Finally, some wise coach said to him, "Willie, you have great ability. Don't be like anybody else. Be yourself." And he became Willie Mays. If you were to name the greatest baseball players in the history of baseball, no list would be complete without the name of this man who became himself.

A lot of us pastors look up to Pastor Chuck, and want to do everything like Chuck does.

That's not all that bad, but there comes a time when you have to take your eyes off of the other guy, and follow Jesus.

You can't go through life trying to be a 10th rate Chuck Smith.

You have to be a 1st rate you.

Heb 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

:23 Then went this saying abroad

John is telling us that there was a rumor started from that day, that John would never die.

Actually, if you think about it, this is kind of fulfilled with the book of Revelation, with John being zoomed up to the day of Jesus' return, in the spirit.

But Jesus wasn't saying that John would never die, only that it wasn't Peter's business what Jesus would do for John.

:24 This is the disciple which testifieth

John's saying, "That was me Jesus talked about"

:25 And there are also many other things

As we've said before, John never claimed to write an exhaustive account of Jesus' ministry.

He wrote very selectively, only for the purpose of causing us to believe in Jesus, and have eternal life.