John 21:15-25

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 26, 2011


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

Israel trip – just two weeks left to get in your deposits.  Play Promo Clip.

We have looked at the life, works, and death of Jesus Christ.

Luke records that when Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared many times to the disciples over a period of 40 days before ascending into heaven.

He appeared to them first in Jerusalem, and then even up north in Galilee.

John records one of these meetings in Galilee (Play “Jesus in Galilee” clip)

John recorded an event where the disciples had decided to go fishing, but after an entire night of casting their nets, they had caught nothing.  When a man appeared on shore early in the morning and told them to cast their nets on the other side of their boat, they caught what was probably the biggest catch of their careers.  They even took time to count and record that they had caught 153 large fish.

It was Jesus on that beach.  By the time the disciples made it to shore, Jesus had breakfast ready for them.

21:15-23 Jesus and Peter

:15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

:15 do you love Meagapao – to love, love based on making a choice to value a person, not based on the emotions but upon the will.

We often see this as the kind of love that God has for us, the kind of love we ought to have for God, and the love we ought to have for one another.

to feel and exhibit esteem and goodwill to a person, to prize and delight in a thing.

Syn: φιλεω 5368, From its supposed etymology αγαπαω is commonly understood properly to denote love based on esteem (diligo), as distinct from that expressed by φιλεω (amo), spontaneous natural affection, emotional and unreasoning. If this distinction holds, αγαπαω is fitly used in NT of Christians love to God and man, the spiritual affection which follows the direction of the will, and which, therefore, unlike that feeling which is instinctively and unreasoning, can be commended as a duty.

:15 more than thesepleion – greater in quantity; greater in quality

What is Jesus asking Peter?  What does Peter love Jesus more than?

More than these men?
Did Peter love Jesus more than Peter loved the other disciples?  This was probably never really a question in any of the disciples’ lives.
More than the fish?  More than the boats?  More than his career?
This is probably one of the biggest catches they had ever hauled in.  They took time to count the number of fish caught.
Even though Jesus had called Peter to fish for men, we saw that for the moment he had gone back to fishing for fish.
More than the other disciples?
(Robertson, BKC, Wiersbe, McGee)
Did Peter love Jesus more than the other disciples loved Jesus?  This seems to be the best interpretation.
I think the best idea is that Jesus is wondering if Peter thinks that Peter loves Jesus more than the other disciples love Jesus.
The gospel of Mark is often seen as Peter’s gospel, Peter’s recollections told to his nephew Mark.  Mark tells us how Peter responded when Jesus warned the disciples that they would all stumble on the night He was arrested:

(Mk 14:29–31 NKJV) —29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” 31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all said likewise.

Peter had made the point that he felt he was different than the other disciples.  The others might deny Jesus, but Peter surely wouldn’t.

Yet Jesus had warned Peter that he would deny Jesus.

In John 21, unlike the other disciples, Peter didn’t wait for the boat to come ashore here at the beach.  He had jumped in and swam to Jesus immediately.

:15 You knoweido – to see; to know

Peter defers to the Lord.  The Lord knows.  You will see that each time Jesus asks Peter a question, Peter makes it clear that the Lord knows what the answer is.

Note that Peter does NOT repeat Jesus’ phrase “more than these”.

Peter has learned his lesson about bragging about his faithfulness to Jesus.

:15 I love youphileo – to love; to approve of; to like; to treat affectionately, befriend

Peter uses a different word for “love” than the one that Jesus used.

Peter uses phileo - It comes from philos, the word meaning “friend”, sometimes even “best friend”.  It is sometimes translated “kiss”.  It’s an emotional word.
On the other hand, the word Jesus used was agapao (the verb form of agape), loved based on choice, not emotion.
Agapao is loving a person because you choose, in your own will, to place value upon 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.

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

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:
(Jn 5:20 NKJV) —20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.)
For example, God has phileo for us, because we have phileo for Jesus.
(Jn 16:27 NKJV) for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

We talk about agape being the best kind of love, but sometimes 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”.
Gentlemen, I think this is one of those things you don’t say to your wife.
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 have a great affection for You.”

:15 Feedbosko – to tend a flock, graze

A shepherd doesn’t spoon feed his flock, but he leads them to where they can graze.

(Ps 23:2 NKJV) He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

:15 lambsarnion – a little lamb (diminutive of arnos, lamb) (like new believers)

J.Vernon McGee: Many Christians seem to think He said, “Be criticizing My little lambs.” But He has not given you that commission, friend. He says feed them.

:16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

:16 do you love Meagapao – the choice to value a person

Note that Jesus doesn’t add the “more than these” line this time.

:15 You knoweido – to see; to know

Again Peter defers to the Lord.  The Lord knows.

:16 I love youphileo – the affectionate kind of love

Peter sticks to the same words he used before.

:16 Tendpoimaino – to feed, to tend a flock, to be a shepherd

keep sheep; from poimen – a herdsman, esp. a shepherd

This is a broader word.  It not only includes the feeding of the flock, but the protection, guidance, and discipline of the flock as well.

:16 sheepprobaton – a sheep, grown sheep


A shepherd’s work

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:

(Ps 23:1–2 NKJV) —1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

Peter wrote later to the elders,

(1 Pe 5:2–3 NKJV) —2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being 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’s guidance starts when he leads the way, 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:

(Ac 20:29 NKJV) For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come 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.

(Ps 23:4 NKJV) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The shepherd protected his flock by his presence, as well as his rod and staff.

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 NKJV) —4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.

Part of a good shepherd’s doctoring involved putting oil on an open wound.

(Ps 23:5b NKJV) …You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

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 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

:17 do you love Mephileo – the affectionate kind of love

For the third question, Jesus switches to use the word that Peter has been using.

:17 was grievedlupeo – to make sorrowful; to affect with sadness

Why was Peter grieved?

Was Peter grieved because Jesus is asking him three times about his love for Jesus?

Was Peter grieved because Jesus switched words and used the word that Peter had been using?

I’d say “yes” to both of these questions.

There is an issue with the words that Jesus uses.

You see a definite progression in the questions that Jesus asks Peter.  It’s almost as if with each question Jesus is asking less and less of Peter.
1.  Do you have agape for me more than these other disciples?
2.  Do you have agape for me?
3.  Do you have phileo for me?

There is an issue with the fact that Jesus asks three times about his love for Jesus.

It’s not hard to make a connection between Jesus asking Peter three times about his love for Him, and the event that happened while Jesus was on trial:
(Lk 22:56–62 NKJV) —56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” 57 But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” 58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

I would imagine that Peter was never more discouraged about his own personal weakness and failure than that moment.

Three times Peter had denied Jesus. And now Jesus questions Peter three times about his love for Him.

Some look at the use of two different Greek words and brush it off, saying that both words are good words, and both words are used to describe godly love.

Both words are used for God’s love for man (John 3:16; 16:27)
(Jn 3:16 NKJV) —16 For God so loved (agape) the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
(Jn 16:27 NKJV) —27 for the Father Himself loves (phileo) you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
Both words are used for the Father’s love for the Son (John 3:35; 5:20)
(Jn 3:35 NKJV) —35 The Father loves (agape) the Son, and has given all things into His hand.;
(Jn 5:20 NKJV) —20 For the Father loves (phileo) the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.
I would suggest that the point is not that the two words are interchangeable, but that both are good things, though different.
In Augustine’s commentary (AD 325) on John, he points out that the Latin translation uses two different words (diligis, amas), though his point is to say that “love” and “liking” are the same thing.

J.Vernon McGee points out that there is a progression in what Jesus is asking Peter:

1.  Do you love Me more than these?  (Peter:  Yes Lord, You know I like You)
2.  Do you love Me? (Peter:  Yes Lord, You know I like You)
3.  Do you like Me? (Peter:  Yes Lord, You know all things, You REALLY know I like You)

:17 You know (all things)eido – to see; to know

Again Peter defers to the Lord.  The Lord knows.

:17 You know thatginosko – knowledge grounded on personal experience

Jesus’ knowledge of Peter’s love isn’t just based on mental perception, but on personal experience.  You know I love you

In contrast, eido speaks of a purely mental perception, seeing with the mind’s eye.

It’s as if you could read it with Peter putting a stronger emphasis on this second “You know”.

:17 I love youphileo – the affectionate kind of love

Peter doesn’t change words but stays with the same word.

:17 Feedbosko – to feed

:17 sheepprobaton – a sheep, grown sheep

:17 the third time



Peter had publicly denied Jesus three times.  Now he gets to affirm his love three times.
Peter had publicly denied Jesus three times while standing around a fire.
Now Peter publicly affirms his love for Jesus at a different fire.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “Strike Three, You’re OUT!!”
Play “Strike Three” clips.
Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter for having a “lesser love”.  Instead, Jesus reminds Peter of his calling.
You may have felt like you have totally blown your witness as a Christian.
If you’re still alive, then God isn't finished with you yet, He wants you back!
You may not be able to go back to the exact same ministry you had before, but you can still serve the Lord.
Jesus will come back to you over and over again, getting you to search your heart and see that you indeed do love Him, and that He loves you.
Too often the church is seen as an army that shoots its own wounded.
When we hear of a Christian who has sinned or blown their witness, we are among the first to kick them to the curb.
God’s heart is that we learn to restore others. Paul wrote,
(Ga 6:1 NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

:17 Do you love Me?


Motivation for serving

Jesus doesn’t ask Peter, “Do you believe in me?”  He asks him if he loves Him.
This whole passage is about Jesus putting Peter back into ministry.
It’s all built around the question of Peter’s love for Jesus.

And even though Peter’s love for Jesus isn’t perhaps what we think it ought to be (agape instead of phileo), it’s still a love for Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter for just confessing to phileo, but He tells Peter the same thing – to feed the sheep.

The people to whom that Jesus says, “Feed My sheep”, are people who are in love with Jesus.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “The most important thing the pastor can do is to love Jesus Christ. If he truly loves Jesus Christ, the pastor will also love His sheep and tenderly care for them.”
Paul wrote,
(1 Co 13:1–3 NKJV) —1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging 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, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

If you are in a ministry, and don't have a sincere love for the Lord, you are wasting your time.  It’s time to reevaluate your priorities.  It’s time to get back to loving the Lord.

:17 Feed My sheep


Making Breakfast

One of the main ways that God’s people are “fed” is through the teaching of God’s Word.
(1 Co 3:2 NKJV) —2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;
(Heb 5:12–14 NKJV) —12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
(1 Pe 2:2–3 NKJV) —2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
(Ps 119:103 NKJV) How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
What’s interesting is the example Jesus has already laid out for them at breakfast this morning.
The disciples had been out fishing all night when Jesus called to them from the beach.
He had asked them:

(Jn 21:5 NKJV) “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

:5 foodprosphagion – anything eaten with bread; spoken of fish boiled or broiled

When they had replied “no”, He told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, and they had a huge catch.
When they got to shore dragging their net full of fish, Jesus had already prepared breakfast for them with His own fish and bread, but Jesus’ fish and bread wasn’t all they ate that morning.

(Jn 21:9 NKJV) Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.

(Jn 21:10 NKJV) Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

They added some of the fish they had just caught to the meal that Jesus had already prepared for them.

Teachers, pay attention.
Sometimes as you prepare, you toil all night and you’ve caught nothing.
And then Jesus nudges you to “cast the net on the other side” – when some word or thought catches your attention and suddenly your net is full of fish.

Charles Spurgeon used to tell his preaching students that preparing a sermon was like taking clods of dirt and breaking them open one by one until you find a treasure inside one of the dirt clods.

And even after the disciples have this huge net full of fish, they find that Jesus has already prepared a meal for you.

There are going to be times when God speaks to your flock in ways you didn’t intend.  For me – sometimes it’s in the Scripture reading of the day, sometimes Jesus speaks to people from the passage and it’s not even something I said, but something they got from God.

The full breakfast is made up of the fish you caught at Jesus’ direction, as well as the things that Jesus brings to the meal by Himself.

God wants to feed His flock.  As teachers, it’s important that we have ears to hear, that we do our homework, and that we step back and allow Him to work.

:18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

:18 Most assuredly – (amen, amen)

:18 youngerneos – here is neoteros (comparative) – recently born, young, youthful

:18 girded … will girdzonnumi – to gird; to gird one’s self

“Gird” can refer to putting on your clothes. 

A form of this word was used to describe Peter putting on his outer garment before jumping off the boat and swimming to shore (John 21:7).

It can refer to someone tying up your hands as a prisoner.

Church history tells us that sometime during Nero’s reign as emperor of Rome, 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 Peter met Jesus outside the city, and Jesus was going back into the city carrying the cross.  Peter asked him “Quo Vadis”, which is Latin for “Where are you going?”  Jesus told Peter that He was going into the city to be crucified again.  Peter turned around and went back to the city where he was arrested and condemned to death.  When he was about to be 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.
Keep in mind that John is writing this about 25 years after Peter’s death.
Peter was arrested and sentenced to death.

:18 you are oldgerasko – to grow old

:18 stretch outekteino – to stretch out, stretch forth

:18 carryphero – to carry

:19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

:19 signifyingsemaino – to give a sign, to signify, indicate

related to semeion – a sign, mark, token

This is the word that John has fashioned his gospel around as he wrote about the “signs” that Jesus performed to prove that He was the Messiah.

:19 by what death he would glorify God

I often just look at these verses as a warning to Peter about what was up ahead. 

But keep in mind that Jesus has just “restored” Peter by having Peter openly confess his love for Jesus to offset the denials he had done earlier.
Peter had denied the Lord when confronted by a little slave girl.
In the future, Peter would one day suffer actual death for the name of Jesus.
In a way, Jesus is following up with His questioning Peter’s love by letting Peter know that one day Peter will indeed lay down his life for Jesus.

:20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?”

:21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”

:20 the disciple whom Jesus loved – this is how John refers to himself.

John was the one during the last supper who had been reclining next to Jesus at the table and who had asked Jesus about who was going to betray Jesus.

Peter has been told about his own future and now he wants to know about John’s future.

:22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

:23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

:23 this disciple would not die – apparently this saying of Jesus got a rumor started that Jesus had promised that John wouldn’t die, but would perhaps be alive when Jesus returned.

Keep in mind that John is writing the gospel around 90 A.D., and all the other disciples had died horrible deaths

21:24-25 John’s Conclusion

:24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

:24 This is the disciple who testifies

This is John’s clear statement that he was the “disciple whom Jesus loved”.

:24 we know that his testimony is true

It is possible that this line was added by the elders of the church of Ephesus, where John was.  They put their stamp of authenticity on the gospel.

:25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

:25 many other things

John is reminding his readers that the reality is that all the gospel writers put together only recorded a small snippet of the total ministry of Jesus over a period of 3 ½ years.

:22 what is that to you? You follow Me


Follow Him

We like to compare ourselves with each other.
Sometimes we tend to find reasons to think that our lot in life isn’t fair.

Some have grown up in a pretty screwy family.

Some have been through a divorce.

Some have been through great physical difficulty.

Sometimes we compare our ministries to others.

We wonder why somebody else’s Bible Study has more people coming to it.

We wonder why someone else is asked to do something at church.

Sometimes we wish we had answers to our questions.
We want to know “why” things have happened to us.

God may not answer all our questions in this life.

He still calls us to follow Him.

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.  (PlayWillie Mays” clip)
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.

There is only one person we should work at keeping our eyes on.  It’s the same one that we are following.
(Heb 12:1–2 NKJV) —1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Look to Jesus.  Follow Jesus.