Lesson 118

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

21:15 So when they had eaten their 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 have affection for you."

He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 21:16 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 have affection for you."

He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 21:17 He says to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you have affection for me?"

Peter was grieved because he asked him the third time, "Do you have affection for me?" He said to him, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I have affection for you."

Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 21:18 Most assuredly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don't want to go."

21:19 Now he said this, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. When he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me."

 Today's Lesson 

Today's Scriptures are the Restoration of Peter. This story is only told in the Gospel of John. On the third time that the Risen Christ appeared to His disciples He comes to them after they had been out fishing all night. He calls out to them from the shore and tells them to cast out their nets and they retrieve a miraculous catch. They haul the fish to the shore and find that Jesus has prepared them a breakfast of bread and fish. After they had eaten, Jesus asks Peter three questions.


The first question was, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" In Today's Scripture there are two Greek root words that are translated by the English word "love": agape and phileo. Agape love is the highest form of love possible, the kind of love that God has for His people and for His Son. Phileo love is brotherly affection. The question that Jesus asks Peter is whether Peter has agape love for Him. Peter, do you agape me more than these?


We will never truly know what Jesus meant by "these." Perhaps He was gesturing to the other disciples with the meaning; "Do you love me more than other men?" There are other possibilities, but I believe He was pointing toward the fish with the meaning, "Peter, do you love me more than you love being a fisherman?"


Peter's response is with a shade less intensity than the question. It is well translated in this World English Bible translation, "Yes Lord; you know that I have affection for you." I phileo you. Peter's response reminds me of the man who was being set up on a blind date. "Is she attractive?" And his friend answers, "She has a wonderful personality."


Jesus' initial response almost ignores what Peter has said. He said to Peter, "Feed my lambs." Jesus was the Good Shepherd. His lambs can only be the people of God. "Feed my lambs" would be the equivalent of "Care for my people." And then Jesus returns to the original question, not allowing Peter to get away with his lesser answer. "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?" Do you agape me? And Peter's response is the same. Yes, Lord; I phileo you.


For once in his life, Peter is not overstating how he feels. He has done that many times before. Most recently he told Jesus that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. Then, within hours of that bold statement he had denied Jesus three times. He had affection for Christ, phileo, but he had proven that he did not have the self-sacrificing agape love that Jesus was asking him about. But Jesus was requiring something more than what Peter was willing to acknowledge at this moment. He was requiring agape.


What broke Peter's heart was the third question Jesus asked him. "Simon, son of Jonah, do you have affection for me?" Do you truly phileo me? Here is the brash and headstrong Peter broken by a simple, honest question. Do you phileo me Peter? And if you do, why are you out here fishing instead of feeding my sheep? Do you love me more than these fish Peter?


Now that Peter is broken, Jesus does not question him again. He tells him how it will be from now on. "Feed my sheep." When you were young you could do what you want and go where you wished. Now you belong to me. When you are older, you will die stretched out just as I did. When he had said this he told Peter to "Follow me."


When Christ comes to us and confronts us with His presence, we might try to hide with semantics. "Do you love me?" Yes, Lord; I go to church almost every week. "Do you love me?" Sure Lord; didn't I do something nice just yesterday for you?


But Christ demands absolute commitment. He will tell you that you must die to your old life. All that has gone before must change. You will be a new creation.


Christ asks you today, "Do you love me?"


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