About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus Reinstates Peter (ch. 21:15-25)

 

Many preachers have suggested over the years that these seven disciples went fishing because they were disillusioned and depressed, and felt like giving up and going back to their old occupation.  The text does not say this.  Such thinking is only speculation and Iím not convinced that this was the case.  These men could have simply been hungry and that is why they went fishing. Those who believe these men were going back to their old occupation because of their dissolution thus interpret what Jesus says to Peter in verse 15 in this light.

 

Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me more than these?"  The word "these" in the understanding of those Iíve just mentioned refers to the boat, the nets, and the fish.  They say that Jesus is asking Peter, "Do you love me more than you love your fishing career"?   Others suggest that the word "these" is in reference to the other six disciples.

 

At the moment I donít believe that the word 'these" is referring to the fishing industry, but rather to the other six men present.  I think Jesus might be asking Peter, "Do you love me more than these other men love me?"  Remember, we saw this type of thinking when Peter told Jesus that though everyone else would forsake Him, he certainly would not (Matthew 26:33 and Mark 14:29).  That being said, Jesus might have been talking about the boat, the nets, and the fish.  It is hard to say.    

 

Of course Peterís answer to Jesus is "Yes, you know that I love you."  What else could Peter say at this moment?

 

In response Jesus says, "Feed my lams." 

 

The word "lambs" is interesting here.  Jesus did not say, "Feed my sheep."  Lambs are baby sheep.  Jesus was telling Peter to feed, care for, baby believers, and we know that there would be 3,000 baby believers, in just a few days when on the Day of Pentecost 3,000 men and women would be saved. 

 

I believe this event was a public call of Peter to lead, pastor, or, care for, the new believers that would soon become part of the community of Christ.  This was God's call on Peter's life to be a pastor.  We know that Peter was an apostle, but as an apostle, he was also a pastor. 

 

We see this becoming reality at the very beginning of the church era.  Peter took the lead in the affairs of the early church.   Was he the first pope as the Catholics claim?  I donít believe Peter was a pope in the sense the Catholics use the word.  I donít believe in apostolic succession, meaning, Peter was the first pope and all other popes come through Peterís spiritual lineage. 

 

What was the first thing we see Peter doing after the Holy Spirit was given to the believers in Acts 2?  He spoke the first Christian sermon that led 3,000 people to Jesus.  He, in this instance, was fulfilling his pastoral ministry.   

 

We need to look closely at certain words in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter.  We first look at the word "love."  Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me Ö"  There are two main Greek words that are translated into our English word love.  One is "agape," which in its simplest form means sacrificial love.  The other Greek word that is translated in English as "love" is "phileo".  "Phileo" is an affectionate love, a love between people. It's often called "brotherly love," meaning "reciprocal love.  That is to say, a free flow of love back and forth between two people.    

 

The first two times when Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Jesus uses the word "agape," that is, "do you love me with sacrificial godly love?"  The last time Jesus uses the word "phileo," meaning, "Do you love me as a brother?"

 

In all three of the above times when Jesus asks Peter if he loved Him, Peter answers with the Greek word "phileo," meaning, "I love you as a brother."    

 

Why would Jesus use both words?  Well, the first of the Ten Commandments tell us to love the Lord our God with all your heart, soul, mind and body.  That implies agape style sacrificial love.  That's the kind of love Jesus wanted Peter to love Him with    

 

It is interesting to note that even though Jesus asks Peter the first two times, "Do you agape me," and the third time, "'Do you phileo me," all three times Peter responds by saying, "I phileo you."  What could this mean?  It might mean that Peter didnít really understand agape.  He only understood phileo.   Peter could love Jesus with a human affectionate reciprocal love, but Godís love was somewhat unknown to Him.  

 

In response to Peter telling Jesus that he loved Him, Jesus had three responses. The first time Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."  The second time He said, "Take care of my sheep."  The third time He said, "Feed my sheep."  One might not notice the difference upon a quick reading, but there is a difference.

 

First of all, Jesus uses the word "lamb" the first time and the word "sheep" the second and third time.  Lambs are young sheep.  Peter is to feed and take care of both the young and old in the faith.  These words could suggest that Jesus thought of the early disciples as young in the faith, which they really were.

 

Also note that in the first response Jesus says to "Feed ÖĒ  The Greek word translated as "feed" is "bosko."  It simply means "to feed."  In the second response Jesus uses the word "poinmain," which is a broader word meaning "to care for."  "Poimain" is translated in the New Testament as "shepherd or pastor."  Jesus is telling Peter to pastor His sheep, or to shepherd His sheep, or to care for His sheep. More than anything else, a pastor cares for people, not a building or an organization.  I think this thought is sadly missing in much of today's western world church.  

 

Feeding is part of shepherding, thus; the job of a pastor is to both feed and care for, not just to feed.  Pastors feed from Godís Word, something that also seems to be slipping out of the job description of pastors these days.

 

In verse 17 Peter is hurt by Jesus asking him the same question three times.  You and I might feel hurt as well.  Peter tells Jesus that He knows all things, and He should know that he loves Him.  Yes, Jesus does know all things, and this is the point.  He knows that Peterís answer suggests that he doesnít quite understand what kind of love He is speaking of and thus needs to ask him three times.

 

Some suggest that there might also be another reason why Jesus asked Peter if he loved him three times and that is since Peter denied Jesus three times Jesus asked him this question three times.  Who knows for sure the real reason for Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him three times. We can only speculate.

 

Three years earlier Jesus called Peter away from a fishing career and now at this point he tells Peter what He is calling him to.  Jesus is calling Peter from being a fisherman to being a shepherd of sheep, but these sheep are not animals.  They are people.  These sheep are the new believers that would soon appear on the scene. Weíve heard preachers say that Peter was called from being a fisher of fish to being a fisher of men, but really he was called from being a fisher of fish to a shepherd of sheep.  Peter's fishing days were now over, and just maybe, it was for this reason why Jesus called Peter on this occasion, right after he and the others caught such a large number of fish, of course, with Jesus' assistance.        

 

Jesus calls these sheep "my sheep."  This is very important.  Peter, and every other pastor, cares for Jesusí sheep.  The sheep donít belong to the pastor.  A pastor should never say "my people or my sheep" as many do.  Such thinking is not Scriptural.  All believers belong to Jesus and not to pastors.  Pastors simply care for Jesusí people.  They should take their calling very seriously.    

 

Now in verse 18 Jesus speaks a personal prophecy to Peter.  He says, "When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you donít want to go."  Jesus was predicting how Peter's life would be like as it comes to an end.    

 

When Peter was younger, that is, younger than he now is, he could dress himself and go wherever he wanted, but, there would come a time in his old age where someone else would dress him and lead him where he did not want to go.  This prophecy if left as it is would apply to anyone, but Jesus said more.  He tells Peter that this prophecy signifies just how Peter would die.  These words meant more than Peter needing help as an old man.   

 

History tells us that Peter was crucified upside down by Nero in Rome .  It was Peterís request to be hung on a cross upside down because he did not feel worthy enough to die as his Lord died, although Peter was exceedingly grateful to die for his Lord.  To him, and to others at the time, dying for Jesus was the crown of life.  Dying for Jesus was a privilege.  So Peter lived around 31 years after Jesus spoke these words to him.  He most likely died in 64 AD.

 

There is some historical first and second century writers that suggest the words "stretch out your hands" in verse 18 is in reference to Peter's hands being stretched out on the cross as he was crucified.

 

Note the words "glorify God" in reference to Peterís death in verse 19.  Once again, we see that dying for Jesus was another way that these men glorified God.  We often think of many things that we can do to bring glory to God, but we donít often think that our death can glorify God, but it can, even in these days of little or no persecution.  The funeral of a Christian is a prime opportunity to proclaim the gospel of Jesus.

 

Jesus then simply says to Peter, "Follow me," words that Jesus had said before to Peter, but this time they meant more.  Peter was now being called as a pastor.  For a brief moment in time Peter denied Jesus.  Jesus is now telling Peter once again to follow Him, and follow Him right up to his death that Jesus just spoke about.  This time Peter never fell back.  He belonged to his Lord and no one else.

 

In this time of great revelation and most likely a spiritual experience for Peter, Peterís humanness shines through.  Jesus had just called Peter to a new ministry and told him how he would die and then Peter turns around and sees John following them.  Peter asks Jesus how John would die. 

 

You might think that Peter would have been overwhelmed by the prophetic word of death that Jesus had just spoken to him, but it seems he wasn't.  It appears that he was more interested in hearing a word of prophecy for John.  This certainly shows Peter's humanity.  In an important moment he is thinking of something else.  Peter, and us to, must be concerned what Jesus wants of us, not what He wants for others. 

 

In verse 22 Jesus replies by saying, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You follow me."  Jesus was basically telling Peter to mind his own business.  Jesus had just spoken to Peter about his personal future.  The future of John was not his concern.  Peter needed to follow Jesus no matter what happened to John.

 

Jesus often speaks to us, through the Scripture and through the Holy Spirit.  He speaks to us, but so often we want to apply words spoken to us to others as well, but that isn't necessarily our concern.  Our concern is that if Jesus speaks a word to us, we need to follow Him in that word and not get side tracked by bringing others into the picture. 

 

In verses 22 and 23 we note that because of Peterís curiosity concerning John a rumor was spread that John wasnít going to die.  He would live until the return of Jesus.  John had to clear this up to his readers.  He tells them that Jesus didnít say the he wouldnít die.  Jesus simply said, "If I wanted him to remain until I return."  There is a big difference between the two statements.

 

When we get our eyes off Jesus and on to others, and what we think they should or should not be doing, we often find ourselves causing problems as Peter did back then.  Jesus and Peter had a one on one personal experience by the shore of the Sea of Galilee , and Peter wanted to bring John into this experience.  This was not Jesusí intention.  Jesus calls us to do many things in our lives, but He may or may not call our friends to do the same.

 

In verse 24 John closes his account for the second time, similar to the way he did at the end of chapter 20.  He doesnít call himself by name as has been the case all along.  He says, "This is the disciple who testifies to these things Ö we know his testimony is true."  The word "we" is most likely in reference to his brothers and sisters in Christ who live with him in Ephesus . 

 

John then closes by saying
that "Jesus did many other
things."  John says that Jesus did many other things that he supposed could not be contained in books that would fill the whole world.  This sounds a bit like exaggeration.  Maybe it's poetic license, or, maybe it's something else. 

 

Many scholars don't believe John actually wrote these words.  There is some textual evidence from certain manuscripts that another verse was erased and this verse inserted.  As a matter of fact, some manuscripts have the story of the adulterous woman we saw back in chapter 7 here at the end of John.  Again, that portion of chapter 7 has always been suspect.         

If John really penned verse 25 I believe we should understand it to be a figure of speech.  

 

John was the last of the twelve apostles to die.  He died around 95 to 100 AD, most likely in Ephesus where he was an elder.  It is uncertain just how John died, but it is thought that he died of old age.  

 

John's gospel account, unlike the other three, is a theological treatise on the Deity of Christ, which is the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity.  Understanding who Jesus is, that is, God in human form, must be clearly understood by every Christian.                                   

 

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