Gospel of John [21:15-25]. The appendix: Peter's deliverance from guilt.
length: 62:29 - taught on Jun, 18 2015
Title: Gospel of John [21:15-25]. The appendix: Peter's deliverance from guilt.
The question "Do you love Me more than these" would most likely refer to the other disciples. Can Peter know that? Does this make the CWL a competition?
Certainly the CWL is not a competition, and further, there is no way we can know how much another person loves the Lord. In what units would you measure it in and how? So then, why would the Lord ask such a question?
JOH 21:15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs."
The Lord is likely asking these three questions because Peter has not yet fully dealt with his three denials.
He wants to forget it, but forgetting it is not the same as dealing with it. God could wipe his memory of it, but that is not what God is after. God wants us to drink of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness. God desires us to know that we still have a plan for our lives that we will fulfill when we walk with Him and that the failures of the past have no bearing on present victories when we look at them through His eyes, which eyes are on Calvary.
And it may be significant that Christ calls him by his birth name and not the name that Christ gave him years ago - Peter.
Simon, son of John: The Lord gave him the name "Peter" which means rock and Peter is not a rock right now. He is weak and weighed down by his failures.
This may have been picked up by Peter as going back to before Christ so named him. Peter could be thinking that maybe Jesus didn't want to call him this anymore. It seems to me that it is, along with the three questions, the way in which the Lord knows how to heal the scars that Peter is carrying around in his soul.
Peter is not a rock because of any personal worth. He is a rock because the Lord made him a rock and Peter responded with tenacious faith.
He doesn't go on denying the Lord. God's strength in him is evidenced by his recovery and his pursuit of the plan of God. We are not delivered from the rulership of the flesh through the power of God so that we may continue under the mastery of the flesh.
First, the only reason we can see why Jesus would ask him "more than these" is because Peter already proclaimed such a thing just before he denied Him.
Peter intimated that though others may fall away, he would never fall away. So Christ gets into Peter's soul with this question, phrased as it is, by asking Peter if he still thinks this way.
If you notice, Peter doesn't answer the "more than these" part of the question. He only affirms his love for the Lord.
In answer to Jesus' question, Peter affirms his love for Him, but he refuses to make any comparison between himself and the others. In this respect he has grown.
But Peter answered and said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away."
Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You."
However willing the spirit was, the flesh was weak.
The fact that Jesus asks him three times and Peter denied Him three times cannot be a coincidence. But Peter has changed, however he still is carrying the baggage of his devastating failure.
God can change us and our perspective in a very swift fashion. Wait on His timing.
It may seem odd to say wait if it's going to be swift. What is meant here is that when you are ready, when God knows the timing is perfect, He will work circumstances in your life that will bring about rapid change, which is another way of saying rapid growth. At times we grow slowly and consistently and at other times, usually times of great testing, our growth is greatly accelerated.
Thomas was changed when the Lord came to him, and so with all the disciples, and vividly here with Peter. The bold mouth is becoming the fisher and the shepherd of men - by hook and by crook (shepherd's staff with a hook at the end).
By hook - fisher of men.
By crook - shepherd of men.
JOH 21:16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."
JOH 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, 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," Tend My sheep.
The fact that Peter was grieved by the third asking was probably caused by his remembrance of his three successive denials. This is something that Peter desperately wants to forget. I don't think it's a stretch to imagine that this is the first and foremost on the list of things he wants to forget. So why does the Lord bring it up? Shouldn't he forget what lies behind and reach forward to the things that are ahead?
Did the Lord allude to Peter's denials because although he was desperately trying to forget this monumental failure he had not yet dealt with it properly in light of God's love and grace?
This is the best reason I can think of for the fact that He is bringing this up between them. Surely the Lord already confirmed to Peter that he was forgiven. Perhaps Peter couldn't let go of the guilt and shame. The others knew about it and the others also heard his bold affirmation that he would die for the Lord and go to prison for Him. Maybe when he said to Jesus that "though others may fall away" it was pretty clear to all in the room that he meant the other disciples.
I think this is more evidenced by his hurt at the third question.
Of all our failures there always seems to be one or a few that seem impossible to let fully die in the past. God is in the business of cleansing bad conscious'.
It is not likely that a person will forever forget a bad memory of severe failure, but when that event jumps into their consciousness they deal with it as they already have, in grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God. Someday soon, all of us will be in heaven and this issue will cease to exist for all eternity. That's a good thing to remember when guilt attempts to usurp your peace for the umpteenth time.
But I don't think Peter's guilt and condemnation over the denials has been fully washed away. The Lord is going to help him with this by getting his eyes on his future work for the Lord by which he will greatly glorify Him. This is not making up for the mistake, but revealing to him that he really will fulfill the plan of the Father for him despite his failure.
The joy of realizing the fulfillment of the Father's plan for your life will swamp and overwhelm the guilt of past failures.
The Bible doesn't state only to forget what is behind, but there is a substitute. Something must take the place of the past failures and even successes and that is the reaching forward to upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
This will give Peter the perspective to let it go and let it die in the past.
Before we get any further into that, which is the main import of the passage, we must deal with the use of synonyms since so many have made an issue out of them.
There are two words for love used - agapao and phileo. There are two words for tending the flock - bosko and poimaino. There are two words for flock - arnia and probatia. There are two words for know - oida and ginosko.
In vv. 15-17 John uses:
"love" - agapao and phileo
"tend" - bosko (feed) and poimaino (shepherd)
"lambs" and "sheep" - arnia and probatia
"know" - oida and ginosko
The interplay of synonyms is a feature of John's Greek, so to what extent should we use them in the interpretation?
Much has been made of the differences in these words, while each pair can be used interchangeably. The context helps us with their nuances but they seem to be used pretty interchangeably here. The most distinction is made out of phileo and agapao, which in some passages are used interchangeably by John. For instance, the title "the disciple whom Jesus loved" is written four times with agapao and once with phileo. John also uses both verbs for the Father's love for the Son in 3:35 and 5:20. I state this only because caution should be used an interpretation that puts great weight on the difference of the verbs.
Scholars and commentators have mostly discussed the use of phileo and agapao in this passage. However, their interpretations for the reason they are so used, vary greatly. So which one is correct? If two distinguished Koine Greek scholars see the significance of the synonyms differently, we may wonder if indeed we are intended to see such distinct significance in this passage.
With this in mind, let's read the verses again.
JOH 21:15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love [agapao] Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phileo]You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs."
JOH 21:16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love [agapao] Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love [phileo] You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."
JOH 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love [phileo] Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love [phileo] Me?" And he said to Him," Lord, You know all things; You know that I love [phileo] You. "Jesus said to him," Tend My sheep.
The only thing that could be viewed as standing out is that phileo is used for the Lord's third question, matching the verb Peter uses.
Trench interprets this as Peter thinking that agapao is too cold a word for the warmer impulses of his heart. Westcott, on the other hand, takes agapao to denote the higher love which was to be the spring of the Christian life, whereas Peter, by using phileo, affirms only the natural love of personal attachment. His explanation for the Lord using phileo the third time is only a challenge to Peter's use of it. Robertson interprets the use of phileo as the love for a friend and that Jesus is challenging that.
Could it be that Peter doesn't understand the magnitude that the word agape would have in the NT as the main word by far to be used for the love of God? It is sure that he doesn't know this yet, but it has not been determined with certainty why John employs the synonyms here. It may be a combination of all interpretations or it just may be that John likes to use synonyms, which he does.
Phileo is a love which consists of the glow of the heart kindled by the perception of that in the object which affords us pleasure. This certainly applies to Christ.