Gospel of John [21:15-25]. The appendix: Peter's deliverance from guilt, part 2.

Class Outline:

Title: Gospel of John [21:15-25]. The appendix: Peter's deliverance from guilt, part 2.


Announcements/opening prayer:



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.


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.


So if we are to make an issue out of the different words used we could conclude that Peter has this kind of deep affection for the Lord and the Lord affords him pleasure. But as we have seen in our last study that agape love for others has a different nuance than agape love for God. We love others with God's agape love which means self-sacrifice, patience, forgiveness, comfort, graciousness in giving, etc. We do not exercise these traits towards God, as though He needs forgiveness or needs me to be patient with Him, or that He is in need. In our progression of understanding our agape love to God we found a response or reflection back to Him of His love that has been poured out into our hearts. This reflection comes in the form of faith, hope and trust, and fellowship with Him. Which love would Peter need to see the fulfillment of God's plan for his life? We would conclude - both.


A positive believer who comes to know God's love for him will respond in both phileo (deep affection) and agape (faith, hope, and fellowship), but the NT emphasizes agape (320:45) far, far more.


That is a seven fold greater frequency. We may conclude that phileo love is fully natural as a response to our perception of God's person in Christ and so not much instruction has to be given on it. As fallen creatures we may desire to rest there, in phileo affection, while remaining babes in faith, not trusting fully in great tribulations but only falling back on our affection, and not striving against sin and evil so as to walk in fellowship.


Phileo is the love of friendship, which can be wonderful and mature, but it can also be found in a child. How does a friendship mature?


This is where agape comes in and is likely one of the greatest reasons it is used so much more frequently in the NT than phileo.


The positive believer develops a phileo love for God fairly soon but it is through his reflection of God's agape love that he matures that phileo love into the deepest friendship in life.


Christ literally becomes your best friend, but just like human friendships, which are based on the same kind of love, mature friendships develop in adversity, trials, as well as good times.


PRO 17:17

A friend loves at all times,

And a brother is born for adversity.


PRO 18:24

A man of many friends comes to ruin,

But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.\


PRO 27:6

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,

But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.


JOH 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.


JOH 15:14 "You are My friends [nuance of phileo], if you do what I command you.


Yet in our study of agape love, Christ stated that if we agape loved Him then we would keep His commands (JOH 14:15,21; 15:10), i.e. reflected faith, hope, and fellowship. So then friendship, which includes phileo type love, grows deeper with a strengthened agape love reflection back to God.


JOH 15:15 "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.


Php 3:9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,


Php 3:10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;


Php 3:11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.


It would take more than affection for Christ to deeply study doctrine, live His power, participate in His sufferings, and be conformed to His death (agape).


Php 3:12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.


Yet that doesn't mean that his affection for Christ diminishes, but in fact it intensifies as his reflection of God's agape in faith, hope, and fellowship strengthens.


And so our friendship with Christ deepens as our reflection of agape strengthens. So, what does Peter need, what do all of us need in order to witness the fulfillment of God's predestined plan for our lives? Both agape and phileo.


As to why Christ uses agape in His first two questions and phileo in His third, no one can determine for sure; that is even if the difference is meant to be interpreted as anything more than the use of synonyms.


What I believe to be of greater importance is Christ's affirmation that Peter would definitely see the fulfillment of the plan of God for his life and glorify God in his death.


JOH 21:18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." 


JOH 21:19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"


John uses similar phraseology for the Lord's death


JOH 12:32-33

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.


The old man may not be able to gird himself or go where he wants to go and so needs help. But with verse 19 this statement doesn't seem to be so docile. The Lord was taken and forced to go to Caiaphas' house, to the Praetorium, to Herod's house, back to the Praetorium, and then off to Calvary.


What Peter bragged about before his denial isn't that far off.


The Lord doesn't comfort him by telling him he would be taken by someone and martyred, but that he would see the fulfillment of his calling, and like the Lord, he would die a death that would be solely for the glory of God.


So, what from one perspective looks like gloomy news, is really a wonderful gift to Peter - "You will fulfill God's plan for your life. I have told you and it will be accomplished. Amen!" Peter doesn't quite see it this way at the time, but he will.


None of us get this gift. The Lord doesn't come to anyone and tell us the manner of our death or that He has seen us accomplish all of the plan of God for our lives, but we don't need that with the finished canon of scripture.


The Lord knows that Peter will not quit. Even by now Peter should know this about himself, and he will very soon.


Php 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.


1CO 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.


1CO 9:25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.


1CO 9:26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;


1CO 9:27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.


2TI 4:7-8

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.


1TH 5:23-24

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.


2TH 1:11-12

To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


1PE 5:10-11

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.


PSA 138:1 A Psalm of David.

I will give Thee thanks with all my heart;

I will sing praises to Thee before the gods.


PSA 138:2 I will bow down toward Thy holy temple,

And give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth; For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name.


PSA 138:3 On the day I called Thou didst answer me; Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul.


PSA 138:4 All the kings of the earth will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, When they have heard the words of Thy mouth.


PSA 138:5 And they will sing of the ways of the Lord. For great is the glory of the Lord.


PSA 138:6 For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly; But the haughty He knows from afar.


PSA 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me; Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Thy right hand will save me.


PSA 138:8 The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Thy hands.


1SA 12:22

For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.


PSA 57:2-3

I will cry to God Most High,

To God who accomplishes all things for me.

He will send from heaven and save me;

He reproaches him who tramples upon me.


PSA 84:11

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;

The Lord gives grace and glory;

No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.


ISA 40:28

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth

Does not become weary or tired.

His understanding is inscrutable.


JOH 21:18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." 


JOH 21:19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"


By the time this gospel was written, Peter had glorified God in martyrdom. That he died being crucified upside down is only a myth. It cannot be substantiated historically.


Knowing what form Peter's martyrdom took,  John could see a precise reference to it in the words of Jesus - vs. 19, which could not have been seen at the time.


2PE 1:13-14

And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.


Peter will in fact lay down his life for Christ as he boldly stated in the upper room.


Follow Me! - Peter will follow as a disciple to the point of death. So what about John? Our business is to follow the Lord in our own plan and assist others. The Lord has His own plans for others.


Now that Peter has received his fresh commission he naturally gets curious about the others. As the Lord and Peter are walking along in privacy we see that John was following. He may have been alone or with the others.


JOH 21:20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"


John is sure to identify himself without using his name.


JOH 21:21 Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?"


JOH 21:22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"


We must consider the fact that God gave each of us a plan perfectly suited for us as an honor and privilege in itself rather than comparing with the plans of others.


PSA 144:1 A Psalm of David.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,

Who trains my hands for war,

And my fingers for battle;


PSA 144:2 My lovingkindness and my fortress,

My stronghold and my deliverer;

My shield and He in whom I take refuge;

Who subdues my people under me.


PSA 144:3 O Lord, what is man, that Thou dost take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that Thou dost think of him?


PSA 144:4 Man is like a mere breath;

His days are like a passing shadow.


For some believers the Lord is simply not enough. They lust for more or something different rather than searching the plan that God has made specifically for them.


JER 29:11

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord,' plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.


It is our business and our business only to follow the Lord and be faithful in the commission He has graciously given. It is not necessary that we know the future or to know why He has us in a particular situation at the moment. It is for us to respond to His love in faith and rejoice that we are forever in Him and that He will bring it to pass.


JOH 21:22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!"


Remain is the Greek word meno that we have seen used as "abide" or fellowship so many times, but here in the context it could only mean to remain alive on earth until the return of the Lord. When John wrote the gospel this was still a possibility, but no longer. John died as the last apostle and went home to be with the Lord. He lived longer than all of them and if the Lord decided that John should remain alive until the Rapture, meaning not a martyr's death or physical death at all, then that has nothing to do with Peter. By this time the truth of the Rapture of the church was well established.


JOH 21:23 This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"


We know from Augustine that some in the fifth century were stating that John was not dead but sleeping in his tomb at Ephesus where he would sleep until the return of the Lord. Rumor had it that the earth above his tomb was manifestly in a state of constant disturbance, heaving up and down; and what, it was asked, could be the cause of this if not John's continued breathing, as he still waited for the Lord to come before he saw death.


It is possible that this verse goes along with the last two verses as being added by one of John's associates who was entrusted with the gospel, its copying and dissemination and that John was already dead. If John was already dead then the rumor should cease.


It may be that John knew his death was imminent and so penned or dictated it himself. From Revelation we know that he was banished to the island of Patmos, a small island just off the coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea. Because of its isolation, Patmos was used as a place of banishment by the Romans. However, we have no idea if he died there. Rumor, and that's all that it is, is that he was released from Patmos and lived out his final years around Ephesus. Nothing can be soundly substantiated, not even remotely.


This rumor could have come from the emotional crisis of the death of the last eye witness of Christ, if in fact John had already died.


The important point is that John and Peter have different plans. One died a martyr and, possibly, John died of old age.


Spoken of the heroes of the OT:


HEB 11:34, 37

escaped the edge of the sword … they were put to death with the sword


First postscript:


JOH 21:24 This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true.


John was an eye witness of all the things written in this gospel. We can fellowship with Christ through his eyes.


Anyone accustomed to imaginative story telling or imaginative and biased history books can take great comfort in the fact that this is a firsthand report.


It is not only that he is an eye witness; he has also a rare appreciation of the inner significance of what he has seen and heard.


Many years of communion with the risen Lord and reflection of His words and works made clear to his mind what had formerly been obscure.


We cannot be sure who the people are who add this testimonial. They are likely the group of John's disciples who preserved his record and gave it to a wider public. They have likely been with John for some time and have been instructed in these things from his firsthand account.


Second postscript:


JOH 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.


We cannot be sure how the "I" in "I suppose" is related to the preceding "we" in "we know."


I will not conclude our exposition of this amazing gospel with minor notes of textual criticism.


The gospel has done for centuries exactly what it was designed to do and that is to enable the reader to more clearly see the divine glory in the living, crucified and risen Jesus, God in the flesh, and to hail unto Him, as Thomas did, "My Lord and my God."