John 21:15 “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, “Feed my lambs.”
A Moment that would last a lifetime.
Jesus had been resurrected from the grave, He had appeared to well over 500 people and was nearing the time when He would ascend into Heaven. We are only given glimpses of this time of unparalleled change that was happening on the earth. The church was about to be born, the Savior had fulfilled His purpose that had been preordained from man’s inception and Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure.
One moment the disciples were in a room together and the next moment Jesus would suddenly appear. Two men were walking the road to Emmaus and Jesus would suddenly appear and be walking with them, talking and sharing about the events that were unfolding.
Jesus was His own evangelist at this time, affirming the reality of His victory over sin and the grave while encouraging those who followed Him to press on.
The moment on the beach was a moment Jesus set aside for the disciples who had followed Him closely, specifically Peter. Peter would undoubtedly never forget the lesson on the beach that day, a lesson of love that even he doubted at the moment.
We must first understand what led to this moment before we can appreciate the significance of what transpired.
Peter had attempted to dissuade Jesus from entering into Jerusalem for what would eventually be Jesus’ crucifixion—Jesus had rebuked him and charged him with being like Satan with his brash attempt at hindering His work.
Just a few days later, Peter in his typical brazen manner had declared that Jesus would not wash his feet—Jesus showed him what true humility looked like.
Peter had boldly declared he would never leave Jesus’ side—at the trial of Jesus, Peter then denied Him 3 times.
By all accounts and purposes, Peter was a complete failure.
How would you respond if you were Peter?
I know what I would be thinking, I would be asking myself what am I doing? I’d be thinking to myself that I was such a fraud, and I’d probably be beating myself up thinking to myself that I make claims I can’t back up while I sound so bold and yet with each step I continue to blow it.
What does Peter do?– He goes back to fishing. That is probably what I would do as well. My poor reasoning would be if I can’t make it as a disciple of Christ, I might as well go do what I know and that is fishing.
Jesus, in His mercy knows our weaknesses and shows up once again.
John 21:4-8 “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize that it was Jesus. So He called out to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” “No,” they answered. He told them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it there, and they were unable to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it) and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came ashore in the boat. They dragged in the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards.”
Why was Peter so anxious to get to Jesus?
The fact that the risen Son of God showed up to their workplace was a reflection of His love for them. His presence said, ‘you are still important to me’, His presence said, ‘I forgive you’.
For Peter, the one who had blown it so many times, Jesus’ presence meant Everything!
On the shores of the water a defeated man was made into a giant of the faith.
We have lost much of the meaning in scripture to the translation. The KJV, originally transcribed in 1611 was as close to the original Greek and Aramaic as we could get. It was later made more suitable to the Bishop’s Bible of that day, a need that was made apparent by the persecution of the now corrupt Catholic church. The conversation that Jesus had with Peter doesn’t make a lot of sense in its current modern form, but when read in its original form, the language transforms into a much more realistic understanding of the interaction.
There are 4 ways that love is transcribed based off the greek. Philia–brotherly love, Eros–sensual love, Storge–familial love, and Agape–Godly sacrificial love.
When we read John 21, the original intent of Jesus’ words take on a whole new meaning:
John 21:15-17 “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you (agape love me) — more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I (phileo love you)” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you (agape love me) — ?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I (phileo love you)” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you (phileo love me)?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you (phileo love me)” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I (phileo love you).” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
The question Jesus posed was one of Godly love versus brotherly love. Peter had declared his allegiance even unto death just a short time before and now we witness how poorly he was able to follow up with that promise.
John 13:36-37 “Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”
This laying down of our lives is the model of agape love that Jesus perfected.
Eventually, the agape love that Jesus asked of Peter, took hold in his life. Peter would eventually lay his life down for Jesus, and even then he thought of himself unworthy to be crucified like his Lord. When Peter was crucified for his belief, he was done so upside down because of his sense of unworthiness.
*The moment of truth Jesus brought Peter on the shores of Galilee was a model of God’s call in our lives today.
Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to respond with the same verve and panache as he did during the Passover meal. Peter’s confidence in himself had clearly been shaken, his response was much more subdued on the shores of galilee which reflected the wisdom he had gained.
Agape love is only validated by action, not by promise.
Jesus asked twice….do you agape love me, Peter responded twice with a commitment to Phileo love. The third question was a revelation of God’s Grace toward Peter…Jesus asked “do you Phileo love me?” Peter’s response was the same and Jesus revealed to him what Phileo love looked like in practice…feeding His sheep. Peter’s hurt was the realization that God would lower His expectation to the level Peter was willing to follow.
If all Peter could muster was Phileo love, God would accept this measure of love until he was ready. When do we see the transformation in Peter from the weakness of Phileo love to strength in Agape?
The Day of Pentecost
On the day the Spirit of God fell upon the disciples, their lives were radically changed. Listen to Peter’s sermon…
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:36-39 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
The Spirit of God takes men like Peter who are weak and unsure of themselves and makes them powerful in God’s Kingdom. What was once a lack of confidence is now boldness for the gospel—Foolishness is replaced with wisdom, weakness for strength, hopelessness is now given a purpose.
This is what Jesus did for us.
Jesus proved His agape love toward us upon the cross and now He asks of us…do we love Him? Are we willing to give all of our lives for Him? The answer from His people is a resounding —-Yes!
For those who know the transforming love of God, they understand the value of sacrifice. What Peter knew and and what He lived for became synonymous in life.
What Peter knew and what we know now is that Jesus is worthy.
He is worthy of our lives, He is worthy of our devotion, and He is worthy of all praise.
For the nominal christian, the act keeps them powerless and weak, for the true believer who has laid down their life in repentance, the Lord raises them up to life—a life that is completely different than the one they lived before.