John 20: 15-19 – The World of the Text

This week in our journey to Pentecost, we will be looking at Peter’s encounter with Jesus along the lake. We’ll be looking specifically at John 20: 15-19 and today we’ll be looking at the world of the text:

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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

rootedchristToday I want to look at the first two questions that Jesus asks Peter, and tomorrow I’ll look at the last question and His command to Peter. Today Jesus asks Peter twice does he love Him. But there are some specific things that are happening here in this passage.  The first time Jesus asked Peter does he love Him more than these.  There’s a couple of interesting things ways in Greek that we can read this question.  One way to read this is Jesus asking, do you love me more than you love your old way of life (more than these).  Remember what happens at the beginning of this passage?  Peter goes fishing.  But the way that he did it was more than just comfort.  He seems to be renouncing his commission, this call that Jesus has given him.  Peter seems to be saying; I’m going to back to the old way of life.

With his fall, I understand that.  It makes sense to me; we all want to return to the old when we wall.  So, on the one hand, Jesus is asking, do you love me more than the old way of life.

Another way of looking at that question is this – you were the leader, and you fell.  You fell bad.  Now, after you have denied me three times, as I told you you would, can you still affirm that you love me more than these other disciples do?  Is your love for me true?

However we choose to look at this question; we see that it is a sharp one, but also one of restoration.  Will you still be faithful.  Peter says, yes.  Jesus tells him, Feed my lambs.  To feed in the Greek is to take care of, promote the spiritual welfare of.  But it is specific; he is told to feed His lambs.  Take care of the young.  Be a mentor to.  Care for.  Teach.  We see that Peter learns this lesson, for, in time, he becomes a mentor to Mark, a young man in need of guidance.  And Mark, through Barnabas and Peter, grows and becomes the author of the first Gospel written.

Once again, Jesus asks Peter, do you love me, but this time there is not the qualifier of “more than these.” Peter answers in the affirmative that he does.  To which Jesus responds – tend my sheep.  In Greek, the word tend could actually be translated as “shepherd.”  In other words, shepherd my sheep.  Give guidance to.  “Govern” them if you will take care of.  Lead them.  Peter had fallen in a visible way, everyone knew.  Jesus said, do you love me?  If so, lead my sheep.

His failure did not keep Jesus’ plans for him from coming to completion.  Jesus’ plans were greater than Peter’s failure.  Just like they are for us as well.

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