Text: John 21
Event(s): Jesus appears to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee; Peter is restored
John 21:1 “at the Sea of Tiberias” Tiberias was the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee. John was the only one to refer to it by this name. Probably because most of his readers would have been more familiar with Tiberias than with Galilee.
John 21:15 “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,” It wasn’t until after Peter was fed that Jesus talked to him about feeing others. It is from the overflow of our constant relationship with God that we can be a blessing to others.
John 21:15 “do you love Me?” The following excerpt provides some beautiful commentary about the dialogue that took place in this next section. I thought I’d share:
“Three times the Lord asked Peter if Peter loved Him. The first two times, Christ used the word agapaō, signifying a love of commitment, a love of the will. Peter responded with the word phileō, indicating his strong emotion for the Lord. The word suggests warmth, fondness, and friendship.
When Peter acknowledged that he loved Christ, the LORD gave him the task of feeing His lambs and taking care of His sheep. Expressing love for Christ implies accepting a duty to do the word of God and to be faithful. Peter had some difficulty with such faithfulness during Christ’s earthly ministry. As Christ was getting ready to depart, He wanted to elicit a commitment from Peter.
The third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him He used the work phileō, indicating strong friendship. hist had taught that a friend who loves will lay down his life for a friend. Peter, instead, had denied Christ three times. With Peter’s final response, “You know that I love You,” Christ had drawn a commitment from Peter and assured the other disciples of the bond between Himself and Peter. In the process, He demonstrated His complete forgiveness of Peter. With this exchange, the Lord restored Peter to a position of leadership in the ongoing ministry of the gospel.” NKJV Study Bible, Second Edition – Thomas Nelson Publishers
John 21:16 “Tend my sheep.” Jesus had first said “feed my lambs” and now He said “tend my sheep.” To tend is the work of a shepherd. As we care for other people (which is a natural byproduct of our relationship with God) we must assess where they are so that we can serve one another appropriately.
In the natural world, a lamb is less than a year old and has typically not produced offspring. So as it refers to the spiritual realm, we can consider these “babies” in Christ. Lambs need to be fed. Sheep are older than a year and have reached a stage where they are ready to reproduce. Sheep are able to feed themselves. So whereas lambs need to be fed, sheep need to be led. They need shepherding, and guidance. But Jesus didn’t stop there. The third time, He said, “Feed my sheep.” In this, I see varying levels of leadership and service. We never stop “eating”, but our nutrition – what we feed upon, and what our diet consists of – should definitely continue maturing as we do. We also don’t stop “feeding” those God has entrusted into our care. We just need to know where they’re at and adjust to make sure that we’re feeding them at the right level.
Having said that, I must add, regardless of what stage we’re at, we must be careful that we don’t become dependent on one another to the point where we’re looking to man as our first source. Part of maturing is that we take initiative and responsibility for ourselves. There’s a big difference between being responsible “for” one another and being responsible “to” one another. We don’t become responsible “for” each other, but we are responsible “to” feed, tend and love.
John 21:22 “If I will that he remain…” Jesus was not saying that John would live until He returned. He was simply saying that John’s days were in His hands. (Psalm 31:15; Job 12:10)
Today’s Takeaway: Every single one of us has been equipped and empowered to “feed” and “lead”. And the level we do this at continues to grow and mature. In fact, with all love and humility, I can say with positive assurance the same thing Paul said in Hebrews 5:12 “some of you should be teaching by now.” Question is, What’s holding you back? Whatever it is, whether it’s past failures or whether it’s feelings of inadequacy, or whether we’re looking at the other people (like Peter looked at John) and we’re comparing ourselves to others….it’s time to get over ourselves. Our only focus should be on the love we have for Jesus and we must trust that He will give us the words to say to encourage others, to feed others what we have been fed, and to lead others in the ways Christ has led us. I encourage you to let the boldness of the Holy Spirit rise up within you. What do you have to give? Whatever Christ has given you.
Additional (optional) reading: 1 Corinthians 3 (AMP Bible); Hebrews 5 (AMP Bible)