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Jesus and Peter

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.” 16A 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.” 17He 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. 18Very 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.”


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15-17. when they had dined, Jesus saith—Silence appears to have reigned during the meal; unbroken on His part, that by their mute observation of Him they might have their assurance of His identity the more confirmed; and on theirs, from reverential shrinking to speak till He did.

Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?—referring lovingly to those sad words of Peter, shortly before denying his Lord, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended" (Mt 26:33), and intending by this allusion to bring the whole scene vividly before his mind and put him to shame.

Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee—He adds not, "more than these," but prefixes a touching appeal to the Saviour's own omniscience for the truth of his protestation, which makes it a totally different kind of speech from his former.

He saith unto him, Feed my lambs—It is surely wrong to view this term as a mere diminutive of affection, and as meaning the same thing as "the sheep" [Webster and Wilkinson]. It is much more according to usage to understand by the "lambs," young and tender disciples, whether in age or Christian standing (Isa 40:11; 1Jo 2:12, 13), and by the "sheep" the more mature. Shall we say (with many) that Peter was here reinstated in office? Not exactly, since he was not actually excluded from it. But after such conduct as his, the deep wound which the honor of Christ had received, the stain brought on his office, the damage done to his high standing among his brethren, and even his own comfort, in prospect of the great work before him, required some such renewal of his call and re-establishment of his position as this.

16. He saith to him … the second time … lovest thou me, &c.—In this repetition of the question, though the wound was meant to be reopened, the words "more than these" are not repeated; for Christ is a tender as well as skilful Physician, and Peter's silence on that point was confession enough of his sin and folly. On Peter's repeating his protestation in the same words, our Lord rises higher in the manifestation of His restoring grace.

Feed—keep.

my sheep—It has been observed that the word here is studiously changed, from one signifying simply to feed, to one signifying to tend as a shepherd, denoting the abiding exercise of that vocation, and in its highest functions.

17. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said the third time, &c.—This was the Physician's deepest incision into the wound, while yet smarting under the two former probings. Not till now would Peter discern the object of this succession of thrusts. The third time reveals it all, bringing up such a rush of dreadful recollections before his view, of his "thrice denying that he knew Him," that he feels it to the quick. It was fitting that he should; it was meant that he should. But this accomplished, the painful dialogue concludes with a delightful "Feed My sheep"; as if He should say, "Now, Simon, the last speck of the cloud which overhung thee since that night of nights is dispelled: Henceforth thou art to Me and to My work as if no such scene had ever happened."

18, 19. When thou wast young—embracing the whole period of life to the verge of old age.

thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest—wast thine own master.

when … old thou shalt stretch forth thine hands—to be bound for execution, though not necessarily meaning on a cross. There is no reason, however, to doubt the very early tradition that Peter's death was by crucifixion.

19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God—not, therefore, a mere prediction of the manner of his death, but of the honor to be conferred upon him by dying for his Master. And, indeed, beyond doubt, this prediction was intended to follow up his triple restoration:—"Yes, Simon, thou shall not only feed My lambs, and feed My sheep, but after a long career of such service, shalt be counted worthy to die for the name of the Lord Jesus."

And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me—By thus connecting the utterance of this prediction with the invitation to follow Him, the Evangelist would indicate the deeper sense in which the call was understood, not merely to go along with Him at that moment, but to come after Him, "taking up his cross."




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