You're as brilliant as the things you want to do!
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Do You Love Me More Than These?

The Challenges of Love; The Commands of Caring!

The Backdrop of Denial

imageFollowing the Lord’s Supper, Jesus and the disciples went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus told the disciples that they would fall away (Matthew 26:26-34). He used the scripture in Zechariah13:7 to paint of picture of how the shepherd would be struck down and the sheep would scatter. Peter, still having a great deal of confidence in his own strength, proclaimed that he would never fall away. Jesus startled Peter by telling him that he would deny the Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.

Later in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter and the disciples would be found sleeping three times. Peter, even then, the Lord had not gotten his attention. When Jesus was betrayed, Peter rose up and struck the ear of the slave of the high priest which Jesus healed (Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:50-51). Peter then followed them back to the courtyard of Caiaphas the high priest. At some point someone recognized Peter and ultimately he denied knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75). When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus’ words and went out and wept bitterly.

Rewind to The Call

When Jesus called Peter the first time, he was cleaning his fishing nets from a hard nights work (Luke 5:1-11). Jesus asked Peter to put out a little ways into the water and Jesus began to teach. When Jesus was done teaching he told Peter to put out into the deep water and cast his nets. After declaring that they had been working hard all night but caught nothing, Peter agreed and did as Jesus asked. The results of fishing Jesus way filled two boats to the point of sinking where fishing man’s way produced futility and fatigue.

Peter acknowledged this by declaring “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh Lord!”. But Jesus had different ideas. He told Peter; “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” What a powerful statement, Peter recognized he was a sinner but Jesus saw something that Peter did not see.

There are a couple of important things to note here.

  1. When Peter fished his way the results were simply awful
  2. But, when Peter fished the way that Jesus told him to fish they filled two boats to the point of sinking
  3. When Peter recognized how unworthy he was, Jesus declared that it did not matter as long as Peter followed the Lord

Fishing! Again!

After Jesus was crucified the disciples fell into disarray just as Jesus has predicted on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:26-34). Peter, being confused, bewildered and having lost heart, decided to go fishing (John 21:1-17). They went out and fished all night catching nothing. The amazing thing here is that this kind of response is so human. Too many times we do the same thing. When we lose heart we fall back on our own strength rather than trusting in God’s Word (Galatians 6:9). So did Peter. But, in the morning after a night of bad fishing, there was Jesus standing on the bank. “Got any fish”, Jesus calls out. “Not a one”, they reply. “Cast your net on the right-hand side of the boat”, Jesus tells them. They did as Jesus commanded and caught so many fish they could not haul in the nets. Immediately John recognized that it was Jesus and told Peter who immediately leapt into the water and came ashore to meet Jesus. This time rather than telling Jesus; “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, oh Lord!”, Peter ran to meet the Lord. Peter’s heart was changing but it was not there yet.

What did they find when they got there? A hot fire with fish already cooking for breakfast. Amazing, Peter had to learn the same lesson as when he had been called by Jesus in the first fishing episode. Jesus did not need their fish, He needed them to follow His trust Him. What was Jesus telling them?

  1. When you fish your way the results are awful
  2. When you follow my instructions the results are greater than you can imagine
  3. I do not need our fish, I need you to display your faith in Me

Three Love Challenges!

Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, challenged Peter three different times in three different ways. The semantics of Jesus challenges compared to the responses from Peter are clearly an indication that Peter, at this point in time, really had no clue. While Peter’s faith had been bolstered by the sight of Jesus, he was still not where Jesus needed him to be.

Do You Love Me More Than These?

John 21:15 “So 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, “Tend My lambs.”

The first challenge is one of comparing Peter’s will and whether or not it was inclined toward his fishing friends or toward Jesus. Jesus was trying to get Peter’s attention because there were some things that He needed Peter to do. Jesus asks; “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?“ The word Jesus used here is the Greek word agapas. This word comes from the root agapáō which means to prefer or love but infers a direction of the will. Jesus was clearly asking Peter “Do you prefer your fishing friends or do you prefer to do My will?” Peter’s answer is rather shocking and demonstrates that Peter is still rather superficial in his faith. Peter responds with “Yes, Lord; You know that I love *You.” But here, Peter used the word philō which means affectionate friendship. Jesus asked a question that had to do with preferring Jesus’ will over Peter’s fishing pals and Peter responded with a dud; “Yes, Lord, you know that I’m fond of you.”

Do You Love Me?

John 21:16 “He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love *Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love *You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”

So now, Jesus gets personal. Peter’s response to the first question, “Yes, Lord, you know that I’m fond of you”, requires probing further. Jesus now asks directly, “Simon, son of John, do you love *Me?” Again Jesus uses the word agapas. Jesus is asking Peter a direct question; “Peter, do you really prefer My will?” Again, Peter performed a stupendous belly flop; “Yes, Lord; You know that I love *You.” Wow, for the second time, demonstrating that he just doesn’t get it, Peter says; “Yes, Lord, you know that I’m fond of you.”

Are You Fond of Me?

John 21:17 “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Now Jesus is serious and this time He asks Peter; “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” But this time Jesus switches gears. Here Jesus uses the word philō. Jesus says to Peter; “Peter, are you really my friend?” Peter realized that he was missing something and it concerned him and Peter’s response indicated that he was unsettled but still did not get it. Peter responded; “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” So acknowledging that Jesus knows “all things”, he gave the same response that used the Greek word philō. But Jesus now has Peter’s attention.

Follow Me

The next two verses are the heart of what Jesus was looking for in Peter. He wanted Peter to surrender to His will. Jesus prophesied over Peter telling him that he would suffer for Jesus sake and then told him “Follow Me”. (John 21:18-19)

What About Him

Then Peter immediately began to compare. Peter then asked Jesus well what about this guy, speaking of John. But Jesus responded with “what about him. If I want him to hang around that’s the way it’ll be.” (John 21:20-23)

Three Commands to Care!

But Jesus was not only concerned with the direction of Peter’s will, Jesus was also concerned with how Peter thought about the believers that he would have to lead. I wrote a more detailed article on this in Shepherds-Schmepherds, Tend My Sheep!

Tend My Lambs

John 21:15 “So 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, “Tend My lambs.”

First Jesus challenges Peter; “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Following Peter’s response Jesus told Peter “Tend My lambs” (Βόσκε ta arnia). The Greek word used for “tend” is Βόσκε which means to feed (graze) and the Greek word for lambs is arnia which means lambs. Jesus painted a picture of what He wanted Peter to do with new Christians. Jesus told Peter; “If you love Me Peter then teach My lambs to graze.”

Shepherd My Sheep

John 21:16 “He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love *Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love *You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”

Next Jesus challenges Peter again; “Simon, son of John, do you love *Me?” Peter again responded but Jesus gave Peter a different command; “Shepherd My sheep”. The Greek words here were completely different. Here Jesus used the phrasePoimaine ta probata”. Poimaine means “to shepherd” but the focus of the word is different from the word Βόσκε. While the focus of Βόσκε is feeding, the focus of Poimaine is tending. The word probata refers to grown sheep. Here Jesus told Peter; “If you love Me Peter then be a shepherd to My sheep.”

Tend My Sheep

John 21:17 “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Here Jesus challenged Peter for the third time; “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter again responded and Jesus then gave Peter a third and still different command; “Tend My sheep.” This phrase was a different view of shepherding as well. Jesus said “Βόσκε ta probata”. So here Jesus told Peter; “If you love Me Peter then graze My sheep.”

Peter; Follower of Jesus and Shepherd of God’s Flock

Eventually, Peter would give his life for the Lord opting to be crucified upside-down because he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus. But did Peter get the whole message from Jesus. Absolutely! Listen to 1 Peter 5:1-4 “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Jesus, The Master Teacher

Three denials, three times caught sleeping, three challenges of love and three commands. Someone tell me that there is not a pattern here.

Jesus used every moment as a teaching moment. Everything Jesus did had a purpose in leading His disciples to the point where they were ready to take on the world in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But there is so much more. We learn not only that Jesus wants our will directed toward Him, He wants us to care for those who are part of the church. The most important thing to remember here that that Jesus clearly told Peter that He had a plan for Peter’s life and Peter should not worry about the plans that Jesus had for the other disciples. We need to learn and embrace this teaching and understand that God’s plan for us may be different than His plan for others but that should not change the fact that our will is directed toward God and our care and concern should always be directed toward other believers and those who are lost.

In the beginning of Jesus ministry on earth He found Peter fishing and called him to be a fisher of men. When Jesus was ready to ascend to the Father He found Peter fishing and made him a fisher of men.


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