John 21:15 - 17
ESV - 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. 16 He said to him 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, "Tend my sheep.
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This is one of my favorite passages from John. There are only two places in the entire NT where (in Greek) specifically a "charcoal fire" is mentioned. One is when Peter denied Jesus three times, the other is when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times. Jesus, as He is God knew that Peter was going to deny Him three times. In fact, He knew that Peter would be so afraid, and lack so much faith that even if He warned Him and gave Peter knowledge ahead of time of the event, that Peter would still make the choice to deny Christ three times. Remember, Jesus' interactions in our lives are purposeful and intentional. This incident with Peter was no exception. Jesus took this moment of crisis for Peter and would eventually use it to really call Peter out to ministry. After Jesus was resurrected, He recreated the same scene on the beach as when Peter denied Him. When Peter approached, he knew exactly what it looked like and what it reminded him of. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Peter knew what was happening. Peter knew the second time Jesus asked, and Peter knew the third time Jesus asked. How difficult a moment that must have been for Peter! But Christ works out all things for His glory, and from what we saw from Peter going forward, though hardly perfect, he didn't struggle with proclaiming Christ.
If you read the original greek you'll see peter could not say that he loved Him.He actually said Lord you know that I am fond of you.The third time Jesus did not ask Peter if he loved Him,He asked are you fond of me,that's why Peter broke down,he couldn't say it,but the great grace of our lord still said feed my sheep.Its never been about how much we love Him it's how much He loves us.
I think there is another aspect to why Jesus asked Peter three times " Do you love Me". What were Peter and the others doing when Jesus appeared to them on the shore? They were fishing for Fish, not Men. After the intervals of Jesus appearing to the Disciples when He was resurrected, maybe some doubt or questions of what would happen began to creep back into their minds, so Peter again taking the lead, said " I go fishing" and the others followed. So John 21:1-19 sets the stage for Jesus to challenge Peter as to what he loved the most, fishing for fish or fishing for men, loving Jesus enough to do what he was called to do, FEEDING GOD"S LAMBS AND SHEEP AND TENDING TO THEM. Peters doubt and denial surely had been discouraging to both Peter and the Lord, but I believe Jesus wanted Peter to know to trust Him and Serve Him and He would be there for him. Jesus even told Peter how he would die, in a martyred way. Did Peter love Jesus more than fish and fishing for fish? Yes, his life and death and writings of Scripture proved it. After the Holy Spirit filled Peter on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached and did what Jesus called him to do, Fish for men and Serve the Savior.
Peter had denied Jesus three times, out of fear and weakness. Jesus already knew that Peter would do this. When Peter had realized what he had done, what did Peter do? Luke 22: 61-62: 61 “And the Lord turned, and, looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62 And Peter went out and wept bitterly”. Peter wept bitterly. Peter’s heart was broken for what he had done. He wept bitterly. We can realize from this that in Peter’s heart he was sorely sorry unto God, and, repentant. Then what did Jesus do? Did Jesus reject Peter? No. Jesus taught Peter of His infinite mercy. The mercy of the Father. John 21:17 “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” Peter knew that Jesus saw into his heart. Jesus knew that Peter loved Him, even though Peter’s flesh failed him and he denied Jesus, but, Peter never denied Jesus in his heart. Not even when he spoke the words: “I do not know Him”, not once, but, three times. So, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Jesus showed Peter the extent of God’s mercy. Jesus forgave Peter, not once, but, for all three times he sinned. He fully forgave Peter for every time he sinned, and, still entrusted Peter with the purpose God placed upon his life; To feed His sheep. He forgave Peter and reinstated him to the purpose God had for his life. The message for us is the Lord’s mercy for the truly repentant heart of a sinner is infinite. Jesus loves us. He fully forgives us and has a purpose for our lives. We will sin, but, God is faithful. When we come to Him with a repentant heart, he fully forgives us through the sacrifice Jesus paid for us. We are saved by grace, not works, and, that grace will sustain us, and, nothing will come between us and the purpose God has for our lives.
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