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.” 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.'”
John 21:15-17, (context vv. 15-19)
Peter’s denial was a public one, and it was important that his restoration be public as well. It may come as a shock, but Peter needed to do this–even though it was a grief to him (verse 17.) It was necessary for him to heal. It was also a clear testimony to the others that Peter was completely restored.
Repeatedly in this passage, love gets linked to service. (Can you see this, it’s important that you do.) The Lord asks Peter if he really loves him, and most likely it was a solemn affair, not something trivial or casual. The word used is ἀγαπάω, agape–this is the type of love that God has for people. It’s a love that gives 110%.
The third time the word for love is different though, the word used is φιλέω, philo–this is a type of love that a man has for others, a brotherly kind of love. Something good, but less than agape.
And each time Peter responds, he uses the brotherly type of love. I don’t mean to be confusing here, but every time Jesus uses agape to Peter, Peter responds with philo. It’s as if Peter is struggling with loving Jesus wholeheartedly. Perhaps Peter was ashamed of his denial.
We must saturate our work with love. We must serve, but love is to fill our efforts. Always.
Love can’t be seen unless it has a physical aspect. Love can’t be abstract, a vague feeling, or a hazy concept–it has to be seen by others. Jesus’ sheep (and lambs) must be fed, and watched. This is now Peter’s call to ministry.
This is Jesus’ ministry as well.
Apparently, there is plenty of this kind of work to go around! Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ work in Isa. 40:11. This now becomes Peter’s work as well.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.”
Whether or not Peter was the first “pope” is debatable. But it’s clear that Jesus focused on Peter. And isn’t it just like him to turn our failings into victories? Peter’s denial was now his ministry to others. It dealt with the pride issue, which often disrupts true ministry to his flock.
“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”