Summary: The familiar dialogue between Peter and Jesus after the fish miracle on the Galilean beach reinstates Peter as a disciple and calls others to Fish but also Shepherd.
Fifty Forgotten Days: “From Fish to Sheep” John 21:15-17
Several disciples had just witnessed and had been PART OF another fish miracle on the shores of Galilee. The catch of 153 fish at the Galilee Breakfast with Jesus pointed to the large HOLY SPIRIT-Pentecost catch to come when 3,000 would be saved (caught) through the Gospel sermon of Peter in one day. The miracle was a reminder to us who follow Jesus that we are to share the Gospel as “fishers of men” to those who are lost in a sea of sin. Now Jesus moves from fish and fishing to sheep and shepherding.
Today’s scripture continues after having breakfast with the risen Savior on the beach in John 21:15-17: 15“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love (Agapao) me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you. (phileô)" Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love (Agapao) me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. (phileô)" Jesus said, "Take care of (tend) my sheep."
17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me (phileô)?" Peter was hurt (grieved, sorrowful) because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me (phileô)?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. (phileô)" Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.”
(“We have two different Greek words in our passage translated “love“: 1. Agape speaks of the noblest type of love: sacrificial love. It’s more than a feeling—it is an act of the will. Jesus, Himself, is personified as “AGAPE” LOVE in 1 Cor. 13.)
2.“We have phileo-love. Philia refers to brotherly love and is most often exhibited in a close friendship. Best friends will display this generous and affectionate love for each other as each seeks to make the other happy. You don’t want to ever let a friend down BECAUSE you love them.” It involves feelings of warmth and affection toward another person; we do not have phileo-love toward our enemies. However, God commands us to have agape love toward everyone.” S. Michael Houdmann, gotquestions.org)
A Call to a Higher Degree of the Highest Love
This is the third appearance by Jesus to disciples, Peter being present all 3 times. Peter had denied Jesus three times while Jesus was being interrogated leading to His crucifixion, and now Jesus asks Peter 3 times: Do you love me? The first time saying, “Do you love me more than these?” It would be one thing to have a friend or spouse ask you this question three times in succession, but what if the RISEN SAVIOR, your Lord Jesus, questions you with these words: Do you love me more than these?
More than These: Was Jesus pointing to the boatload of fish still sitting there? That meant alotta dollars and cents to a few fishermen! Do you love me more than personal profit? Do you love me more than your profession, than your career or your livelihood? Do you love me more than your calling? Are you willing to sacrifice what you may love most in life in order to follow me?
Agape-love is the love that God has for His people which prompted the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, for our sins. Do you love me more than your own interests? Or maybe Jesus was asking if Peter loved Him MORE than the other disciples loved Him. After all, Peter had denied Jesus, recorded for the world to hear; or maybe He was asking Peter if He loved JESUS more than Peter loved his friends.
Although John uses the words “agapao” and “phileo” interchangeably in some cases (i.e, the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is used four times in his Gospel: Three times he uses the word “agapaô” and one time he uses “phileô”), but I am not certain that John is using two different words to infer the same thing here. “FISHERS OF MEN”, the people that God calls to represent him, ARE CALLED TO A HIGHER DEGREE of the HIGHEST LOVE! After all, we are called to deny OURSELVES, not to deny our Savior. We are CALLED TO DECLARE, not to deny Jesus. We aren’t called, though, because we HAVE that kind of love. It is God who creates that kind of life and love IN US. The reason that we were created is to bring ALL GLORY to God, and to LOVE HIM ALONE with everything that is in us! The reason we are SAVED is to FOLLOW and DECLARE our Savior, and so the Risen Jesus says to Peter, but also to us: Do you love me more than these?
The Cure for Denial is a REPENTANT Heart.