Summary: At the breakfast on the beach, Jesus restores Peter and calls him not only to "fishing for men" but also shepherding human sheep.
8 21 16 “From Fishing to Shepherding” John 21:15-19
Several disciples had just witnessed another fish miracle on the shores of Galilee. The catch of 153 fish at Jesus’ command pointed to the large HOLY SPIRIT-Pentecost catch when, on one day, 3,000 human fish would be caught (saved) through the empowered Gospel sermon of Peter. 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 “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah/John, do you love (Agapao) Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." (phileō) He said to him, "Feed My lambs."
16 He said to Him a second time, "Simon son of Jonah/John, do you truly love (Agapao) me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. (phileō)" Jesus said, "Tend (or “take care of”) my sheep."
17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me (phileō)?" Peter was grieved (hurt or sorrowful) because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me (phileō)?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. (phileō)" Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.”
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, questioned you with these words: Do you love me more than these?
First of all we have two different Greek words in our passage translated “love“: 1. We have phileo-love. Philia refers to brotherly love; there is the town of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and “philia” is most often exhibited in a close friendship. Good 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. This kind of love involves feelings of warmth and affection toward another person; we do not have phileo-love toward our enemies.
2. Secondly we have “agape” love. “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. Contemporaries in Jesus’ time often did not make a distinction between agape and philia, but the Bible does. Many times the two were interchangeable,
however, God commands us to have agape love toward everyone, to even “agape/love” our enemies.
The first time Jesus asks the question to Peter, He asks if Peter loved Jesus “more than These”. Was Jesus pointing to the boatload of fish still sitting there when He asked this question? 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, and his denial, unknown to Peter at the moment, was 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 “agapaō” and one time he uses “phileō”), but in this case I believe John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is making a distinction between the two kinds of love.
“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 (with a sacrificial Christ-like love) more than these?