John 21:15f Jesus, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple
Bible Background: 1. This is that final appearance of the risen Jesus in John’s Gospel, having ‘breakfast on the beach’ with 7 disciples. Part of why this story with Peter seems to be here, is to ‘rehabilitate’ Peter as one of the leading disciples. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied having any connection to Jesus 3x’s, something of which he was very ashamed.
Digging Deeper: 1. “Love” has been a big theme running throughout John’s Gospel. “For God so loved the world…”, “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for their friends.” Now, Jesus asks Peter 3x’s, “Do you love me?”
2. Peter’s answers seem to come from the heart: “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” The “you know” part, is an acknowledgement that Jesus knows Peter inside and out. Notice the mention that “Peter felt hurt to be asked a third time”….
3. Jesus’ instructions to Peter are: “Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep.” (This is Jesus, the Good Shepherd talking!) Combined with the “do you love me?”, what does that sound like to you-in terms of ‘marching’ orders? Jesus does not ask “Do you understand everything I have taught and said?” He doesn’t say “Go and move mountains!”. His last instructions have to do with love, and with loving God’s people-weak and strong. Maybe this “Love one another as I have loved you” is really what life in Christ is all about!
4. There’s some foreshadowing of what’s ahead for Peter: Tradition suggests that Peter did go and love and serve and preach boldly in the name of Jesus, and that he was crucified for that. It adds seriousness to the invitation or command “Follow me!”
5. Then the Gospel finishes with an odd little note about “the beloved disciple.” Who is he? Perhaps the writer of the Gospel? And we get this neat note: Jesus did many more things….if all of them were written down, the whole world could not contain the books! Take that as a reminder there is always more to learn about Jesus and about following Jesus and about loving Jesus and about tending his flock!