Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me more than these?” I wonder if he was talking about his friends that Peter went fishing with. Or, could it be the boats with which he earned a living? Maybe it was the fish that he caught which created an income for him and his family.
Whatever the case, Jesus wanted to know if Peter’s love for Jesus is more than other things in life. After all, Peter had left everything to follow Jesus. Now, he has returned to what he had left behind to follow Jesus.
Was three days too much time for Peter to wait for his master to return? Jesus had said he’ll be buried for three days and three nights! Then, he would rise again. Peter’s inability to wait caused Jesus to ask this probing, and disturbing question.
But why was this question asked only to Peter? Seven of the disciples were together in this fishing expedition. It seems clear that Peter was the initiator of this attempt of returning to their old trade (John 21:3).
But regardless of the variables, it’s surprising that Jesus repeats the question three times. Much has been said of Peter’s selection of the Greek word for love. But for Peter, he was grieved that Jesus kept repeating this same question. That saddened him as if Jesus wouldn’t believe him. Of course, he had just betrayed Jesus three times during some of the most difficult moments of Jesus’ life (Peter’s most difficult time as well). I’m sure Jesus understood that the situation was difficult for Peter too.
Yet after each repetition of the words “I love you” from Peter, Jesus’ reply is quite focused as Jesus said “feed my lambs” in v. 15, “tend my sheep” in v. 17.” This was the response Jesus expected. Peter was to feed his sheep.
When he was initially called, Jesus said “come follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” Now he says “feed my sheep.”
For Jesus, he wanted Peter’s love to exceed his love for all others. That kind of love would lead to obedience. The instruction was to catch fish and feed sheep.
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