John 21:15-19 So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love thou me more than these? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; thou know that I love thee. He said unto him, Feed my lambs. He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love thou me? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; thou know that I love thee. He said unto him, Feed my sheep. He said unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Love thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou know all things; thou know that I love thee. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou was young, thou girded thyself, and walked whither thou would: but when thou shall be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou would not. This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, Follow me.
‘Simon, son of Jonas, love thou me more than these?’ Peter is always addressed as “Simon” except in Luke 22:34. The question from Jesus to Peter was if he really loves Jesus more than the rest of the disciples, as he boasted (Matt. 26:33-35)? He had boasted of greater love than the rest and yet, no one (except Judas) had treated Him so basely. Peter in his reconverted state gave a most modest reply.
‘Love’ Jesus used the Greek verb agapao in the first two questions, which means ardently, supremely, perfectly, while Peter answered with the verb phileo to like, be fond of, feel friendship for another. The third time the Lord used phileo which deeply humbled Peter.
‘Feed’ the Greek word bosko, to feed, tend a flock, provide pasture for, take care of, guide, lead, defend, govern, and shepherd His lambs. ‘Lambs’ the Greek word arnion. Only here and 27 times in Revelation, and always of Christ except John 13:11. The other word for lamb is amnos as used in John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32 and 1Pet. 1:19. ‘Sheep’ the Greek word probation for sheep. Used figuratively of Christ (Acts 8:32); lost people (Matt. 9:36; 10:6; 15:24; 1Pet. 2:25); saved people (Matt. 10:16; 26:31; John 10:1-27; 21:16-17; Rom. 8:36; Heb. 13:20); and people in general (Matt. 25:31-46).
‘Third time’ Peter had denied the Lord three times before the cock crowed; now Christ caused him to make a triple confession. ‘Grieved’ the Greek word lupeo, to make sorrowful, to affect with sadness, cause grief, make uneasy. It is translated “grieve;” “sorry” and “sorrowful;” and “be in heaviness.”
‘Lord, thou know all things; thou know that I love thee.’ This might have been the confession and the humility Christ was looking for. A few days before, he knew more about himself than Christ did and was frank enough to say so, but his fall and repentance had greatly humbled him. Now he was not so sure of himself, but he was sure that he loved Jesus.
‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee’ the last of 25 times in John meaning surely, surely or Amen, amen.
‘When thou was young, thou girded thyself, and walked whither thou would: but when thou shall be old, thou shall stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou would not.’ The 43rd and last New Testament prophecy in John fulfilled. A prediction of the kind of death Peter should glorify God with. This was written after his death. Ancient writers say he was crucified head down as per his own request because he thought he was unworthy to die with his head up like his Master.
‘Young’ the Greek word neoteros that means younger. The word neos generally applied to people under thirty. The use of this word and the fact John outran him (20:4) gave rise to the tradition that he was a middle-aged man.
‘Carry’ the Greek word phero means lead, carry, bear, or bring forth. This refers to the time when Peter would die. Another would take him to where he would not desire to go – to death and the grave.
‘Follow’ in Greek is akoloutheo and is used of a servant, soldier, or pupils following their leader even to death (Matt. 8:19; 9:9; 19:27; John 12:26; 21:22). This statement no doubt relieved Peter, showing that Christ was not going to make any more predictions of his weaknesses and failure. Twice he is commanded here to follow (21:19, 22).