The Gospel of John – Lesson 54 – John 21:15-25
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I care about you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I care about you.” Jesus told him, “Be a shepherd for my sheep.” 17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you care about me?” Peter was grieved because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you care about me?” He answered, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I care about you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said. 18 “Amen, Amen, I tell you: When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will tie you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.” 20 Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them. This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and asked, “Lord, who is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22“If I want him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? You follow me.” 23 And so it was said among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say that he would not die, but, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who is testifying about these things and who wrote these things. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus also did many other things. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the world itself would not have room for the books that would be written.
In our previous lesson we heard how Jesus provided for the physical needs of his disciples with a miraculous catch of fish. But Jesus had bigger needs to fill for his disciples as he appeared them on this occasion. The night before Jesus died, Peter caved in out of fear of Jesus’ enemies. He denied knowing his Savior three times that night. Finally, the disciple who promised he would never forsake his Lord under any circumstances was so filled with guilt that he hurried outside and wept bitterly. Certainly Peter was glad to see that Jesus had risen from the dead. But could he help but be filled with the feelings of failure over having denied his Savior? Could he help but wonder if Jesus would ever fully forgive him for his unfaithfulness.
Jesus certainly had forgiven Peter. Jesus went to the cross to pay for Peter’s denial of his Savior, just as he paid for all the times we denied Jesus with our own sins. Now it was time for Jesus to restore Peter and to give him direction for the future. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” While there is some debate over what Jesus meant by “more than these,” it is clear that Jesus wanted Peter to love his Lord more than anything else. In response, Peter not only said that he loved his Lord, he also appealed to Jesus’ perfect knowledge of all things. He answered, “You know that I care about you.” In reply Jesus made it clear that Peter was to take up the work of feeding the sheep of his flock. This wasn’t to be a one-time action. Peter was to continually feed God’s people with the good news of the Gospel for the rest of his life. This action wasn’t meant for Peter alone. Jesus had trained all his disciples to take up this work after he ascended into heaven.
Jesus asked Peter a second time if he loved his Lord. Once again, Peter appealed to Jesus’ knowledge of all things to prove he loved his Lord. This time Jesus told Peter to, “Be a shepherd for my sheep.” This response by Jesus made it clear that Peter was to do more than preach the Word. He was to use God’s saving message to strengthen, protect, comfort, and guide all of God’s people. Once again, this task wasn’t reserved only for Peter. Jesus intended this work to be taken up by the long line of pastors and teachers who would continue the work Peter and the other disciples began.
One final time Jesus asked Peter is he loved him. Peter didn’t waver in his response. He expressed his love for Jesus and insisted that Jesus already knew this was true. Jesus didn’t deny that he already knew about Peter’s love for him. He made it clear that since this was the case, that Peter should show his love by continually feeding the sheep of God’s flock with the Word of God.
But there was more that Peter needed to know. The day would come when Peter would be arrested and put to death because of his faithful service to Jesus. Providing this knowledge wasn’t meant to give Peter a chance to reconsider. Jesus simply told Peter, “Follow me.” When Peter saw John following, he wanted to know if the tis disciple would suffer the same martyr’s death. Jesus made it clear that the future was not for Peter (or any of us) to know. Peter’s focus (and ours) needed to be on following Jesus no matter what happened in the future.
John closed the Gospel by emphasizing that he didn’t record all the things Jesus did. All the books in the world couldn’t provide a complete record of all the actions of the eternal Son of God. This statement brings a great comfort to us and to all of God’s people. Our Lord Jesus tells us the same thing he told Peter. “Follow me.” We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus no matter where he leads and no matter what he gives us to do. But as we do, we can be sure that our Lord is continually at work on our behalf. All the books in the world cannot fully tell the story of how our Lord Jesus daily works to preserve us in our faith and to finally bring us to eternal life in heaven. To our Lord alone be praise, honor, and glory now and forever. Amen.
1 – As Jesus spoke to Peter what did he make clear his disciple was to do?
Peter and the other disciples were to be shepherds to God’s people. They were to use the Holy Scriptures to teach, rebuke, correct and train God’s people and to prepare them for every good work God gives us to do.
2 – Jesus prophesied that Peter would eventually die a martyr’s death in the name of Jesus. We may also be called on to suffer in Jesus’ name. What did Jesus make clear that he wants us to do no matter what happens?
We are to always love our Lord and follow him no matter where he leads us.
3 – What special assurance did John give in verse 24?
John testified that all these things happened just as he recorded them. We can be sure John’s testimony is true. We know this because the Gospel of John, like the rest of the Holy Scriptures are the divinely-inspired Word of God.
4 – Why is the closing verse of John’s Gospel especially comforting to us?
The eternal Son of God is always at work. Even a whole world full of books couldn’t record everything Jesus did. But Romans 8:28 assures us that God is working in everything for the good of those who love him. Everything Jesus does works toward his goal to bring us safely to him in heaven.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to