Skip to content

A Direct & Searching Question. John 21:15-19


A Direct & Searching Question

Text: John 21:15-19. 

It was morning. Peter and some of the other disciples had been spending the night fishing, with no success. As dawn broke they saw a man standing in the shore, and that man asked them whether they had caught any fish.. On their negative reply, he instructed them to let down their nets on the right hand side of the boat, and they brought in such a draft of fish that they couldn’t bring them into the boat. John caught on first. The man in the shore was Jesus! Peter put on his coat and jumped into the water and waded ashore, while the other disciples brought the boat in. Ashore a fire had been lit, and fish and bread already in it. They had breakfast on the beach with the risen Lord!
But after the meal came the question, and it was addressed to Peter. A very simple question, yet a heart searching question too, “Do you love me!” Let’s look at that question, and it’s profound implications for Peter and for us:-

1. The Root of the Question! 15
The root of the question is a test of Peter’s sorrow and repentance. Do you love me? Do you love me more than these? We have to ask the question, what does Jesus mean by ‘these?

  • His finances. Peter had been fishing with his colleagues. They had a boat, and a business opportunity, a career, and a possibility of a materially secure future. When Jesus said, do you love me more than these, was he simply referring to all of the material blessings of a secure future. Was Peter prepared to walk away from his steady wage and his business and follow Jesus, to give him first place, to love and serve others. Peter was no career minister!
  • His friends. Now this is interesting, for Peter had compared himself with the other disciples, before Jesus was betrayed and falsely arrested. Jesus had said that many would desert him and betray him, and Peter’s response is found in Matthew 26:33 34 Jesus said to him, Now how did he do with that? We know that when he was sitting in the court of Pilate, he was approached by a girl, who had noticed that he was one of Jesus followers. Astonishingly, Peter denied it! He denied it three times, and when he had denied Christ for the final time, a rooster crowed, – and it struck him with force that the words of Christ had been completely true. Like all the rest of the disciples, he had failed the Lord at some point, and let him down, and his confident declaration that he was not like the others was proved to be just worthless egotism. Now, Jesus challenges him. Is he still thinking of himself as better, more spiritual, living on a higher plain than the other followers? Are you going to say that you love me more than these other disciples? Peter has learned. He doesn’t boast now. He just simple replies, ‘I love you Lord.’

The question gets to the heart of Christian service. Do we love the Lord enough to give up everything and follow him, and do we love him enough to do,what he gives us, whether it is big or small, without comparing ourselves to the task he has given to other servants like is.

2. The Repetition of the Question! v16-17
Peter is grieved. Did Jesus not believe him, and didn’t the Lord know the very thoughts of Peter’s heart? Why did Jesus ask the same question three times? But then, how many times did Peter deny the Lord? Three times! This section of the chapter is all about Peter’s restoration to ministry after his fall. It’s a very gentle process. It’s a lesson for us, for his repentance must match his offence, and must show the depth of his sorrow over his sin. In the modern church, in some cases, the sin that has brought about the fall is irreversible, and in that case, perhaps it is simply best to gently advise the offender that while his sons can be forgiven, he would be best to accept that his public ministry has reached its end. Even Paul was concerned about this in his own life.

3. The Result of the Question!
Answering the question would have serious, profound, life-changing implications for Peter. It would lead to:-

  • A cross of service. Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Peter, every time he declared his love for the Saviour was commanded to serve the church, ‘feed my sheep, feed my lambs’. Like all Christians, we are saved to serve, to daily take up our cross, deny our own interests and live for the Lord and for others. Luke 9:23 The supreme act of self-denial is to put others interests before our own. Romans 12:10 Loving the Lord would bring Peter huge responsibility within the church, to be a pastor and an apostle and an author, a vessel for revelation of God’s inspired word…
  • A cross of sacrifice. For Peter, the cross was more than a spiritual burden, or a call to the service of others. Listen Christ’s words about Peter’s death… v18-19 There is a tradition that Peter was crucified, and that when he faced the cross he asked to be crucified differently than Jesus, for he considered himself unworthy to be crucified as the Saviour had been. So Peter, it is said, was crucified upside down. Whether that is true or just tradition we do not know, for it is not recorded for us in the Bible. But we do know that at the end of his life, Peter was bound, and led out to a place where he did not want to go and was executed. How many other Christians walked that same path, whose love for Christ was such, that they would never deny him, even if that meant a martyr’s death.
  • A cross of shepherding. Peter was to follow Jesus, and to shepherd His sheep. Did he? 1 Peter 5:1 Yes, he took the burden and the call that was laid upon him and he bore it faithfully and well.

What are the implications of this for us? Peter was an ordinary man like us, he let the Lord down as we often do, and he failed as we do, yet, being restored to faith, having confessed his love for Christ and repented of his sin, he would be a shepherd and an apostle in Christ’s church. We can’t be apostles, but we can all be shepherds – looking after the church, tending, feeding and protecting the flock of God, and gently feeding the milk of the word to his lambs.

© Bob McEvoy

From → John

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: