When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these
They have just finished eating all the fish they could ever want, like a feast, which came from one of the largest catches of fish they had ever brought in.
I don’t think that Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other disciples. I know that Peter talked in that language, but when Jesus talked in that language, He told them that the greatest among them would be the servant of all. Jesus taught against self-comparison and comparing ourselves with others. The tax collector was justified while the Pharisee tried to justify himself through comparison. Numerous times the disciples were arguing about who would be at the seat of honor and Jesus always shot them down. So now, I don’t think that He’s walking Peter into that thinking of self-comparison.
I don’t think that Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than he loves the other discples, either. He’s not really doing anything to show love to those guys, and as soon as Jesus showed up Peter deserted them to make it to shore. “Row your own boat to shore, I’m swimming!” he said with his splash.
I think it has to do with the fish! Peter is the one that instigated this fishing trip. Peter is the oldest among them and, from what we read in Acts, married so he’s less likely to just sit around and wait for something. He’s the impulsive action guy, wanting to build tents for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; pledging his devotion to Jesus beyond that of others, etc.
Peter is off and rowing for some provision, definition, and activity from his fishing without waiting a full week since they last saw Jesus.
(of course, I’m in Peter’s boat right now as I’m in job transition, so of course I’m reading it this way! I think this is pretty accurate though.)
v. 15 – “do you love me”
The father wants to give us a chance to show and express our devotion to Him. He wants us to openly share our love for Him and express it in whatever way we can. Even though He knows the hearts of all men, and knows that we are going to run to Him more in times of need and less in times of peace and rest, He still loves to hear us run to Him and proclaim our devotion to Him. Just like Peter said, “you know all things” we know that God knows what is inside us, but He knows that its a real relationship when we are able to express our thoughts to each other. Just like my wife KNOWS I love her, she never tires of me telling her, because it shows even more when I say it.
I think Jesus knew about how Peter went out and wept bitterly, and knew that Peter needed some rebuilding. When Jesus said “Feed my sheep.” I don’t think it was in a tone of “Well then feed my sheep dag-nabbit!” It was more pointing a way for Peter to show his love for Jesus.
Do you love me? I know you are hyperactive and have to do something, so do this: feed my sheep.
The Father knows our needs deeper and fuller than we could ever imagine. John is passive and observant as he follows Jesus. You don’t usually hear about John taking the first step or leading the disciples (even though he was the one that got them into the High Priest’s house during Jesus’ trial, so he wasn’t too passive) but Peter has got to have a tool in his hand and be doing something. Peter is a lot like I am on a rainy Saturday. Sitting around the house is fine, but about 3:00 I get antsy and have to do something like clean out a closet, build a giant Lego kit, or play a video game.
Jesus gives Peter some actions to do, gives Him a full commission to match his denials on Passion Night, and gets him out of looking and comparing himself with others. (Don’t worry about what’s going to happen to John.)
v.19 “This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this He said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus is saying to Peter, “Look, Peter, here is how it’s going to end for you. Don’t worry about denying me anymore, you won’t, and it’s going to get you killed. Don’t try to avoid it, follow me into it.” Bonhoeffer said in the Cost of Discipleship that when we endeavor to follow Christ, we must not forget where He went. When we follow Him, we are being led to our death.
I almost want to add at the end of v. 19 “Follow me [all of the way home]”