9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
This, the third time Jesus has appeared to his disciples, Jesus commands Peter to feed his sheep. (McGee: “There are eleven appearances before His ascension and three after His ascension. I think we can surmise from the text that there are others which were not described.”)
McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 104178-104179). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.
This is one place where the original Greek language does make a significant difference in understanding this passage. The reason for the difficulty is found in the Greek words for love, consistently translated by “love” in English. Agapa and phileo are the two words which Jesus and Peter are bantering back and forth. The proper translation of each of them is “love” as rendered in the King James Version, but it fails totally to catch the nuance of what is going on here.
I do not think I can say it as well as McGee: “There is another Greek word—it is phileo, and it means “friendship.” It has to do with the affections and the emotions in human relations at its very best usage. We get our word philanthropic from it, and philadelphia comes from it—Philadelphia, the city of “brotherly love.” And that is a word that is used in Scripture. But there is yet another word for love. It is agapao. Agapao is actually the highest and noblest word for love. Dr. Vincent in his Word Studies calls it a word of dignity. It is also a divine word, in that it is a word used to speak of the love of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, in His choice of language, passed over the words eros and phileo and used the word agapao when He was speaking to Simon Peter. He said, “Do you, Simon Peter, love me with all your heart?””
Peter, I remember, had the pride to tell his Lord that he would never deny Him. I think that bragging and being prideful was a problem that Peter often had. His bubble had been burst by his denials, his humility had stepped in, forever. Jesus started by asking Peter if he loved me “more than these”, indicating the other disciples. Peter the braggart would have had no problem answering I agapa you more than they do; Peter the humbled could not bring himself to say agapa, saying instead phileo.
Again, the Lord asks Peter if he agapas Him, but this time He leaves off “more than these”. Peter, still humbled, only answers that he phileos Him. The third time the Lord questions Peter, it is the Lord who changes the love to phileo, and Peter is very mortified because His Lord has dropped His word down, but, maintaining his humility, answers again with the phileo.
I think that this passage smells of rebuke to Peter, but I do also think that if one walks away thinking it was rebuke would miss the love behind the message. First of all, did not the Lord know Peter’s answer before asking? That is to say, I believe Jesus already knew Peter was humbled, almost to the point of destruction. His answer to Peter three times is also missed in English for each time He says “feed my sheep” He is saying slightly different things in the Greek. Peter is being pointed to act as a shepherd once more, and the Lord, rather than rebuking Peter, is rehabilitating him on a new basis, one founded on deep humility rather than pride. Remember that Peter was the one who insisted before all that he would never desert his Lord. I think the Lord is helping Peter get himself back together here, and the message should be looked at as one of tender love.
This passage is delightfully handled by McGee, and I commend it to anyone who wants further study, for he has divided and separated the passage out for easy understanding. It is a favorite of mine, and I shall delight in coming back to it many times, Lord willing.
McGee, J. Vernon (1990-01-30). Thru the Bible 1-5 (5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 104415-104421). Grupo Nelson. Kindle Edition.
O Happy Day!
1. O happy day, that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice
And tell its raptures all abroad.
2. O happy bond, that seals my vows
To Him who merits all my love!
Let cheerful anthems fill His house,
While to that sacred shrine I move.
3. 'Tis done, the great transaction's done
I am my Lord's and He is mine;
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charmed to confess the voice divine.
4. Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful center, rest,
Nor ever from my Lord depart,
With Him of ev'ry good possessed.
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
Lyrics: Philip Doddridge