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John 21:15-19 (New King James Version)
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to
Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon,
son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of
Jonah, do you love Me?” 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.
18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were
younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old,
you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where
you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify
God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
Our Lord addressed Peter by his original name, as if he had forfeited that of Peter through his denying him. He now answered, Thou knowest that I love thee; but without professing to love Jesus more than others. We must not be surprised to have our sincerity called into question, when we ourselves have done that which makes it doubtful. Every remembrance of past sins, even pardoned sins, renews the sorrow of a true penitent. Conscious of integrity, Peter solemnly appealed to Christ, as knowing all things, even the secrets of his heart. It is well when our falls and mistakes make us more humble and watchful. The sincerity of our love to God must be brought to the test; and it behoves us to inquire with earnest, preserving prayer to the heart-searching God, to examine and prove us, whether we are able to stand this test. No one can be qualified to feed the sheep and lambs of Christ, who does not love the good Shepherd more than any earthly advantage or object. It is the great concern of every good man, whatever death he dies, to glorify God in it; for what is our chief end but this, to die to the Lord, at the word of the Lord?
15. Simon, son of Jonah - The appellation Christ had given him, when be made that glorious confession, Matt. xvi, 16, the remembrance of which might make him more deeply sensible of his late denial of him whom he had so confessed. Lovest thou me? - Thrice our Lord asks him, who had denied him thrice: more than these - Thy fellow disciples do? - Peter thought so once, Matt. xxvi, 33, but he now answers only- I love thee, without adding more than these. Thou knowest - He had now learnt by sad experience that Jesus knew his heart. My lambs - The weakest and tenderest of the flock.
17. Because he said the third time - As if he did not believe him.
18. When thou art old - He lived about thirty-six years after this: another shall gird thee - They were tied to the cross till the nails were driven in; and shall carry thee - With the cross: whither thou wouldest not - According to nature; to the place where the cross was set up.
19. By what death he should glorify God - It is not only by acting, but chiefly
by suffering, that the saints glorify God. Follow me - Showing hereby likewise
what death he should die.
15. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? At the close of the feast, the Lord turned to Peter with this question, one that he repeated twice. On the night of the betrayal, when Christ intimated that his disciples would forsake him in the trial he was about to suffer, Peter spoke up and asserted that though all others forsook him he would never forsake him. What Christ had said might be true of the rest, but he was so loving, faithful and true, that he would die for him. Yet before the cock crow of the next morning he had thrice denied that he knew Jesus, even with his oaths. Such was the collapse of the confident disciple who "loved the Master better than these" other disciples. Since that fall, Christ had met with Peter among the rest of the disciples, but had not referred to this subject, but now has come the time for a restoration of Peter. Hence, he probes him with the question, "Lovest thou me more than these?" That question would at once recall to Peter his boastful claim, his awful fall, and would pierce him to the heart. He no longer claims that he is the truest of the apostolic band, does not even affirm confidently, but answers, "Thou knowest my heart; thou knowest that I love thee." Then said the Savior, Feed my lambs.
16. Feed my sheep. A second time the Lord probes Peter with the question. Let it be noted that he does not call him Peter, "the rock," any longer. So frail a disciple could only be called Simon. The Christ again commissions him to work, "Feed my sheep." Not only the lambs, but he may look after the sheep of the fold, watch over the disciples of the Lord, young and old. Three times Peter had denied the  Master; three times the Master questions his love; three times he gives him charge concerning his work. The questioning was painful, Peter was grieved, but the grief was wholesome, and Peter's whole subsequent life bore proof of the discipline. His rashness was forever gone.
18. When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself. Peter had denied his Master to save his own life. Now that he is reinstated in the old confidence and charged with the Master's work, he is told that he will be called on to die for it. He will be girded, not with a girdle, but with bonds, and he shall be led where he would not, unto death.
19. By what death he should glorify God. These two verses can only be understood as declaring that Peter should die the death of a martyr. John wrote after Peter's death, and may be understood as affirming that he did thus "glorify God." The universal testimony of the ancient Church is that he did thus die. It is asserted that Peter was crucified, a fact that is probable, as he was not a Roman citizen. Follow me. He had once forsaken Christ through fear of death. Now, with a prospect of violent death before him, he is bidden to resume the Master's work and to follow him. He did this, from this time, faithfully.
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