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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

1 Peter by Robert Dean
What are you passionate about? When you have a passion, you’ll arrange your time and money to focus on it. Listen to this lesson to learn that whatever else is said about the Apostle Peter in the Bible, we know that he was very passionate about serving the Lord. Listen to this lesson to continue learning about the life of Peter. Gain a further clarification of what Jesus meant when He talked about the keys of the kingdom. See how Peter insists he will never deny Christ but within a short time he fails miserably. After Jesus’ resurrection see how He meets with Peter first and then find out what Jesus was teaching Peter when He asks him three times if he loved Him.

After this Bible class we had a special presentation by Stand With Us and two members of the Israeli IDF. Please click here to view/listen to their presentation.

Series:1 Peter (2015)
Duration:51 mins 47 secs

Who was Peter? Part 2: Peter in the Gospels
1 Peter
1 Peter Lesson #005
February 19, 2015
www.deanbibleministries.org

Last time we started looking at Peter. Now Peter is kind of interesting. I’ve always been kind of amused a little bit when you hear all kinds of different personality talk about how they identify with Peter. Peter had his very own personality. He had a very strong personality. He was very out-spoken at times. He didn’t always restrain his tongue. He often had foot-in-mouth-disease. But he was very passionate about what he believed.

I’ve often heard people who don’t have any of those qualities identify with Peter, so I don’t know what they’re identifying with. That’s one thing we come to love about Peter is that he had a very passionate personality towards the Lord. We saw that last time as we went over his early life before he was called as an apostle, before he was called as a disciple, and before he began to walk with Jesus, he was very focused on his spiritual life. He and his brother Andrew, as well as his business partners James and John, had a passion for the Lord.

I like that word passion. We use words such as so-and-so has a real heart for the Lord. That’s nice, but then you may hear other people that we may be more familiar with talk about someone having positive volition. I think those are both pretty anemic terms for what the Word of God wants from us. It doesn’t want just positive volition. It doesn’t just want a heart for the Lord. It wants a passion for the Lord. It wants someone who really is focused on the Lord. That is not just something that is part of their life. It’s the focal point of their life.

It’s the passion for their life. They get very emotionally involved with it. Not in the sense of charismatics where they’re driven by emotion; but when you have a passion for something such as a hobby you’re very passionate about, that becomes the focus in your life. You arrange the things that you do. You arrange how you spend your money all around being able to have the time, and the energy, and the financial resources around being able to enjoy those passions in your life.

As a believer it’s the Word of God and living for the Lord that should be the passion in your life. Peter really exemplified that. Whether he was right or wrong, he was passionate about it. We often sometimes identify with that aspect. Last time we looked at Peter’s background and family. We saw that he was a fisherman in a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee, and that he was from Bethsaida originally; that he was married and lived in a house that he and Andrew his brother owned. That shows something about the success of their business. What’s interesting is that there’s some remains that have been excavated at Capernaum. That’s always fascinating to visit when you go to Israel. When you look at places like Chorazin and Bethsaida, there’s hardly anything there. They’ve had to really look for these places. As I pointed out last time Josephus wrote that Galilee was extremely populous and that that even the small towns had a minimum population of 15,000. Even if he’s exaggerating, there were a lot of people living in those areas in contrast to today.

We went through various things in Peter’s life, when he first met Jesus as a result of his brother Andrew who was a disciple of John the Baptist coming to get him. We saw Peter’s call to be a disciple, his being sent out with the other eleven to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom in Matthew 11 which we’ve been studying in Matthew, and his walking on the water described in Matthew 14. In John 6:67 Jesus says, “Why are you guys still hanging out with me?” Peter answers, “Because you’re the only one who has words of eternal life.” That tells you his passion and his focus right there. He was focused on spiritual things. He knew that if you didn’t have that right, then nothing else in your life would be right.

Then we stopped and spent a little time on Jesus’ statement to Peter in Matthew 16:13 with the play on words there. I want to go back and just touch on something there before we go forward. This took place in the northern end of Galilee in Caesarea-Phillip. Jesus asked the disciples who people said He the Son of Man was. They said that some people said He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Then Jesus asked who they said he was, and Peter answered for the whole group.

I pointed out last time that from the beginning of the time they were first following Jesus, they knew He was the Messiah. This is how John the Baptist had identified Jesus as the One who was coming after him. Before that first year or so when they were actually called disciples when they drop everything and follow Jesus, they come to more and more of a conviction that He is indeed the Messiah. So Peter makes a very clear statement, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Then we studied how Jesus makes a play on this word, “I say unto you that you are Peter. You are PETROS.” This is a nickname He had already given Peter back in John 1. His birth name was Simon or Simeon; and so the Lord said He was “PETROS and on this rock [PETRA], I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The term “gates of” in some places would indicate usually their power, defensive position, fortification or something like that. I pointed out that at Caesarea-Philippi there is this huge rock escarpment with this huge hole that goes down in the earth, and that was thought to be one of the access points to Hades, the place where the dead went in Greek mythology. Jesus is off to the side talking to his disciples.

In the course of that particular verse, He says, “I say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.” Now there’s a lot of debate as to who this rock refers to. Some people think, mostly Roman Catholics, that it refers to Peter, making him the first pope and the first bishop of Rome and he’s the one who has all the authority. That doesn’t fit for a number of reasons that I went over last time.

Some people think the rock simply refers to the confession that Peter made, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. But it’s most likely Jesus referring to Himself. I took you back to Psalm 118:22 which forms a backdrop here. This is really important which is one reason I’m going back and reviewing this. This is a verse we saw on Sunday morning in Matthew 11:2–4 when John the Baptist sent a couple of his disciples to question Jesus whether He was really the Messiah. Jesus said, “Tell him what you see. The lame walk and the blind see and the lepers are cleansed.” Then the next verse which is Matthew 11:4 alludes to this verse that He would be an offense.

It probably had not occurred to John the Baptist that the Messiah wouldn’t be accepted right away. He had been anticipating that when the Messiah came and He offered the Kingdom, that the Kingdom would come, and here he’s in jail. This is why John the Baptist is confused. He hasn’t put all the piece together. He’s not doubting Jesus, as I pointed out on Sunday morning. He just needs more information. Peter alludes to that in 1 Peter 2:5 and quotes from Psalm 118:22. He’s going to do it again in Acts 4:11 saying Jesus is the rock of offense, that He was rejected by the builders and yet He became the chief cornerstone. So that’s quoted in 1 Peter. Also Peter quotes it in his message to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:11.

This idea that Jesus is the rock has to be grounded in more than just an illusion in Matthew 18 because it’s somewhat ambiguous there when Jesus says, “On this rock”. But the term rock has a rich history in the Old Testament. Let’s just run through some of the passages. You can do a word search or look it up in a concordance and look at all the times the Old Testament refers to God as the rock of Israel, the rock of our salvation, and the rock of our faith. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “He is the rock. His work is perfect for all His ways are justice.”

Rock is this huge rock in Caesarea-Philippi, indicating something stable, something unmovable, unshakeable, and something dependable. It relates to His faithfulness, His dependability, His strength, and His power that He cannot be shaken. All of that comes into that metaphor. Deuteronomy 32:15 is a part of Moses’ parting sermon to Israel just before he went up on Mount Nebo to die. He refers to God as the “Rock of his salvation.” In Deuteronomy 18, Moses says, “Of the rock who begot you.” This refers to God who gave birth to Israel through the call of Abraham. He says, “Of the rock who begot you, you are unmindful and have forgotten the God who fathered you.” 

In Deuteronomy 32:30 Moses goes on to say, “How could one chase a thousand, and two put two thousand to flight unless their rock has sold them?” This is referring to Israel in battle, that they could not have victory unless God gave them that victory over their enemy. Deuteronomy 32:31 says, “For their rock [the rock of the enemy] is not like our Rock. Even our enemies themselves being judges.” God is that Rock of Israel.

Deuteronomy 32:37, “He [God] said ‘Where are their gods? The rock in which they sought refuge?’ ” Their gods don’t provide any kind of refuge. In 2 Samuel 22, David writes that “The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer.” That’s a great promise to memorize. When you’re going through difficult or uncertain times, remind yourself that the Lord is your Rock, your Deliverer, and your Fortress. He is the One who sustains you. In Psalm 18:31 David says, “For who is God except Yahweh? And who is a rock except our God?” Psalm 18:46, “The Lord lives. And blessed be my Rock that the God of my salvation be exalted.” So we see in Psalm 28:1, “To you I will cry, O Lord, my Rock. Do not be silent to me lest if you’re silent to me I become like one of those who go down to the pit.”

This is critical. God is the Rock. Jesus is making a claim there that may be a little bit subtle or ambiguous, but He’s making a claim there that He’s the Rock in the conversation, and that He is God. He’s making a subtle claim to deity there. Other places He makes it more overt.

Now in that passage, as we go on to read it in Matthew 16:19, the Lord then makes this other statement. I had a question for clarification on this that came in last week so I wanted to address that. Maybe I wasn’t as clear in Matthew 16:19 where Jesus says to Peter, “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Now, what in the world does that mean? Contextually He explains that in the following phrases. He says, “Whatsoever thou binds upon the earth shall be bound in heaven.” The Greek is really important here because it means that whatever you bind shall have already been bound. In other words when Peter was making a definitive statement, he was simply reflecting revelation that had already been given him. He wasn’t operating on his own authority. It was a dependent authority. Decisions that he made were a result of prior decisions that had been already made in heaven.

It continues, “Whatever you loose on the earth shall have already been loosed in the heavens.” What is all this about? We have to understand how a key was indicated or used in the ancient world. It wasn’t just something you used to unlock a lock and open a door, which is often how people think about this. They think that Peter is unlocking the door to let people into heaven so we get all these pictures of Peter sitting at the pearly gates deciding who gets in and who doesn’t. That’s part of the imagery but it’s more than that.

A key was a badge of authority. If you were an employer, a landowner [in an agricultural society] you would have a manager, a steward in Biblical terminology, who would oversee all the farm workers, the personnel, and the equipment. He would be given the key to the storeroom so he would have access to all the equipment and all of the provisions, everything that was needed for the farm to operate. So he was given the key as a sign of his authority, and he would use that key in order to dispense what was needed to the farm worker. It’s more than just getting into or out of some place. It’s a badge of authority, a sign or authority, and it was also used as a way of granting access to certain areas and also granting certain privileges.

Being given the keys to the kingdom of heavens is more than just getting into heaven. As we study in Matthew, the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven” is a technical term. It’s not talking about getting into the Church. The kingdom is not parallel to the Church. Jesus just used Church for the first time in verse 18. He said, “On this Rock I will build my Church and I will give you the keys of the kingdom.” This is a very important statement because Jesus has just distinguished the Church from the kingdom. You want to go to all the amillennials out there and say, “How come you guys are confusing the Church with the kingdom? And how come you’re making the Church and the kingdom the same thing?”

Kingdom throughout Matthew is referring specifically, literally to that future Davidic, Messianic Kingdom that will come upon the earth. Jesus isn’t telling Peter He’s going to give him the keys to the Church. He says “I’m giving you the keys to the kingdom” so this relates to the role that we will have in the future kingdom. How those keys work has something to do with the authority of the apostles.

When Jesus goes on in this passage to say that whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heavens and whatever is loosed on the earth shall be loosed in the heavens, this is a really interesting statement because it is built on an idiom of usage from the rabbis. He’s not just saying they’re going to bind and loose. We have to understand how this would have been understood in terms of rabbinical theology and Judaism during the 2nd Temple period. This is an authority that Jesus doesn’t just give to Peter. Here He’s talking to Peter, but two chapters when we get to Matthew 18:18, Jesus confers this same authority to every disciple. This isn’t just something related to Peter. It relates to all of the apostles.

I believe it relates to their role and function as the foundation for the Church in Ephesians 2:20. The apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church. In the 2nd Temple period this referred to the power that the rabbis had on interpreting Scripture. How they interpreted Scripture was related to binding or loosing. It was specifically used in relation to two schools that appeared. We would call them conservatives and liberals. They were the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel. It was thought that the School of Shammai exercised the power of binding and he was the conservative. The power of loosing or releasing was related to Hillel. He’s more liberal in his interpretation of Scripture. So what Jesus is saying here is that you have the keys of the kingdom, and one of the implications of that is that you’re going to have an authoritative interpretation of God’s Word. That would come through the writing of Scripture and the proclamation of the truth of the gospel.

He goes on to emphasize this as part of that apostolic authority that belonged to all of the apostles as those who were part of the foundation of the Church. So the keys, in one sense, also would relate to the gospel because it’s only by faith in Christ that you get into the kingdom, the only way in which you can be born again. We talked about entering the kingdom as two ideas in the gospels. One is simply getting into heaven. That’s how Jesus uses it in John 3 when He’s talking to Nicodemus. In other places, like in the Sermon on the Mount, entering into the kingdom means not just getting into heaven, but entering into all the fullness and blessings and the privileges of the kingdom.

Remember in Matthew 5–7 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus isn’t talking to the crowd. He’s talking to His disciples who are already saved, already justified. He’s not talking to them about how to get into the kingdom. He’s telling them that unless they do certain things, they’re not going to enter into the fullness of the kingdom.

We’ve spent a lot of time going through that in Matthew. So this relates to that authority that’s going to be given to Peter. This is important in terms of background because when we get into Acts, who’s going to be the leader of the Apostles? It’s going to be Peter. Now Luke doesn’t come out and make an overt point of that, but it’s obvious in the way he treats things because in Acts 1:11, there is the last listing of the twelve where you have all of them listed by name, minus Judas Iscariot.

You never have most of them listed in Scripture again. James the brother of John is mentioned one time in Acts 12 because Herod Agrippa has him executed. That’s the only time he’s mentioned as the first martyred disciple/apostle in the Church. Then John is mentioned many times in conjunction with Peter in the first four to five chapters of Acts. Then you don’t hear anything about John again. And when he’s mentioned, he never talks. Peter is the one who does all the talking in the early part of Acts. The focus is on Peter and his leadership in the Church. That’s important, and you see that as the outworking of this principle in terms of the authority that was given to him.

That’s a review of where we’ve been. Now we see in Matthew 16 where Jesus called Peter Satan because he was telling the Lord, “No, no, no. You’re not going to be crucified. Not on our watch.” Then we come to the Mount of Transfiguration and we looked at its importance last time. Next we have Peter’s question to the Lord in Matthew 18:21–22 about how many times he should forgive his brother. We focused on this towards the end last time. This sets up Peter’s denial by showing his interest in forgiveness. The Lord is teaching him about forgiveness, that it’s not just seven times, but it’s seventy times seven.

Peter learned more about forgiving one another in John 13 where he learns that he has to have regular daily cleansing or washing of hands and feet. So he learns the lesson that not only do we have to be cleansed by God, but we have to forgive one another, and that’s part of loving one another. Then we get into the major failure in Peter’s life when he’s warned by the Lord that he will deny Him. Of course, Peter says he’s not going to do that. Luke 22:31, as I pointed out last time, states “Satan has asked permission to sift y’all [the whole group].” At this point there’s only eleven. “Satan has asked for permission to sift y’all like wheat.” Then he turns to Peter and speaks specifically to Peter. “But I prayed for you that your faith should not fail and when you have returned to me [it’s a foreshadowing that Peter will leave and then come back] strengthen your brethren.”

Peter, of course, puts his foot in his mouth and says “Everyone else may fall, but not me. Not me. I’m with you all the way to the cross, Lord. I’m not going to fail.” Then Jesus said, “Assuredly, this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter says, “Even if I have to die with you I will not deny you.” He continues to assert this, and that’s emphasized in all the gospels.

Then we hear about Jesus taking Peter with him to Gethsemane, which means the place of the oil press. It’s a great picture of the kind of pressure that Jesus is going through when He was at Gethsemane. When you make olive oil, you put all the olives into a basket that is porous and then you have this huge lever with various weights, three different ones, that hang from it and the first weight is the first crushing of the olives. That’s your extra virgin olive oil. The way the oil comes out of the olives isn’t that it just spurts out, it comes out through the pores of the olive skin. This is like when the Lord is under this pressure in Gethsemane and He sweated blood. It’s the perfect image showing the kind of intense pressure on the Lord.

Jesus takes Peter and James and John with Him and the text says, “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” Now I like to go to this passage because as American evangelicals we often think that when we are really down in the dumps, depressed and emotionally down, that that is sinful. That’s not the sin. Jesus was grieving. These Greek words indicate the intensity of His emotion. It’s not having the emotion that’s the problem. It’s what you do with the emotion that’s the problem. We come under a lot of intense pressure and in order to avoid being in that pressure cooker of those negative emotions, we’ll do whatever it takes to get out of it, even if that involves sin. We just don’t want to be under that pressure. We don’t want to be that crushed olive. We want to change the circumstances rather than stay in the suffering and trust God.

That’s going to be a major theme with Peter. Stoicism in the ancient world taught the idea that going through adversity just sort of built character, and you’d enjoyed the adversity for adversity’s sake. That’s not what the Bible teaches about why we have joy in the midst of suffering. It’s because we know the plan. We know the end game. Hebrews 12:1–2, Jesus “for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross.” It wasn’t the Cross that was joyful. It was what the end game was, what that would produce.

So as Christians, we don’t enjoy suffering for the sake of suffering. We’re not spiritual masochists. We joy in the suffering because of what God is producing in our lives in order to make us like Jesus Christ, to conform us to His image. Jesus is going through that in His humanity. Because He is sorrowful and deeply distressed doesn’t mean He was out of fellowship. It doesn’t mean He sinned because Jesus never sinned. He was tested in all points as we are, yet without sin. So He experienced those emotions without letting them be converted into sin.

Jesus went off by Himself, and then when he came back, the guys are sound asleep. You don’t want a guard detail like these guys. As soon as you leave them, they’re snoring. He comes back and He says to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful. Stay here and watch with me.” He goes a little further and fell on His face and prayed saying, “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me.” There’s nothing wrong with praying to the Father to take the testing away. Some of you may have heard that. Prayer is totally legitimate. “Lord, I’ve been going through this a long time. Just release me from this pressure.” The Lord may say, “Okay, you’ve had enough.” The Lord may say, “Not yet. You still have some things to learn. My plan is for you to go through it.”

That was the plan for the Lord. The Lord can’t be wrong for saying, “Let this cup pass from me.” Can he? Yet I’ve heard pastors say that if you pray for God to take away the suffering, you’re wrong. Or if you think that prayer is somehow a tool for using the problem solving devices so you can avoid problems then that’s wrong. That’s not what this indicates. It indicates that it’s totally legitimate to pray that God would remove the suffering. He’s just probably not going to do it, or He may just reduce it a little bit. This is what Jesus prayed.  The bottom line was that Jesus said it wasn’t about Him and His comfort, it’s about God the Father’s glory and fulfilling the mission you’ve given me as part of the body of Christ. In this case, as the Savior of the world.

In Matthew 26:40, Jesus came to His disciples and found them sleeping again and said, “Couldn’t you watch with me for an hour? Couldn’t you stay awake for a little while? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We always have to be careful because it’s very easy to slip into sin. So that’s Peter at Gethsemane. So he’s been warned that he’s about to be tested. He’s about to be sifted by Satan.

We come next to his betrayal in John 18, “The servant girl, who kept the door, said, you are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He answered “Not me.” In John 18:25, Peter is standing there outside the door at the High Priest’s house. He’s warming himself with the soldiers and others out there, indicating that it must have been a little chilly at Passover that year because he had to warm himself. “Therefore, they said to him, ‘You’re not also one of those disciples, are you?’ expecting him to say Yes.” They formed that question for a yes answer. You’re one of them, aren’t you? He denied it again. “Nope, not me.” Then the third denial: one of the servants of the High Priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off [Malcus] said, “Didn’t I see you in the Garden with him?”

Peter denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed. It fulfills the prophecy. Peter is crestfallen. He has just denied the Lord. In spite of all of his boasts, in spite of all of his arrogance, he has failed miserably. As he hung back in the crowd, some of the other disciples disappeared, and Peter just sort of disappeared. John was at the Cross. We don’t hear from Peter again until after the Crucifixion. You can just imagine how he must have felt. After this, when the rooster crowed, the Lord looked straight at Peter. That would have been a look that just pierced to the core of Peter’s soul because he knew the Lord knew he had indeed betrayed Him.

Next I want to look at what happens when Peter goes to the tomb in John 20:2. Peter is with John. The Crucifixion has taken place, and Peter is with John waiting to see what’s going to happen next. After Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb early on that Sunday morning, we haven’t heard anything from Peter in three days. Mary sees the empty tomb. She runs and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved. That’s how John always referred to himself. So Peter and John are together. She ran to find Peter as the focal point of leadership among the disciples. Peter and John then run to the tomb. They have a footrace to see who can get there fastest, and John won. He says, “The other disciple [himself] outran Peter and came to the tomb.” John stops at the tomb and bends down to look inside. Peter just blows right past him to see what has happened. He wants to make sure that he can see everything inside the tomb, and he wants to make sure that the body wasn’t just put on the side and hidden in the shadows or something of that nature.

The Resurrection has occurred. John tells us, “For at yet they did not know [really grasp everything Jesus had said about the resurrection] the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead.” Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. They go back to wherever they’re staying in Jerusalem. Then the Lord appeared to Mary, and we’re told in 1 Corinthians 15:5 that “He then appeared to Cephas [Peter].” This was a meeting between the Lord and Peter alone. This is when Peter realizes forgiveness from the Lord. It’s a private meeting. It’s only alluded to by these verses. He’s seen by Cephas before any of the other disciples. Then in Luke 24:3 after Jesus had spoken to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, when they reach home, they say, “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.” That’s all we know of this meeting. It was a private, personal meeting where Peter realized His forgiveness from the Lord.

The next time we see Peter is in John 21. This is one of my favorite passages. Turn there. This is when Peter gets his specific commission and instruction from the Lord. By this time Jesus had shown Himself to His disciples at least twice that we know of. This is the third, where He’s appearing to all of them, or maybe just a large group of them who have followed His instruction and gone up to Galilee. They’re listed in verse 2, “Simon Peter, Thomas, Didymus, called The Twin, Nathaniel of Canaan and Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, James and John” were together. Peter and the others are fishing at night but they didn’t get anything.

That morning came and Jesus is on the shore, but they can’t figure out who He is. They just see Him and He’s about 200–300 yards away [100 cubits]. Then we read in John 21:7, “Then that disciple whom Jesus loved [John] said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord.” Now when Peter heard that he immediately put his robe on and jumps in the water to swim to Jesus. The other disciples are a little more relaxed, and they just brought the boat in with them. Jesus is there. He starts a fire, and He gets some fish and is fixing breakfast for them.

After they sat down, Jesus has a little conversation with Peter. John 21:15, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon Bar Jonah, do you love me more than these? Peter says, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, do you love me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ A third time he said, ‘Simon bar Jonah, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter said, ‘Lord, you know all things. You know I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”

This is really interesting. You have several different sets of synonyms in this passage. It doesn’t come across in the English. I’m going to break this down for you so it doesn’t overwhelm you. In each of this, Jesus asks a question. He says, “Do you love me?” The first two times Jesus uses the Greek verb AGAPAO. When Peter answers, he changes the verb. He uses PHILEO for love. AGAPAO is a much broader term. It’s important in John because John 13–John 16 when Jesus is giving what is called the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus says the mark of the Christian is that we love one another. That word is AGAPAO.

Then in John 14 Jesus says “if you love God, you will keep His commandments.” It comes right out of Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch. “If you love the Lord your God you keep His commandments.” Jesus is applying that to the apostles. Remember that was the night before Jesus went to the Cross. Now he says to Peter, “Do you love me?” The implication is, “Are you going to obey me? We had a little problem last week when I told you you were going to deny me and you said not me. Guess what? You did. So here’s the issue. Are you going to obey Me because that’s how you know whether or not you love Me.”

Peter’s answer is also instructive. He says, “You know that I love you. Here he uses the word EIDO. He will use it again in verse 16. But then when we get to the third time Peter says to the Lord, You know all things,” here he uses GINOSKO. What’s important about the distinction is that EIDO indicates that it’s known intuitively or when it’s God,  it’s something that’s known from His omniscience. Peter is saying that Jesus as God knows everything. Then when Peter concludes he uses GINOSKO, and he is saying that Jesus has come to know by watching him that he loves [PHILEO] you. So we have this interchange of synonyms here.

Three times Jesus gives him his responsibility. “Feed my lambs.” He uses the word BOSCO which has to do with providing nourishment for God’s lambs. The word there for lambs is a word referring to a small lamb who is helpless and needs to grow and develop. It reminds us of 1 Peter 2:2 where Peter will say we’re to desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow by it. Then in John 21:16 Jesus says to “Tend my sheep.” The word there PROBOTON indicates mature or adult sheep. The word tend which is used here is the verb form of the noun that means to pastor or be a shepherd. The point here is that a shepherd does more than just feed the sheep. He’s leading the sheep. He is the one in authority leading and directing the congregation. What Jesus saying to Peter is that you not only have to feed the baby lambs but you also have to shepherd the older, mature sheep.

When we look at all of this Jesus is making a point twice to Peter when he asks if he loves him? He’s asking if he’s going to listen and obey Him. Here’s your mission: to feed the little lambs, the baby believers. Feed them the Word of God. That goes back to the idea of the keys of the kingdom, binding and loosing, providing Scriptural instruction. In verse 16 when He asks if Peters loves Him, He is still making that same point. Peter is trying to intensify this and make it real personal. He’s saying, “Not only do I love You, AGAPAO, but I have a deep personal affection for you, PHILEO. By using this, Peter is ramping it up a little bit saying, “I don’t just AGAPAO, but I PHILEO you. Again, Jesus says to tend or shepherd or lead my adult sheep.

Then in verse 17, Jesus accedes to Peter’s word PHILEO saying, “Simon, do you have a great affection for me?’ Peter is grieved because Jesus has asked him a third time. How many times did Peter deny Him? Three times. How many times did Jesus ask him if he loved Him? Three times. That’s the reason. Peter says, “You know I love you. You know it because you’re omniscient and you’ve seen it in action.” Then Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” This is Peter’s mission. This is what we’ll see develop when we come back next time to trace Peter through the book of Acts as Peter is presented as the leader of the Apostles, and his instruction and proclamation of the gospel as he opens the door as it were to the Jews entering into the Church.

Remember for the first fifteen or twenty years everyone in the Church was Jewish. Probably for most of the first century nearly everyone in the Church was Jewish, probably at least half by the end of the first century. Peter is the apostle to the Jews. Paul will be the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter carries out his mission to feed the sheep.