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"Peter is Forgiven"
John 21:15-25 - Bible Study

Three times just before the crucifixion Peter had denied being associated with, or even knowing Jesus.

And now, Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?"

Peter is Forgiven

Verse 15: "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, 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."

  • The meaning of the name Peter: "A piece of the rock."
  • The meaning of the name Simon: "Pebble."

Jesus addressed Peter as "Simon" in all three of these exchanges.

After breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of John," (translated from "Simon Bar-Jonah)," "do you love me more than these?" 

This was the same name Jesus had used for Peter in what is known as, "Peter's great Confession," "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," (Matt 16:16). 

This must have been very difficult and emotional for Peter. He answered Jesus' question, "do you love me," in the positive, but it was not the answer Jesus wanted.


"Do you love me more than these:"

The word Jesus used here for love, in Greek, is agape: a volitional, Godly, self-sacrificial love. 

Are you now willing to forsake all these and go and preach my Gospel to the nations of the earth? 

Jesus was referring to the statement Peter had made before His death, "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended" (Matt 26:33) KJV.

Peter is no longer making claims to a love superior to his brethren.

  • Two words were used in this Scripture for the word, "love: Agape, and Phileo.

    Jesus asked Peter for Agape love: (volitional, self-sacrificial, Godly type of love), 

    Peter answered with Phileo love: (affection, affinity, or brotherly love).

"You know that I love you:" 

Verse 16: "He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."

Again, Jesus asks if Peter's love is agape love, and Peter, not understanding, answers that he loves Him, (but his answer indicates phileo love).

Jesus again orders Peter into service.

Tend My Sheep: A shepherd is to care for, defend, feed, guide and look after any needs the sheep may have

Verse 17: "He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, 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 everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.'

In saying that Peter was "grieved" indicates a more profound sorrow than dismayed or disappointed.

This was the third time Jesus had asked Peter if he loved Him, but this time it was on Peter's level because he had asked, "Do you love me with Phileo love." Some think He was asking, "are you even my friend?" 

Agape was a godly love that Peter did not comprehend. Later, after the Holy Spirit had imparted to him the fuller understanding of agape love, he used the agape/agapao words nine times in his writings.

Jesus Foretells Peter's Old Age and Death.

Verse 18-19: "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. 

This prophecy indicates that Peter will not have control even over dressing himself for a journey - in this case, being prepared for execution; where he would glorify God in martyrdom.

Ancient writers say that Peter was put to death about thirty-four years later. His precise age is not known.

Verse 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."

According to tradition, Peter was crucified for his faith under the rule of the wicked Roman Emperor Nero, about A.D. 64. He was crucified upside down at his request because he did not feel worthy of dying as Jesus did.

1 Cor 9:5 tells us that Peter's wife accompanied him on some of his missions. 

According to background history, Peter and his wife were led to the crucifixion together, and she was the first to be martyred. Peter comforted her in her sufferings by urging her to remember the example of her Lord.

Peter died with a solid hope of Heaven, patiently enduring the pangs of the cross. Clemens

Jesus had said to Peter, "Follow me," and after the day of Pentecost, he became one of the most devoted and significant Apostles of all. 

The Disciple whom Jesus Loved

Verse 20: "Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?"

Throughout the Gospel of John, the writer, whom most believe is "John, the disciple of Jesus," identifies himself as "The disciple whom Jesus loved."

Some believe "He does not name himself, thinking his own name is not worthy to be preserved in these records." Matthew Henry

John was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee. Jesus had referred to them as, "Sons of Thunder."

Verse 21-22: "When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" 

Some believe Jesus was telling Peter to mind his own business.

One has to wonder if Peter was genuinely interested in John's future or attempting to change the subject by bringing John into the discussion? 

In any case, John had been within hearing distance and recorded every word.

Church tradition has it that the Apostle John was the writer of: the "Gospel of John," "1 John," "2 John," "3 John," and "Revelation".

Most believe that although he had often been in danger, imprisoned, and banished to the Isle of Patmos, he was one of the few original apostles to escape martyrdom.

Verse 23: "So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"

Jesus' reply, seemed to the disciples, to be an implication that John would not die all, but would survive until the second coming of the Lord. But the above Scripture tells us that John corrected this misinterpreted statement.

And that is a good lesson for us. We should always check the Scriptures against the message because even in our day it is not unusual for Scripture to be inaccurately presented then spread to the ends of the earth. Scripture is the best weapon to correct these errors.

Verse 24: "This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true."

John is the one Jesus loved. The one who always seemed to be close, even leaning upon Jesus' breast. He had heard His sermons, seen His miracles, seen Him die on the cross, and had been with Him after His resurrection.

This is John's eyewitness testimony for the life and ministry of Jesus, and that He is the Son of God.

  • All judgment is in His hands
  • He has revealed the Father
  • Overcome the prince of this world
  • He has taken away the sin of the world
  • He has all authority and is the very essence of God.

A tradition of the Church names the Apostle John's Scribe, Prochorus as the one who did the actual writing. 

The last part of verse 24 is somewhat of a mystery.  "And we know that his testimony is true." 

The mystery is, who is "We?"  

According to IVP New Testament Commentary: "Some think this is the Beloved Disciple bearing witness to himself, but the editorial "we" is followed by a first-person plural pronoun (cf. 3:11; 1 Jn 1:2, 4), not a third-person singular as here (his).

Many believe this is the testimony of John's disciples, probably the leaders within the churches or at least those who have helped with the production of the Gospel


Verse 25: "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

The final address in John's Gospel is still another testimony to the great works of Jesus.

This concludes our study of the Gospel of John.



Teaching this class has been an extremely rewarding experience, I pray that you have been blessed as well. Thank you for attending,

Samuel Mills 



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Peter is Forgiven



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