The Soul Restored

John 21:15‑19  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 6
15So 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. 16He 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. 17He 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. 18Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:15‑19)Having fed and satisfied all His disciples, testifying thus to a love which made no distinction between them, the Lord took Peter apart with Himself, and asked him, " Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? " Peter loved the Lord. Now, there was a disciple who loved Him, I do not say more, but better than Peter. Whilst the latter was occupied in His service, John was occupied with the Lord. He never calls himself the disciple who loved Jesus, but the disciple "whom Jesus loved." What seemed wonderful to him to record was that Jesus should love such an one as he, and he does not weary of repeating it.
Jonathan loved David as his own soul, and yet did not sacrifice his position for him. Abigail's love, which more resembled that of John, was but the sense of its being possible for her to be loved by such a man, she who was but " a servant to wash the feet of the servants of her lord."
John, like Mary Magdalene, was occupied with the person and the love of Christ; therefore he was prompt in recognizing Jesus, and did not, like Peter, need some one to tell him, "It is the Lord." Peter, with all the impetuosity of his nature, cast himself into the sea to get to Jesus and show his affection. John is satisfied to be the object of Jesus' love.
" Lovest thou me more than these? " Peter had said that he loved Him more, and yet had denied Him. The Lord takes him, so to speak, by the hand, and leads him back to the spot whence his fall originated-confidence in his own strength and in his love for Christ. Three times during the Savior's last interviews with His disciples Peter clearly manifests his state of soul. "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." (Matt. 26:3333Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. (Matthew 26:33)) "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death." (Luke 22:3333And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. (Luke 22:33)) And, "Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake." (John 13:3737Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. (John 13:37)) The Lord takes up these three words, beginning with the first: "Though all men shall be offended." "Lovest thou me more than these?" All, alas! had forsaken Him, but Peter only had denied Him, and can therefore no longer rely on his love compared to that of others. Thus humbled, ' he appeals, not to his feelings, but to the Savior's knowledge. He knew. "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." He does not add, "More than these;" for he compares himself with Christ, and in humility he esteems others better than himself.
Then Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." Pastoral care for young souls springs from humility, together with love for the Lord. Where the Lord finds these things in His people He can trust them with this service. Other gifts are perhaps not so absolutely connected with the inner state; but one cannot really take up the needs of tender souls without self-abnegation and much love, not only for them, but for Christ.
"Feed my lambs" This one word shows us what they are for Jesus, and the value of what the Lord confides to Peter. They are His property. The heart of Christ had not changed in regard to Simon, and He entrusted him with what He loved at his first step in the painful pathway leading to restoration. Peter's heart was broken, but sustained by Christ in the breaking. Jesus did not probe it three times to give him an answer only at the third; He gave it already at the first. What delicate affection and care in the discipline! If the three questions had been put without the encouragement of a promise with each, Peter's heart, distressed by his failure, would have been overwhelmed with sorrow; but the promise sustained him each time under the stroke intended to break him down. It was like the burning bush, which grace prevented from being consumed. Jesus probed Peter three times; he had denied Jesus three times. The last time nothing remained but what the Lord had produced and could approve. Sorrow was there too, no doubt, but joined to the certainty that the love which was the fruit of His love, though buried to the eyes of all by manifestations of the flesh, the all-seeing eye of Christ was alone able to discern. "Lord, Thou, knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." After the second and third questions the care of the sheep and the feeding of the whole flock were confided to Peter. It was when, through grace, he had seen himself, and been obliged to appeal to the Lord to discover what he gave up discovering in himself-it was then that he found himself possessed of full and unreserved blessing. H. B.