“Jesus Reinstates Peter”

Sunday School with Pastor Dr. Theodis Acklin

Background Scripture: John 21:15-25

Lesson Context: Along with Paul, Peter stands out among the apostles in terms of his fame and influence. Peter (also known as “Cephas;” John 1:42) was one of three apostles considered by Paul to be “pillars” of the church (Galatians 2:9). Peter emerged early on as a leader, bold in word and deed. He was among the first to recognize that when Jesus told His followers to “go therefore and teach all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Jesus Questions Peter (John 21:15-17):

Round One (v. 15). 15a. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas.” Simon’s nickname Peter was a form of the Greek word that means “rock”. Son of Jonas suggests a certain formality in the greeting.

15b. “Lovest thou me more than these?” Peter had denied Jesus three times while Jesus was on trial. One explanation for Jesus’ question is simple redemption. Jesus was giving Peter the opportunity to repent of his betrayal and reaffirm his love for and devotion to Jesus. Jesus’ question as a call to repentance and redemption also largely refutes the idea that Jesus required affirmation from Peter, as though Jesus did not know if Peter loved Him, or that Jesus was feeling insecure regarding Peter’s lasting loyalty.

15c. “He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Peter may have felt himself on unsteady footing with Jesus-a feeling Jesus did not immediately take steps to alleviate. But Jesus’ question allowed Peter to affirm for himself and his companions the depth of his love and loyalty despite his prior stumble.

15d. “He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” Jesus had identified himself as “the good shepherd” (John 10:1-16).  In Jesus, God has fulfilled His promise. Jesus is the loving shepherd who feeds and protects His flock. While questioning Peter, Jesus implied that He accepted Peter’s answer. This is understood when we consider that Jesus would not leave such as important task if Jesus did not trust Peter’s renewed dedication. The command to feed my lambs would be an ongoing opportunity for Peter to demonstrate his love.

Round Two (v. 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.” Jesus asked Peter the question a second time. Peter himself may have wondered why Jesus asked again. Nevertheless, he dutifully gave the exact same response, to which Jesus gave the same commission, worded slightly differently.

Round Three (v. 17). “He saith to him again the second 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.” Some see in Jesus’ three questions the parallel to Peter’s three denials. Symbolically, Jesus provided Peter an opportunity to commit to Him as many times as Peter had previously denied him. Peter felt that he was being tested and found wanting, since surely Christ knowest all things.

Jesus Speaks Truth to Peter (John 21:18-19):

19b. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.” Having warned Peter, Jesus called him again to follow. This is not the same command as caring for Jesus’ flock. But for Peter, Jesus would certainly entail care for the flock.

References:  KJV 2022-2023 International Sunday School Lessons