John 21.15-17 cont.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said (says) to Simon Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
He said (says) to Him: “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You”. He said (says) to Him: “Feed My lambs”.
16 Again He (Jesus) said (says) to him a second time: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said (says) to Him: “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You”. He said (says) to him: “Shepherd My sheep”.
17 A third time Jesus said (says) to him: “Simon, son of John: “Do you have affection Me?” Peter was irritated because He said to Him a third time: “Do you love Me? So he said to Him: “Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You. Jesus said to him: “Feed My sheep“.
The question that Jesus asked Peter was: ”do you love Me more than these?”
Jesus may have been referring to the other disciples, but we may think this is unlikely, since it would mean that Jesus was asking Peter to compare himself and his love for Jesus with the rest of the disciples. However, Peter had made such a comparison before he denied Jesus three times. He had made this declaration to Jesus:
“Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will” – Matthew 26.33 (NLT).
Maybe Jesus was reminding Peter that it is not wise to make boastful claims of superior allegiance and love. If this is the case, then Jesus was graciously restoring Peter from his embarrassing episode of letting Jesus down.
However, it could be that Jesus was referring to Peter’s fishing boat and fishing tackle, and the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus could have been asking Peter if he loved his fishing career and livelihood more than he loved Jesus.
It was only the previous evening that Peter had said: “I’m going to fish”.
We do not know if this was a one off occasion, or whether Peter was trying to look to a future without the presence of Jesus, even though he knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was alive.
It is a question that Jesus asks of us all. Are we prepared to give up all in order to follow Him. This does not mean that everyone has to abandon their means of making a living, indeed Jesus will and does lead and equip us to earn a living so that we can be totally devoted to Him, loving Him more than the career that He leads us into.
The Greek is capable of being interpreted either way, and we are unable to be certain as to what Jesus was referring to. None the less either interpretations is useful to us to help us avoid unrighteous boasting, and to help us decide and determine to be totally devoted to Jesus in love for Him.