What does John 21:15 mean?
ESV: 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.”
NIV: When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'
NASB: Now 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, 'Tend My lambs.'
CSB: When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? ""Yes, Lord," he said to him, "you know that I love you.""Feed my lambs," he told him.
NLT: After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? ' 'Yes, Lord,' Peter replied, 'you know I love you.' 'Then feed my lambs,' Jesus told him.
KJV: So 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.
Verse Commentary:
Peter, John, and five other disciples are eating with a resurrected Jesus on the shores of Galilee. Jesus has just performed a miracle, resulting in a huge catch of fish (John 21:6, 11). That echoed an earlier miracle where Jesus had first called Peter to become a disciple (Luke 5:5–11). Only a few days earlier, Peter had stood by a fire and denied even knowing Jesus (John 13:36–38; 18:25–27). Now Peter stands by another fire, and Jesus will make him repeat his loyalty three times (John 21:16–17).

Jesus' question about whether Peter loves Him "more than these" is probably a reference to the other disciples. Jesus is asking "do you really love Me more than they love Me?" That speaks to Peter's self-assured bragging shortly before Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:29). Three times, Peter denied Jesus. Three times, Jesus will make Peter confess His faith.

Greek vocabulary has more than one word for the English term "love." As in English, however, words can have nuanced and overlapping meanings. Jesus will use two root words, agapaō and phileō, in His questions. Peter will only use phileō. While these words can have separate meanings, in their own contexts, their use here is essentially identical. The same is true of Jesus' three commands, which mix terms like "feed" and "tend" with references to "sheep" and "lambs."
Verse Context:
John 21:15–19 is a poignant moment between Peter and the resurrected Jesus. Early in his ministry, Jesus inspired a faithful response from Peter, by miraculously providing fish (Luke 5:5–8). He then called Peter to become a disciple (Luke 5:10–11). Not many days before this breakfast on the beach, Peter had stood near a fire and denied even knowing Christ three times (John 18:25–27). Now, in front of another fire, Jesus asks Peter to affirm his faithful love three times. Peter grasps the symbolism. Jesus affirms Peter's calling to serve Him and predicts the matter of Peter's death.
Chapter Summary:
After Jesus' resurrection, a group of disciples goes fishing while they wait in Galilee. From a distance, a figure appears and tells the men to cast again. Despite a fruitless night, they obey, and the net is immediately overflowing with fish. This confirms that the man on the shore is Jesus. As the disciples eat a meal with Christ, He presses Peter to reaffirm His faith. Jesus then predicts the nature of Peter's death; He does not do so for John. The gospel of John ends with an affirmation of its source, and a reminder that no single book could contain every detail of Jesus' ministry.
Chapter Context:
The final chapter of the gospel of John evokes the recent trend of a "post-credits scene" from films. After the main story has been told, John includes one last scene to further add details about what is to come. After Jesus' resurrection and appearances, He meets with the disciples near Galilee. A major outcome of this meeting is Peter's restoration to his former status. No finite work could fully explain Jesus' ministry, so John's eyewitness account is only part of those truths.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
Accessed 4/16/2024 12:47:27 AM
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