This is the last sermon in our series on the book of John.  This sermon is for Wednesday,  June 2nd 2010.

John part 88

Do you love me?

John 21.


Tonight, we are going to wrap up the series on the book of John.  And while we will hi-lite what is written in the chapter, I want our main focus to be on Jesus asking Peter if He loved Him.

Before we begin, I want too look at a story about Saint Francis of Assisi as told be C.K. Chesterton.  Francis was terrified of leprosy.  One day, as he was walking down this road that was very narrow, he saw a leper coming his way on the same road.  Instinctively his heart shrank back, recoiling shudderingly from the contamination of the horrible disease.  But then he started feeling guilty and ashamed of himself.  He ran toward the leper and wrapped his arms around the leper’s neck and kissed him on his cheeks and then went on his way down the road.  A moment later he looked back, and there was no one there, only the empty road.  After this event, he was sure that this person was no leper, but actually Jesus Christ Himself whom he had met on the road.  Whether it was Jesus or not on the road, I actually don’t know.  But the point is that he didn’t allow his feelings get in the way of expressing love toward this person.

As believers in Christ Jesus, we talk a lot about loving Him, but sometimes we don’t discuss the difficulties that come with loving Him.  We are going to look into chapter 21 tonight and see these difficulties for Peter.

The setting.

John 21:1-3 ESV – 1After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

This event takes place after the two earlier appearances of Jesus to the disciples.

John 21:14 ESV – This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

The location was the Sea of Tiberias, better known as the Sea of Galilee.  Those present were Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two other unnamed disciples.  In Verse 3 Peter decides to go fishing and the others follow.  The Bible is not rebuking fishing as a hobby or sport here.  We must remember that Peter, James, and John were fishermen by trade.  So probably not knowing what to do next, Peter decides to go back to the life he is accustomed too – fishing.

This is the setting for the next appearance of Jesus.

An unusual appearance.

John 21:4-13 ESV – 4Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.

The disciples were unsuccessful in their all night fishing outing.  As it was daybreak Jesus calls out to them from the shore, “Children, do you have any fish?” Even though Jesus is not known to them right away, He uses this term of affection.  Jesus then reveals Himself in a similar way that He did at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 5:1-11) – with the same result.  “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

The similarity of the two events may have been the reason that John exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” We see Peter put on his outer garment and jump into the water to swim to Jesus.  He called them to follow Him at the beginning of His ministry in a similar way; now He reaffirms His call.

On a side note, when struggling with fear and doubt concerning your walk with Christ, it is always good to go back in your mind to the place that God first called you to serve Him.  It can reaffirm what He has done for you.

The disciples eat breakfast from the fish that Jesus fixed for them.

Jesus gets serious with Peter.

John 21:15-19 ESV – 15When 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.” 16He 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.” 17He 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. 18 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.” 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.”

Let’s unpack these verses:  Jesus addresses Peter as Simon, son of John, not Simon Peter.  Why do you suppose that is?  Well, Peter means, “rock,” and Peter was anything but a rock up to this moment.  He had denied the Lord three times, hid in fear, and now thought about going back to his old way of life.  Jesus is addressing Simon as he really is, not his potential.  But notice that Jesus does not disqualify Peter, but reassures him.

Jesus’ first question: “Do you love (agapeo) me more than these?” This is difficult to interpret.  Most think that Jesus is referring to the fish, but I don’t necessarily think so.  Jesus could have been asking, “Do you love me more than these men do?”  If so, He is referring to Peter’s statements before Jesus died on the cross.

Matthew 26:33 ESV – Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

John 13:37 ESV – Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him unconditionally; Peter could only answer that he loved Jesus as a brother or friend.  This happened another time.  Finally, Jesus said, “Do you love (phileo) me?” Peter is hurt maybe for two reasons:

  • One – this is the third time that Jesus asked him this question.
  • Two – Jesus changed the love word from apapeo (unconditional love) to phileo (brotherly love).

Jesus’ love for Peter was unlimited; Peter could not say the same at this time.  Jesus received the love that Peter could give to Him.

A quick lesson here:  While our love for the Lord is imperfect; He receives it.  What a blessing to know this.

The call for Peter is still there; God hasn’t turned His back on Him: “Feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep.”

In verses 18-19 Jesus reveals the difficulties and suffering that Peter will face.  He encourages Him to follow Him in spite of it.

Peter has a question concerning John.

John 21:20-24 ESV – 20Peter 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?” 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23So 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?” 24This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

We won’t really unpack this too much but notice Jesus’ response: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow me!” It is not really important to Peter what Christ’s will is concerning John – don’t worry and just follow Christ.


As we conclude, let’s look at a few principles.


  • Christ’s love for us is perfect.
  • Our love for Him is imperfect.
  • But He receives our love.
  • He called us to follow Him, don’t worry about other believers; simply follow Christ.