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Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 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. He 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 bim, Feed my sheep. Verily, 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 streteh forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”—John xxi. 15--19.
THE miracle on the sea and shore of Galilee had a general significance for the whole church. But it had a special meaning for Peter. As the first miracle was designed to introduce Peter to the apostolic office, and give him such instruction as he needed; the second was designed to mark his reinvestment with the office, after the forfeiture of it made by his fall. His personal faith was restored on the first day, during the interview with our Lord, but an official as well as a personal restoration was necessary. This official reinvestment took place on this occasion, and was perhaps the main design of this appearance on the shore. Hence, after the morning repast was over, Peter was specially addressed, and after his formal confession of penitence and faith, was formally reinvested with the apostolic office.
We know not that there was a designed connec
tion in one fact recorded, but it is at least worthy of remark that the last time this evangelist mentions that Peter saw "a fire of coals,” was in the palace of the High Priest, when he was guilty of that sad fall, which made this reinvestment of office necessary. Hence, when he again saw " a fire of coals," and the form of Jesus near it, the scene in the palace of the high Priest, with his cowardly denial, would naturally rise to his memory, and crimson his cheek with sorrow and shame. But, however this may be, it was soon evident that this interview had a special signifi. cance for Peter. After the social repast was over, and the disciples were placed somewhat at their ease, our Lord propounded a question three times to Peter, and each time followed the answer with a charge, from both of which lessons of instruction may be learned.
I. The questions.
There are several points that strike us in these questions, thrice repeated by our Lord.
1. The name by which Peter was addressed. It was not Peter, the apostolic name, but that by which he was called before his apostleship, “Simon, son of Jonas.” He received his name Cephas, or, in its Greek form, Peter, because of his confession of Christ; but having denied that confession, the name was denied to him. Hence in this tacit refusal to give him his apostolic name, there was
an implied rebuke of the severest character, and something that reminded him very vividly of that shameful denial when he forfeited at once his name and his office.
2. In the words employed to describe Peter's feel ings. There are two words in the Greek language describing affection, both of which are used in this passage. The one signifies rather a feeling of regard, the other of affection.* The way in which these words are used seems to preclude the possibility of its being accidental. The colder word is used by our Lord in his question, "Simon, son of Jonas, dost thou regard me more than these ?" In the selection of this colder term he thus intimated that his love might have sunk even below the feeling of regard. Peter in his reply uses the warmer word, and affirms that he not only had a regard for Jesus, but a love for him.
3. The contrast suggested with the other disciples. “Lovest thou me more than these ?” It is true that the word "these” is ambiguous, and may be
* This distinction between dyanaw and pedéw is not admitted by some scholars. Trench denies it in his Miracles, and admits it in his Synonymes, N. T. Liddel and Scott state distinctly that ayatáw differs from pilów strictly as implying regard and satisfaction rather than affection. The Passage from Xen. Mem., II. 7. 89 seems to establish this distinction. Speaking of relatives, Socrates says, “ You will love (pianoers) them, when you see that they are serviceable to you, and they will grow attached to you (dyanýcovouv)."
referred to either persons or things, as our Lord is supposed to have pointed to the disciples, or the nets, fish, &c. But Peter had never shown any undue love of his worldly business to call for a rebuke, nor was he in any apparent danger of this sin. It is true that Peter could not tell whether his love exceeded that of the other disciples, but our Lord asked not for the fact, but for his opinion. He had once expressed the opinion that such was the fact, when he said, “Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I.” Then he thought he loved Christ more than the others, and then Christ warned him of his coming fall. Now when Jesus would thrice restore him, from his thrice repeated fall, he reminds him of his former opinion, and asks him if he now thinks that he had even more regard for him than the other disciples.
Peter appeals to Christ's own knowledge, and using the warmer word, affirms that he had not only a regard for him, but that he loved him. But he shrinks from comparing himself now with others, and does not allude to that part of our Lord's question. He had learned a sorrowful wisdom from the past, that prevented him from speaking as he once did.
4. The gradual change of Jesus toward him. This change is shown first in the omission of the painful reference to others in the second question. He still retains the colder word, but implies that he is satisfied with Peter on the point of his feel. ings to the other disciples. Peter again replies, using the warmer word to describe his affection. - In the third query, our Lord concedes tacitly Peter's feelings, by adopting the warmer word "love,” in asking the question, as if he was satisfied on this point. Peter was grieved because the threefold question not only seemed to doubt the sincerity of his avowals, but pointed plainly to his threefold denial, and brought that scene painfully before his mind. But if Peter was grieved, we may be glad, for we have thus a new confession of his faith, and a testimony to the diyinity of the Saviour, in the words, “ Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." This plain ascription of Omniscience to our Lord, and his admission of it by his silence, form an argument for the divinity of Christ, that cannot be evaded without charging both Jesus and Peter with blasphemy. And the fact that the question. ing did not cease until this confession was called forth, gives additional strength to the inference that we draw from this declaration, that our Lord was, in very deed, God manifest in the flesh, the divine, omniscient Redeemer.