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.” He 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.” He 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. 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.” (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.”
Jesus didn’t hurry the process of Peter’s restoration. The Savior asked three times for affirmation of the apostle’s love, reflecting Peter’s three denials during Christ’s passion. Gospel surgery is free, but not always easy. Grace produces redemptive pain, not punitive pain. But pain is still painful. Indeed, the gospel brings an end to all deadening worldly grief. But the gospel is the beginning of enlivening godly grief (2 Cor. 7:10–11). The law condemns, the gospel convicts; the law creates self-centered tears, the gospel creates God-centered tears.
“Do you love me more than these?” It would have been easier on Peter had Jesus asked him, “Do you promise not to fail me again?” But Jesus knew better than to ask that question, because, of course, Peter would fail again (e.g., Gal. 2:11–21). Jesus is more jealous for our love than zealous for our works. If he has our hearts, he’ll have everything else.
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.