Seven of the disciples had gone fishing one night at Peter’s prompting. They were out all night and caught nothing. At daybreak, while the men were still out on the water Jesus appeared on the shore. None of them recognized Him at first. He called out to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They told Him they didn’t. He said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they did as He suggested. They caught so many fish that the net was too heavy to bring in. John suddenly recognized the Lord and he told Peter it was Him.
Peter was stripped down for work, but when He heard it was Jesus, he grabbed his clothes put them on, jumped into the water and swam to shore to be with the Lord. He loved Jesus so much that he couldn’t wait for the boat to get him to His destination. Did Peter remember the night of the storm when he had walked on water with Jesus? Probably.
The others brought the boat and the net full of fish the 100 yards to shore. When they arrived they saw that Jesus had made a charcoal fire and a breakfast of fish and bread for them. He asked them to bring some of the fish they had just caught and add it to the meal as well. So they hauled in the net, which even though it was overfull with 153 fish had not torn.
Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast.” They sat down and Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them. Then He did the same with the fish. I imagine they couldn’t help but think back to the last meal they had eaten with their Lord. I guess their minds wandered to the events of that night and how they had deserted Him. John probably remembered what Jesus had gone through for them. But Jesus was there with them now. He was hosting a meal, reminiscent of the feeding of the 5,000. He was feeding them and He had made their hard night’s work productive when they had found nothing on their own.
Then Jesus and Peter went for a walk together. The charcoal fire probably looked and smelled like the fire in the courtyard of Annas’ home where Peter had denied knowing Jesus. Though clearly Jesus had forgiven him, if Peter was anything like me he had not forgiven himself. Verses 15-17 take up the narrative.
“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.” 16 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.” 17 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.”
Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. And three times, each time more vehement than the last, Peter declared his love for Jesus. Each time Jesus answered by telling Peter to take care of His sheep. Jesus knew Peter’s sincerity. Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He was giving Peter a chance to know his own heart. Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times in the night before the rooster crowed before Jesus crucifixion. Now dawn had broken, Jesus was alive and Peter professed his love three times. The profession was for Peter to know that he had come to this point. The public declaration redeemed him for himself and those around. (The other disciples were within earshot walking behind them.) It showed him the change since his sins had been forgiven. The actions, the good works Jesus told Peter to do were so that Peter would glorify Jesus, by doing what Jesus had done and tell the world publicly that He loved Jesus. But telling the lost with words doesn’t work. Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs and feed and tend His sheep.
When you made the decision to follow Jesus, Jesus knew your heart immediately. When you confessed your need for Him and your commitment for Him out loud, it was for you and the church to know your heart. It was proof for you that you were now a public follower of Jesus. It is taking up Jesus cause and acting on it through loving good works that you glorify Jesus and tell the world who He is.
Verses 18-19 read,
“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.”
Jesus told Peter just how passionately he would demonstrate his love and just how closely he would follow. He told Peter that he would die rather than deny Him again. He would follow Jesus all the way to death. Although not a pleasant thing to hear, Peter needed to hear it. It was a reassurance to Peter to hear Jesus really did know how deeply he loved Him.
Peter, being who he was, exuberant and impetuous noticed John behind them. Peter took his attention off Jesus and himself, pointed to John and said, “Lord, what about this man?” but Jesus said, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (Verse 22). Jesus’ plans for your Brothers and Sisters in Christ are not your concern. He commanded you. He equipped you. You follow Jesus. Let them follow Him. We are supposed to be accountable to one another and encourage and exhort one another but Jesus doesn’t want us to compare ourselves to each other. He doesn’t want us to focus on others, He wants us to focus on Him and follow Him. We can’t control what someone else does, we can only control what we ourselves do.
Following Jesus means shadowing Him. Walking by His lead, with our eyes and heart on Him. How can we follow Jesus if we are fixating on someone else? If you love Jesus, feed His sheep. If you love Jesus do it with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. With your entire attention on Jesus, you will see your brothers and the world with His Spirit and nature and you will love them like He loves them.