Daily Word

Do you love me | John 21:15-17

15 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.”

16 He *said to him again, 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, “Shepherd My sheep.”

17 He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

Do you love me

Jesus asks Peter (in what seems to be the presence of the other disciples*) these questions about his commitment and love. “Jesus asked Peter to compare his love for Jesus to the love that the other disciples had for Jesus. Before he denied Jesus three times Peter claimed to love Jesus more than the other disciples did (Matthew 26:33). Jesus wanted to know if Peter still had a proud estimation of his love and devotion to Jesus.” (enduringword.com)

The first two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him with a devoted, self-sacrificing love (ἀγαπάω agapaō in Greek). Thayer Greek dictionary describes this love as, “of the benevolence which God, in providing salvation for men, has exhibited by sending his Son to them and giving him up to death”. It’s godly, self-sacrificing, love.

Peter responds using φιλέω, phileō in Greek, which is more of a friendly or brotherly love; a “step down” from agapaō love. Maybe he was just being honest that he can’t love like he boasted earlier, yet he does love Jesus with the best love he can render.

Tend my sheep

The action Jesus instructs Peter to do is take care of His sheep. It’s beyond just teaching (tending) them but caring for their needs (shepherd), as Jesus demonstrated so abundantly as He lived among them. And we notice the sheep belong to Jesus, not to Peter or the disciples. We need to keep this in mind.

Do you love me?

There’s a subtle change here for the word love. Jesus, this third time, uses the same word Peter used – phileō. This third time of asking lines up perfectly with Peter’s three denials, a chance for Peter to repent and be restored. Why was Peter hurt (grieved)? “Peter was grieved – Fearing, says St. Chrysostom, lest Christ saw something in his heart which he saw not himself, and which might lead to another fall; and that Christ was about to tell him of it, as he had before predicted his denial.” (Clarke’s commentary)

* Based on John 21:20 which indicated Jesus was walking with Peter and saw John following them, it’s possible Jesus might have been referring to the fish when He asked Peter if he loved Him more than these (fish). In that case, His comparision would have been to Peter’s work, even his old lifestyle. So, He’d be asking, “Do you love me more than your old lifestyle?”


  • Of course the question to ask ourselves is not just Do we love Jesus but, to what degree? 
  • If you have left the Lord, return. He is always willing and able to forgive and receive you back.
Simon Peter. Do you love me? Image from freebibleimages.org *

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