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40. The Duties of Discipleship (John 21:1-25)


I have a friend who devised a very clever escape plan for his getaway the day of his marriage. He was married in a southern city which had only one major highway entering and leaving town. He and his bride let the cars follow them right into the middle of a tunnel. A friend was there by prearrangement, who blocked the tunnel with his car, frustrating the attempt of the others to follow any further.

My friend and his bride laughed all the way to their honeymoon hotel. After a leisurely dinner, they returned to their suite, only to discover that all of their friends had somehow found them, even some 60 or 70 miles from their hometown. Someone had gone to the effort to call every hotel along that highway and see if my friend had made reservations for that night. The ‘friends’ blessed the newlywed couple with their presence long into the night.

If I were to capsulize a description of that situation in only one word, I think it would have to be the word ‘frustrating.’ Few Christians would even consider such a description as ‘frustrating’ for that forty day period during which our Lord manifested Himself alive218 to His disciples. We would probably think of such captions as ‘glorious,’ ‘transforming,’ ‘joyous,’ or the like. And, to a limited extent, those would be accurate characterizations of this unique period of time.

We are inclined to have our thinking shaped by the account in Luke 24, where our Lord appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and as a result of their encounter they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

This is true enough. But would you not have found it frustrating to have had our Lord disappear just at the moment you recognized Him to be the risen Lord? While those forty days had their thrilling moments, I doubt that any of the disciples would have wanted them to continue indefinitely. The reason is that there was no intimacy, no deep and abiding fellowship between our Lord and the disciples during this time.

Let me seek to demonstrate what I have said. When Mary, the first person to see the resurrected Lord, beheld Him, she clung to Him desperately. She longed for a return to the relationship she had known with Him before His death. But Jesus put her off somewhat with the words, “Stop clinging to Me; for I have not yet ascended to the Father; …” (John 20:17).

Our Lord’s post-resurrection relationship to the disciples could never simply be a return to things as they once were. Our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection brought about a new state of affairs, a new kind of relationship with His disciples. Neither Mary nor the others could have things as they once were.

Our Lord’s sojourn of forty days on earth after His release from the bonds of death was not a period of continual and intimate contact with the disciples. Jesus suddenly appeared, but only to depart just as quickly. The appearance of our Lord to the seven who were fishing on the lake was only His third appearance to the disciples as a group (John 21:14). The little time our Lord spent with the disciples was not sufficient to satisfy their deep longings for more intimate and leisurely fellowship as they had once experienced it.

The somewhat distant relationship between the Savior and His disciples was not without purpose. As Jesus had told Mary, it was necessary for Him to ascend to the Father. Had Jesus spent lengthy hours in close relationship with His disciples, His ascension would have been only begrudgingly accepted. As it worked out, the followers of our Lord found, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that even in His physical absence there was a deeper and stronger intimacy than ever before. The forty day period thus fulfilled its purpose of convincing the disciples that He had truly been raised from the dead. But this purpose was achieved without working against the ascension of our Lord and His ongoing relationship with His followers through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus and the Catch of Fish

Our passage in John chapter 21 reveals the frustration of the disciples better than any other. It was in response to the dismay of the disciples that our Lord came to them and clarified the nature of discipleship in the light of His completed work on the cross.

Put yourself in the disciples’ place for a moment. Jesus had called you to be a disciple, and you had left all to follow Him (Matthew 19:27). You had hoped for the promised Kingdom to be immediately established by the Lord (cf. Acts 1:6). You had even hoped for a prominent place in that Kingdom (cf. Matthew 20:20-21). Instead, He was put to death. Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead which was demonstrated by many convincing proofs (Acts 1:3), appeared to you and many others. In some of these appearances Jesus explained from the Scriptures that His death was necessary to forgive the sins of those who believe.

The questions in your mind, if you are thinking as the disciples were, would be numerous. What is going to happen next? Is the Kingdom to begin now? What is the nature of discipleship? What does the Lord want me to do now? If I were to go out and preach, what would my message be? If I am not to preach, what shall I do?

It was out of this frustration, I believe, that Peter decided to go fishing. What else was there to do? Several of the other disciples must have felt the same way. Going fishing surely was better than sitting around wondering what to do next.

Some have criticized this fishing venture as though it evidenced a lack of faith. They suppose that Peter and the others were toying with a return to their former occupation, and giving up full-time service. Peter and the others, due to their lack of direction, were simply trying to use their time profitably until the Lord gave them guidance as to what direction their lives and ministry might take.219

In those days men usually fished at night, but after a long night of effort, there were no fish caught. Our Lord, unrecognized by the disciples laboring in the boat, stood on shore about 100 yards distant and called to them, “Children, you do not have any fish220 do you?”221 (John 21:5). They had to admit that they were empty-handed. The Savior authoritatively instructed them to cast their nets to the other side of the ship, promising an abundance of fish (verse 6). Without question they obeyed, still unaware of the identity of the One giving the instructions.

When the nets became so full of fish that they could not be lifted on board, John, always the first to perceive the true nature of things before Peter,222 said to his companion, “It is the Lord” (verse 7).

Peter, true to his character, put on an outer garment223 and plunged into the water, not willing to delay his meeting with the Lord. The others, more sensibly, waited the few moments it took to beach the ship. It is evident from Peter’s intense desire to be with His Lord, that the Savior had already met privately with Peter over the matter of his denials, and that full forgiveness and restoration had been given (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5).

On shore, the large catch of fish was sorted and counted.224 Jesus had a meal prepared for the seven, which He shared with them. The disciples puzzled over this appearance, and yet they knew for certain that it was, indeed, the Lord (verse 12).

A few have dared to suggest that this event is the same as that recorded in Luke chapter five. While there are many reasons for rejecting such a suggestion, there is certainly a relationship between the two, as well as marked differences.225 The correspondence seems to be this: Luke’s account in chapter five of his gospel describes the incident whereby Jesus called His disciples to leave their employment and follow Him to become ‘fishers of men’ (Luke 5:10-11). The incident recorded by John is our Lord’s reaffirmation of that call, after His death, burial and resurrection.

The disciples faced a puzzling dilemma after the resurrection: What is implied by our discipleship now? Shall we return to our old occupations? If not, what is our task? In answer to this dilemma, our Lord reassured His followers that they were to understand one aspect of discipleship as that of continuing what Jesus had begun and what they had been formerly called to do, the seeking of men with the good news of the gospel.

This miraculous event did more than reaffirm the calling of the disciples to be ‘fishers of men.’ It also assured them that their Lord would be present with them in this endeavor, though not in His former physical manifestation. It promised them divine guidance and power to accomplish the task of the evangelization of the world.

Jesus’ death and resurrection did not change the calling of the disciples to be seekers after the souls of men. But this was not enough. In the remaining verses, the Lord informed His followers of yet another duty of discipleship.

Jesus and Peter: Love’s Obligation

It is not enough merely to evangelize men. Discipleship begins with salvation, but it blossoms into a continuing process of growth and service. Our Lord informed His disciples through Peter that we must not only seek men’s souls, but we must shepherd them also. And so we move from the well-known occupation of the fisherman, to that of the shepherd.

Most commentators seem to view verses 15-23 as a kind of public restoration of Peter to leadership by our Lord.226 That, to me, does not seem to be the case. I am not certain that Peter ever really ceased to be a leader among men. It was he who suggested this fishing expedition and the others gladly followed. Neither do I believe that Jesus’ three-fold question was put to Peter before the eyes and ears of the other six. Notice verse 20: “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper …” You see, all must agree that at some point in this conversation Jesus and Peter left the others. I would suggest that it was at the outset. There is nothing in verse 15 which implies the place of the conversation, only the time. The reason that John alone records this event may be that he followed behind closely enough to overhear the conversation.

The correspondence between the three-fold question of the Lord and the three-fold denial of Peter is difficult not to see.227 Jesus began by asking Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”228 (verse 15).

Peter had boasted of his love for the Lord before his denial, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:33). Peter had then claimed that his love for the Lord surpassed that of any other. It is at this point that Jesus pressed Peter for a response.

Peter affirmed his love for the Lord Jesus, but with two notable exceptions. First, he did not make any comparisons between his love and that of the others. Second, he did not dare to speak of his love with as lofty a term229 as that employed by the Savior. He does love the Lord. As God knows his heart, there is great affection there. But his brash self-confidence has been eroded away by his denials.

Accepting this answer on face value, the Lord commissions Peter with the second duty of a disciple—that of tending the flock: “Tend My lambs” (verse 15).

Now, a second time, Jesus poses the question to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” (verse 16).

The comparison of Peter’s love to that of the others is no longer involved. Only the intensity of Peter’s love is queried. Peter’s answer was the same: “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You” (verse 16).

With only slight variation,230 Jesus responded, “Shepherd My sheep” (verse 16).

It was the third question which grieved Peter deeply: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” (verse 17).

There are two things about this question which would have grieved Peter. First of all, it was asked for the third time. The correspondence between these three questions and his three-fold denial is unmistakable. The question is asked specifically in the light of Peter’s denial of his Lord. The second cause of grief would be in the change of words employed. Jesus had previously used the word agape (or more precisely, the verb agapao) in the first two questions. Peter had answered using the less intense term phileo. In the third question, Jesus dropped the stronger term He had previously employed and adopted the weaker term with which Peter had twice responded. The outcome of this would seem to be that Jesus had progressively lowered the quality of love concerning which he is questioning Peter. The force of this might be paraphrased in this way:

Question 1: Peter, do you deeply love Me, even above all the others?

Question 2: Peter, do you deeply love Me?

Question 3: Peter, do you at least have a genuine affection for Me?

The scholars have greatly differed over the implications of the change of the Greek terms for love. But let me say this to those of you who are students of the Greek language and still remain single. If you were to become very interested in a particular young woman, you would have intense interest and concern over what Greek term she would use to describe her affection for you. A ‘phileo’ love for you would not be nearly as meaningful in your mind, as an ‘agape’ love would be.

Peter again must appeal to our Lord’s omniscience. “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You” (verse 17).

With this, Peter’s commission is once more repeated: “Tend My sheep” (verse 17).

One might be inclined to consider our Lord’s questioning a bit severe in the light of Peter’s previous repentance and restoration. I believe that there are several purposes served in this interchange. First Peter is reminded of the folly of self-confidence. Second, our Lord’s purpose was not to work up feelings of guilt, but of humility. No one can shepherd the flock rightly without humility.231 Third, Peter is reminded that the measure of one’s love for Christ is not measured by the confessions of their lips, but by the conduct of their lives. Peter’s love will be evidenced by His care of God’s sheep. Finally, this three-fold question is also a three-fold commission, assuring Peter that in spite of His fall, God has a significant work for him to do.

Finally, the three-fold commission gives the task of Peter a distinct note of solemnity. This work of shepherding the flock is one that will be done at great personal sacrifice. This is made clear in the following verses: “Truly, truly, … Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19).

In Peter’s younger days he did as he pleased. In his later years, he would become subject to the will of others. In particular, John spelled out that these words of Jesus were a prediction that Peter would die the martyr’s death (verse 19). Following Jesus would mean, for Peter, walking in His steps, even to death.232 No wonder our Lord’s commission was given in such a serious manner.

Peter could not help but see John, who was following them at a distance (verse 20). Peter wondered if his fate was that common to the other disciples. What about John? Would he also be called upon to die the martyr’s death (verse 21)? Our Lord informed Peter that this was not for Peter to concern himself with. His sole obligation was to follow His Lord in the path which was ordained for him.

Some who heard the report of the Lord’s response to Peter were inclined to take His words to mean that John would not die (verse 23). But our Lord had only said that whether John lived or died, it was not Peter’s concern. (I suspect that the real point of interest was whether or not our Lord was committing Himself to return before John died.)


This portion of Scripture makes a unique contribution to the gospels by underscoring the duty of the disciples from the other side of the cross. What should Peter do? What should any disciple do? Jesus’ answer was two-fold. First, we must follow Jesus in seeking the salvation of men (evangelism). Second, we must shepherd the souls of those who are saved (pastoring, shepherding).

I believe these two imperatives are not directed only at Peter or the seven disciples present, but are the general commands of our Lord as stated in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Further, it would seem that while our Lord commands every disciple to follow Him in seeking and shepherding the souls of men, He wants us to know that our individual paths may differ. It is not the disciple’s concern to trouble himself about the individual calling of other disciples. That is a matter between a disciple and his Lord.

John, and his brother James, beautifully exemplify the sovereignty of God in His individual purpose for His disciples. Of the apostles, James died first (Acts 12:2), and John last. James left no written record for ages to come. John wrote five books. As brothers, both of these men had identical backgrounds and influences. Both were included, with Peter, in the inner circle of our Lord. We cannot hope to scrutinize the reasons for James’ ‘untimely’ death, but we must reckon it to be in the Master’s plan.

I am interested by the struggle evidenced in the commentaries over the fact that John seems to have two conclusions. Some have questioned the authenticity and value of the last chapter. To my mind, the answer is all too obvious. John closed his book the same way many preachers (hopefully, I am included here) conclude their sermons—one aimed at the unbeliever, the other at the Christian. John 20:30-31 is the conclusion of the apostle for the one who has not yet reached a decision of faith in Christ as his Savior. To this person, he writes,

“Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

But John’s gospel has clear implications for the disciple of our Lord as well. Chapter 21 confronts the disciple of our Lord with the duties of discipleship: seeking and shepherding. For these readers, John concludes with an emphasis on the reliability of these accounts, and of the vast number of incidents which could have been included in such an account.

In addition, John, in these last verses, clearly identifies himself as the author for his readers benefit.

“This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written” (John 21:24-25).

In Peter’s commission by our Lord we are reminded again of God’s ability to use even our sins to bring about our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Past sins, once forgiven, should not hinder us from future service. While Peter should have been strengthened and humbled by his three-fold denial of the Lord, he should also be encouraged by his three-fold commission.

This chapter says much to every Christian about the matter of servanthood.

(1) True discipleship is evidenced by servanthood—that is, expressing, indeed continuing, the servanthood of our Lord, even in His absence. Follow me!

(2) Servanthood is rooted in and motivated by our love for Jesus Christ.

(3) Servanthood involves evangelism and shepherding. It seeks both to save the lost and to strengthen the believers.

(4) Servanthood involves self-sacrifice, even unto death.

(5) Servanthood concentrates on God’s will for us, and does not compare our calling with that of others.

Finally, I am encouraged to learn that my fellowship with the Lord Jesus is not one whit inferior to that of the apostles. They could not turn back the clock to the days before the cross. They would not have wished to lengthen the period of His post-resurrection appearances. Intimate fellowship with Christ was only possible after His ascension, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. How is this fellowship experienced? Let me suggest three avenues:

(1) In the Scriptures. We come to know our Lord as He was predicted in the Old Testament, and through the eyes of four men who knew Him well in the gospels.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

(2) In suffering. It was the apostle Paul who wrote, “… that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10, cf. also Colossians 1:24).

(3) In service. Not only is there a fellowship in suffering, but in service. We sense the closeness of our Lord when His power is released in our lives in His service (cf. Philippians 3:10).

Just as the disciples of our Lord sensed a deeper and fuller fellowship with the Lord Jesus after His ascension, so can you and I. Praise God!

218 Hendriksen outlines the post-resurrection appearances of our Lord in this way: (1) To Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18). (2) To the women (Matt. 28:9,10). (3) To Cleopas and his companion (Luke 24:13-35). (4) To Simon (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:15). (5) To the disciples except Thomas (John 20:19-23). (6) To the disciples, Thomas being present (John 20:24-29). All of these occurred in Jerusalem. After the disciples have gone to Galilee, in obedience to the instructions which they had received from the Lord, Jesus appears again: (7) To the seven at the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-14). (8) To the disciples on a “mountain” in Galilee, where Jesus made a great claim, gave the great commission, and proclaimed the great presence (28:16-20). By many commentators this appearance is identifed with Number 9. (9) To the five hundred (1 Cor. 15:6). (10) To James, the Lord’s brother (1 Cor. 15:7). Whether this took place in Galilee or in Judea is not stated. The disciples having returned to Jerusalem: (11) To the eleven on Olivet, near Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-11; cf. Luke 24:50,51). The next appearance that is specifically recorded is by the Lord from heaven: (12) To Paul, when he was on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7; 22:6-10; 26:12-18; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8). There may have been several others. How many there were we do not know (cf. Acts 1:3). Williams Hendriksen, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), II, p. 4.

219 Morris rightly concludes that this decision to go fishing leaves us with the impression “… of men without a purpose.” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 862. Morris then quotes Lloyd: “Lloyd, however, draws the lesson that ‘when the pause comes and the vision begins to be less vivid, we are not to be idle or despondent. We are to go on with the obvious tasks of every day … How wise were these disciples who calmly went back to their fishing!” P. 862, fn. 8.

220 It is interesting to note (as does the marginal note of the New American Standard Version) that the Greek word (prosphagion) translated ‘fish’ actually refers to that which is eaten with bread, as a kind of relish. Our Lord may therefore not only be asking about their catch in general. He might be implying that they not only have failed to make a catch (and thus their living), but that neither have they been able, apart from divine guidance, to provide themselves with enough for their meal. In the marvelous catch that was to follow, Jesus provided a catch, an income, and their immediate need for a meal.

221 In the original text, the question expects a ‘no’ answer, as is indicated by the translation of the NASV.

222 Hendricksen has an interesting comparison of Peter and John. He remarks, “Peter is the man of action. He generally acts before John does. John generally understands before Peter does.” Hendricksen, John, II, p. 479.

223 Morris notes, “It is, however, not at all certain that Peter wore no clothing whatever, as the English would lead us to expect. Both LS and AG cite passages where the word means ‘without an outer garment,’ ‘dressed in one’s underwear.’ The probability here is that the word means that parts of the body normally covered were exposed so that Peter was not naked but rather ‘stripped for work’ (RSV, Barclay). This may mean that he wore a loincloth, or perhaps a sleeveless tunic which would not impede his movements.” Morris, John, pp. 864-865. Morris then goes on to quote Barrett: “Barrett draws attention to a Jewish idea that since offering a greeting was a religious act it could not be performed unless one was clothed. Thus greetings were not given in the baths, since all were naked. If the point is relevant, as seems likely, Peter wanted to be sufficiently clad when he reached the shore to give the usual religious greeting.” P. 864, fn. 19.

224 Hendriksen, in an interesting footnote, summarizes some of the fanciful interpretations of the number 153, the exact count of the fish caught that morning: “Among the strange and, for the most part, allegorical interpretations of this item of information I have found the following: a. The fish were not counted until the shore had been reached, in order to teach us that the exact number of the elect remains unknown until they have reached the shore of heaven. b. The ancients counted one hundred fifty-three varieties of fish! c. There is here a veiled reference to Matt. 13:47,48, and an indication that all kinds of people are going to be saved. d. The reference is to an important date in Church History, namely, 153 A.D. e. The total represents the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 17. Well, what of it? f. In Hebrew characters the numerical equivalent of Simon Iona is one hundred fifty-three. g. The number one hundred fifty-three represents 100 for the Gentiles, 50 for the Jews, and 3 for the Trinity.” Hendriksen, John, II, pp. 483-484, fn. 300.

As Wescott has observed, “The record of the exact number probably marks nothings more than the care with which the disciples reckoned their wonderful draught.” B. F. Wescott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), reprint, p. 301.

225 “The significant differences between the circumstances of the miraculous draught of fishes at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry (Luke v. i ff.), and of this after the Resurrection, have frequently been noted. Augustine draws them out very well. The one miracle, he says, was the symbol of the Church at present, the other of the Church perfected; in the one we have good and bad, in the other good only; there Christ also is on the water, here He is on the land; there the draught is left in the boats, here it is landed on the beach; there the nets are let down as it might be, here in a special part; there the nets are rending, here they are not broken; there the boats are on the point of sinking with their load, here they are not laden; there the fish are not numbered, here the number is exactly given (‘In Joh.’ CXXII. 7). It seems impossible not to acknowledge that there is a spiritual meaning in these variations of the two narratives which consistently converge to distinct ends.” Ibid.

226 For example, Morris writes, “There can be no doubt but that Peter was under a cloud with his fellow disciples after the denial. This triple affirmation, accompanied as it was by a triple commission from Jesus, must have had the effect of giving an almost “official” sanction to his restoration to his rightful place of leadership.” Morris, John, pp. 869-870. To his credit, Morris does caution us about pressing this matter too far (p. 870).

227 “The circumstances must have reminded Peter of the scene of his denial. And if the circumstances as such did not remind him of this, what was about to happen was bound to do so. Note the following resemblances: 1. It was at a charcoal fire that Peter denied his Master (18:18). It is here at another charcoal fire (21:9) that he is asked to confess (his love for) his Master. 2. Three times Peter had denied his Master (18:17,25,27). Three times he must now own him as his Lord, whom he loves (21:15-17). 3. The prediction with reference to the denial had been introduced with the solemn double Amen (13:38; see on 1:51). The prediction which immediately followed Peter’s confession was introduced similarly (21:18). But it has been shown that the resemblance is even more pointed. In reverse order the same three ideas—1. following, 2. a cross 3. denying—occur here in 21:15-19 as in 13:36-38.” Hendriksen, John, I , p. 486.

228 It has been observed that the antecedent of ‘these’ in verse 15 is not grammatically certain. It could, therefore, refer to the fish, the ship, the nets, and so on (fishing as a way of life), or to the other disciples. It is not difficult to determine that the reference is to the other disciples, especially in the light of Peter’s previous boast (Matthew 26:33).

229 The marginal notes of the NASV indicate that two different Greek terms are employed for ‘love’ here. Jesus used the verb (agapao) in the first two questions, while Peter answered each time using the verb (phileo). Finally, Jesus employed Peter’s term in the third question. Scholars have divided as to whether or not the difference is of any interpretive significance. Some feel the change is only stylistic. I must agree with Hendriksen that the difference is of significance to our understanding of the text.

Hendriksen puts the question this way: “The question, then, is this: “Here in 21:15-17 are the two verbs agapao and phileo identical in meaning, so that the variation in their use is merely stylistic; or do the two verbs as here employed convey meanings which differ to a certain extent, and does the point of the story hinge on this difference?” Hendriksen, John, II, p. 495.

After a lengthy footnote surveying the problem, he concludes: “For the reasons indicated we believe that agapao in this story (and generally throughout the Gospels, though with varying degree of distinctness in meaning) indicates love, deep-seated, thorough-going, intelligent and purposeful, a love in which the entire personality (not only the emotions, but also the mind and the will) plays a prominent part, which is based on esteem for the object loved or else on reasons which lie wholly outside of this object; while phileo indicates (or at least tends in the direction of) spontaneous natural affection, in which the emotions play a more prominent role than either the intellect or the will.” Ibid., p. 500.

230 In the first commission, Peter was commanded to ‘tend’ (bosko) the ‘lambs’ (arnion). In the second commission he was told to ‘shepherd’ (poimaino) the ‘sheep’ (probation). To ‘tend’ emphasizes the narrower function of providing (usually pigs in the Bible) with food. To ‘shepherd” is a broader duty involving the obligation to pastor the flock, meeting all its needs.

As Trench has put it: “The distinction, notwithstanding, is very far from fanciful. Boskein the Latin ‘pas cere,’ is simply ‘to feed’ but poimainein involves much more; the whole office of the shepherd, the guiding, guarding, folding of the flock, as well as the finding of nourishment for it.” Richard Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Marshallton, Delaware. The National Foundation for Christian Education, n.d.), p. 80.

231 The impact of this three-fold commission on Peter’s life and ministry is reflected in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

232 “The manner of Peter’s death is related by the church fathers, as follows: Eusebius: “But Peter seems to have preached in Pontus and Galatia and Bithynia and Cappadocia and Asia to the Jews of the Dispersion, and at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head downward, for so he himself had asked to suffer” (The Ecclesiastical History III, i). Tertullian: “At Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood this rising faith. Then is Peter girt by another when he is made fast to the cross” (Antidote for the Scorpion’s Sting XV). Cf. also Origen, Against Celsus II, xiv). Hendriksen, John, II, p. 490.

Related Topics: Christology, Evangelism, Discipleship