17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.
Jesus asked Peter for the third time whether he loved Him here in verse 17.
17 He said to him the third time,
Peter smarted under the two previous questions by Jesus. Now our Lord asked a third question about Peter’s commitment. This final question struck him to the foundation of his soul.
“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love [befriend] Me?”
This time Jesus used Peter’s term for love (phileo). Our Lord asked this disciple whether he truly had reciprocal love for Him. Love for Jesus is central to serving Him.
Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
Peter was “grieved” because Jesus asked him for the third time whether he loved Him. The use of reciprocal love by Jesus was not accidental. By adopting Peter’s own word, Jesus ratified that Peter loved Him with an experiential love.
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Peter deferred knowledge about his love for Jesus to Jesus. This apostle acknowledged the Lord’s omniscience about all things; Jesus could clearly read Peter’s heart. His Lord knew his heart completely. The three affirmations of Peter’s love for Jesus confirmed his love for Him.
Jesus said to him, “Feed [give food to] My sheep.
This is the third charge that Jesus gave to Peter. The three commissions concern two different groups of believers:
(1) lambs who are weak and vulnerable, immature believers, v.15;
(2) sheep who need constant development into maturity, vv. 16,17.
Peter later used a word “feed” in 1 Peter 5:2; however, it was not the Greek word for “feed” in this verse (poimanate, tend, pasture).
The sheep are Jesus’ sheep, which He called “My” sheep. The flock was not Peter’s but the Lord’s.
Peter was not the first pope.
The Roman Catholic church assumes that the interaction of Peter with Jesus presumes Peter’s primacy and thus their claim to the right of the papacy. However, this reads something into the passage that is not there. The point of the passage is Peter’s reinstatement to serve, not his elevation to a primary role over other apostles. Even Peter called Jesus the “chief shepherd” (1 Pe 5:4). He also regarded himself as a “fellow elder” along with other shepherds who pastored their flocks (1 Pe 5:1-2).
Peter had a clear role in founding the church (Mt 16:13-20). However, there is nothing in that passage that establishes him as having more authority than other apostles (1 Pe 5:1-4). Peter was a “fellow elder” with other pastors. Every shepherd of the flock is to mirror Christ’s pastoring. Every pastor must give account to the “chief Shepherd.”
It is necessary to probe the hearts of those who follow Jesus. We need to examine the inmost purposes of our heart. This is crucial for serving Jesus. Love is the fundamental motivation for serving the Lord. As Paul said, the love of Christ is the motivating factor for ministry (2 Co 5:14).