15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You [emphatic].”
Peter responded to Jesus with the Greek term phileo. This word refers to reciprocal love; that is, a person loves another and the other loves him back. He refused to use the higher term for love because in this context he had a much humbler attitude. Peter did not claim to love Jesus more than his compatriots did. This was a humble response to Jesus’ question. Peter used the term for subjective love for the Lord.
He said to him, “Feed [tend] My lambs.”
Jesus accepted Peter’s declaration of love. This disciple was willing to shepherd men rather than work as a fisherman. Three times in this chapter Jesus commissioned Peter to care for His people. This is the first.
Jesus commissioned Peter because he affirmed phileo love to Jesus. Our Lord accepted this assertion from Peter as authentic. He in no way diminished His apostle here. In fact, He assigned His disciple a ministry. Peter was now recognized for ministry.
The Greek word for “feed” (bosko) occurs regularly in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) for feeding sheep (Ge 37:12). This word was used metaphorically for pastoring God’s people in Ezekiel 34:2. The idea here was to provide spiritual nourishment for those Peter led. John used gradation of terms for “feed” in this chapter.
Feeding Jesus’ “lambs” was a challenge for Peter to build up new or immature believers. Jesus in effect confirmed on Peter a very high task for him to execute on earth. This is unadulterated grace from the Lord.
Every Christian fails the Lord, but anyone can be restored to fellowship with Him.
All believers are subject to failure in their Christian lives (1 Co 10:12). However, failure is never final with God. God always provides grace to the fallen. The public nature of Peter’s denial of the Lord required dealing with his sin publicly. Jesus restored him to ministry and he exercised that right early in the book of Acts. He would trust Peter with ministry again.