Posted by: Alicia | December 27, 2008

Hidden Gem – John 21:15-17

I’m certain there are many hidden gems in the Bible, but my favorite, the one that brings me to tears every time I read it, is found in John 21:15-17.   And I’d like to share it with you.  However, before I do so, I need to explain what leads up to it.   

Judas has just left the “last supper” to betray Jesus to the Pharisees.   And then Jesus turns to his disciples and explains that where he is going, they cannot follow.  Then .. 

John 13:36-38:

36 “Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow later.”
37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now?  I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me?  Truly, truly, I say to you, a cock shall not crow, until you deny Me three times.”

Then, later in chapter 18, Peter, when confronted, denies Jesus three times, just as Christ predicted.  Imagine, if you will, the guilt Peter must have felt at the moment the rooster crowed.  How devastating it must have been to realize that you just denied the Savior, not once, but three times. 

Yet after Christ rose from the dead, He took the time to meet with Peter and give him an opportunity to tell him he loved him.  For He knew how devastated and full of guilt and shame Peter was.  And that takes us to where our hidden gem resides; in John 21:15-17.

Prior to these verses we read that Jesus has risen from the grave, and has now appeared to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.  He has prepared breakfast for them and invites them to join him.  

John 21:15-17:

15 “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (#25) Me more than these?”  He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (#5368) You.”  He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (#25) Me?”  He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love (#5368) You.”  He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (#5368) me?”  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love (#5368) Me?”  And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (#5368) You.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

In this passage is a beautiful account of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loves him.  And three times, Peter responds with “You know that I love you.”  In English, it is beautiful, but if you look deeper into the types of love found in the original Greek/Aramaic, you see an even more precious moment between Peter and Jesus.

In verse 15, the first time Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, you will notice that Jesus uses the Greek word “agapao” (ag-ap-ah-o), which means to love in a social or moral sense.  This is the kind of love often refered to as “God’s love”; a true and unconditional love.  However, Peter responds back with “Lord you know that I love you.”; a “phileo” love, which means to “be a friend to, have affection for”.  It is a love from the head, whereas “agapao” is a love from the heart.

In other words, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me unconditionally, from the heart?”, and Peter still carrying guilt and shame from having denied Christ responds with, “Lord, you know that I love you as a friend.  I have feelings for you, but obviously I didn’t love you enough to die for you.”  Then Christ, letting him know that he forgives him, tells him to “Tend my lambs.”

In verse 16, we see Jesus again ask Peter if he loves him unconditionally, and with his heart.  Peter responds back, still full of guilt and shame, with “Lord you know that I love you as a friend.”  Jesus replies, “Shepherd my sheep”.

And then, in verse 17, Jesus asks Peter a third time if he loves him.  Only this time, Jesus meets Peter where he is, and asks him if he loves Him as a friend.  Peter replied, “Lord you know all things.  You know that I love you as a friend.”  Jesus responds with “Tend My sheep.”

The beautiful gem in this set of scriptures is that Jesus, knowing that Peter is overwhelmed with guilt, has met him where he is at.  He has acknowledged Peter’s pain, and lifted him up, and told him He still needs him; “tend My sheep.” 

God loves us so much that He is willing to meet us where-ever we are.  As I write this, I am reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).  In that parable, Jesus tells of two sons, one that is good and hardworking, and the other that is wasteful, and greedy.  The latter demands his inheritance and takes it and squanders it away.  And then, having lost everything he remembers how good his father’s hired men are taken care of, and decides to return to his father, say he is sorry, and offer to be a hired hand.  As he is returning, his father sees him a long way off and runs to him and embraces and kisses him.  He then has a great feast and celebration that his son who was lost is now found.

The reason I was reminded of this, is because that is basically what Jesus did.  He saw Peter far off, deep in despair, and “ran to him, embraced him, and kissed him.”  Peter was forgiven, and given much responsibility; showing that God trusted him, and did not hold anything against him.   That is what God is willing to do for us, if we just let Him.



  1. Truly is a gem, that I have overlooked for so long. Even though I knew it in my heart… and touches my heart and soul again. I needed to be reminded. I ask God for this and He sent you my friend to remind me that He loves me No matter what…and I Love Him unconditionally, (agapao) So, many things going on I truly needed to be reminded in more ways than one…Thanks for sharing this gem with me.

    • Kim,

      I’m so glad you were able to make it by to my blog, and read about a couple of the gems I’ve found. And yes, God does love unconditionally .. isn’t that wonderful? If only we all could learn to do the same. Fortuantely, God is willing to meet us half way.

      In love and light,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: