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Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter – The reading is from the Gospel of John 21:15-19.

The Handing-over the keys by Raphael, 1515-16.

Jesus and Peter – John 21:15-19

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, “Feed my lambs.”

He then said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

[Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.

These verses in this passage were cited by the First Vatican Council in defining that Jesus after his resurrection gave Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock.

  • 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, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)

In the above verse, the phrase “do you love me more than these?” could probably mean “more than these disciples do” or “more than you love them” or “more than you love these things such as fishing, etc..”

In John 15:9-13a,

  • “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this,”

we see the words for love are related to the Greek agapaō.

Whereas in John 15:13b–15,

  • “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

the words for love are related to the Greek phileō.

For John, the two roots seem synonymous and mean “to love”;

Also in the following verses, John 21:15–17, the word philos is used:

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, “Feed my lambs.”

He then said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

[Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.

In the above passage, we see a remarkable number and variety of synonyms: two different Greek verbs agapaō and phileō for love; two verbs for feed/tend; two nouns for sheep; two verbs for know. But apparently there is no difference of meaning.

The threefold confession of Peter in this passage is meant to counteract his earlier threefold denial:

  • Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” (John 18:17)
  • Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” (John 18:25)
  • One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed. (John 18:26-27)

Originally, the following verse,

  • “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)

probably referred to a proverb about old age. But now it is used as a figurative reference to the crucifixion of Peter.

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