Bible Insights

Jesus Restores Peter

Feed My Sheep

Today’s passage: John 21:15–19

Focus verse: Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

Right before Jesus was crucified, he predicted that Peter would deny him three times.

The confident disciple was adamant it wouldn’t happen, that he was willing to go to prison and even die for Jesus (Matthew 26:31–35, Mark 14:27–31, Luke 22:31–34, and John 13:37–38).

Yet a few hours later Peter does exactly what Jesus said he would do. He denies knowing his Rabbi three times, with increasing fervor each time, confirming his final denial with an oath.

This supplies a three-fold confirmation that he denies knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:69–75, Mark 14:66–72, Luke 22:54–62, and John 18:15–18, 25–27).

Peter must wallow in guilt over how quickly he gave in to fear and disavowed his master. Despite his self-assuredness, Peter is weak. His commitment to Jesus is fickle. His pledge to die for his master means nothing.

Though Peter’s failure could cause him to give up, even to end his life like Judas did, he does not. He sticks around.

This is because of Jesus’s prayer for his disciple. “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).

Ever since Jesus rose from the dead, he’s worked to bring Peter back into his fold. He first appears to Peter separately (see Day 21 and Luke 24:34) and then three more times when Peter is with other disciples (Days 22, 25, and 27).

In doing so, Peter knows Jesus has forgiven him and includes him with the other disciples.

Now Jesus completes his disciple’s restoration.

Three times Jesus has Peter affirm his master, with each affirmation offsetting a denial.

It distresses Peter to have to affirm Jesus three times. But consider how much more Jesus must have been distressed for his disciple to deny even knowing him.

Jesus’s first question to Peter is pointed. “Do you love me more than these?” It’s not enough for Peter to profess loving Jesus as much as the other disciples, who didn’t deny him.

Instead, he must profess a greater love. Peter does.

In response to each of Peter’s three affirmations, Jesus tells Peter what to do. The first time he says, “Feed my lambs.” A lamb is a baby sheep. The second time Jesus says, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time the Savior says, “Feed my sheep.”

Who are the sheep Peter is supposed to care for? Jesus’s sheep are his followers, specifically his disciples. Recall that in Jesus’s earlier prayer, he asked his Father that Peter, once restored, would strengthen the brothers.

Though this three-fold restoration sequence is painful for Peter, it’s necessary.

Having now been restored, Jesus tells Peter what will happen when he gets old. Implicitly he’ll be crucified, and his death will glorify God.

But until then, Jesus tells Peter the same thing he did at the start of their time together. “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18–19).

And following Jesus is what matters most.


  • How well do we do at following Jesus today?
  • Will we do so for the rest of our lives, regardless of what may happen?

Prayer: Jesus, may we follow you and feed your sheep.

Celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his return to heaven in The Victory of Jesus. The Victory of Jesus is another book in Peter DeHaan’s beloved Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series. Get your copy today.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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