More Than You Love These

I just finished studying the book of John in my personal Bible study.

(Side note, I used Meditation Method #2, Rewrite the Text in Your Own Words, from the “FRC Little Booklet of Bible Study Techniques” that we distributed in January. It took a long time each morning, but it was very effective. Are you using any of those techniques in your own personal studies? I want to encourage you to try some different methods when you study the Bible. You might discover some interesting insights just because of the way you’re looking at the passages. And that’s what happened to me.)

John 21 tells the story of the resurrected Jesus feeding seven of His apostles breakfast on the Sea of Galilee. If you can recall, with Jesus absent from the apostles, except for brief appearances, Peter had announced that he was “going fishing,” and some of the guys decided to join him. Now, let’s not forget that Peter was by trade a professional fisherman. So his decision to go fishing could have been a decision to return to his past life now that Jesus wasn’t around on a day-to-day basis. (This event was, of course, before Pentecost.) On the morning of the incident, the guys had been fishing all night and had come up empty. But then, Jesus had miraculously filled their nets with 153 fish. (Do you think that there was anything symbolic in the number 153? I don’t have a clue. It might just have been John’s way of giving proof to the story by recording the exact number of fish. (Sorry about going down that rabbit trail. I’ll stick to the point from now on.)

The Bible now says that, “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.”

What was Jesus referring to when he used the pronoun “these”? My ESV study notes suggest three possibilities:

  1. Jesus was saying, Peter, do you love me more than these other guys love me?

  2. Jesus was saying, Peter, do you love me more than you love these guys?

  3. Jesus was saying, Peter, do you love me more than you love these fish?

Now before you throw out the last one as ridiculous, consider that these/fish could be a metonym for “the whole fishing life.” Was Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him more than his former life as a fisherman? (That’s not a ridiculous question at all. Jesus asks us all, “Do you love me more than the material world your fishing in daily?”) Now, add to the discussion the fact that in Mathew 4:19 Jesus had asked Peter to join him and become a “fisher of men.” But here’s the really cool part. Allow me to paraphrase here: Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than you love being a fisherman?” and Peter said, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs. I don’t want you to be a fisherman anymore; now I want you to be a shepherd. I want you to lead my flock. I’ve got a different role for you now.”

Isn’t that an interesting possible interpretation of a passage that we’ve all read many times? And it came because I tried a different technique of meditating on the Word. I want to challenge you to do the same.

Written by Jim De Horn