John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
Jesus asked this question to Simon Peter 3 times, but there was something different about the first time that he asked (here in verse 15). Did you see it? Lovest thou me MORE THAN THESE?
As I read that passage, I wondered what exactly Jesus meant by MORE THAN THESE. These what? I can come up with only 2 possibilities (though there may be more)
1. The other disciples present
2. The 153 fish, the lake, the boat, the dinner, etc. – the material blessings and comforts he was currently enjoying
Let's consider that first possibility for a moment. Remember the probable reason that Jesus repeated the question 3 times, and that's because Peter had denied the Lord 3 times just a couple weeks prior. With that in mind, let's read one of the passages where Jesus told Peter this would happen.
Matthew 26:31-34 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
In his pride, Peter was offended that Jesus suggested he would be offended and confidently asserted, Though all men…yet will I… And we all know how it turned out.
The following scriptures come to mind:
1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Luke 14:11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
So on the shore of Galilee that night, in Jesus' efforts to restore Peter, it seems that He not only reminds Peter of how he denied Him but of how he talked it up before hand. "You were talking big that night a couple weeks back, Peter, now what about it? Do you love me more than these guys do?"
In humility and understanding, Peter responds, "Yea, Lord; THOU KNOWEST that I love thee." He seems to answer the question the right way, regardless of what exactly Jesus was asking. "Lord, I do love you, and I realize now that only you know how much I do." Unlike a couple weeks back, Peter, now broken by his own failure and sin, was unwilling to make the unwise comparison (2 Corinthians 10:12).
He later recorded some words it would do us all well to remember and take to heart:
1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: