The Bible

 

John 21:15-25 : Feed my lambs, Feed my sheep

        

Study the Inner Meaning

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.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1017, 2371, 2788, 2921, 3934, 3994, 4169, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 17, 23, 383, 505, 879

Divine Love and Wisdom 19

Sacred Scripture 29

The Last Judgment 39

True Christianity 211, 764

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 122


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 9, 10, 195, 228, 229, 250, 295, ...

On the Athanasian Creed 208

Divine Love 19

Divine Wisdom 11

An Invitation to the New Church 33

Scriptural Confirmations 4, 6, 36, 68

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Joshua 22:22

Psalms 116:1, 139:1

Word/Phrase Explanations

saith
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

Simon
'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

peter
Peter – born Simon, son of Jonah – is certainly one of the Bible's most important figures, second only to Jesus in the New Testament....

third
The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

all things
The Lord is life itself, is the Creator of the universe, and is the source of life on an ongoing basis. So in a literal...

Gird
To gird one’s self, as in John. 21:18, signifies to know and perceive truths in the light from good.

stretch
The hand in the Bible represents power, which is easy to understand, so to reach out or stretch out the hand means to exercise power,...

hands
'Washing of the hands' was an ancient declaration of innocence, and signifies purification from evils and falsities, as in Psalms 73:13 and Matthew 27:24.

glorify
'To glorify' signifies acknowledgment and confession.

turning
Swedenborg says that the Lord is the sun of heaven, and like the natural sun of our world shines on everyone, good or evil. What...

Disciple
A disciple in Matthew 10:41 signifies charity and at the same time, faith from the Lord. It disciple signifies the truth of life, and a...

seeing
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

come
Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

die
'To perish,' or 'die,' relates to damnation, or the state in hell.

written
If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

world
The term "world" has both general and more specific meanings in the Bible, including the relatively literal sense of the natural, physical world. In more...

Amen
Amen signifies divine confirmation from truth, consequently from the Lord himself.Amen signifies truth, because the Lord was truth itself, therefore he so often said Amen...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Breakfast with the Risen Lord
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Genuine Faith in Marriage
The pathway to conjugial love in marriage involves looking to the Lord for enlightenment by reading His Word and applying it to our lives. We must be willing to work together in marriage and use the truths of the Word to serve others.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Jesus Appears
The Lord was not like you and me. When we die we lay aside our earthy body for ever. The Lord did not lay aside His earthly body—He made it Divine.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Quotes: Having Faith in the Risen Lord
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Seeing the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Charge to Peter
This sermon describes the meaning of the Lord's charge to Peter to feed and tend His flocks. 
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Disciples See the Lord After His Resurrection
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Drawing Power Of Love
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Lord and His Disciple, Simon Peter
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 The Lord's Breakfast by the Sea
This is a re-telling of John 21:1-14 for young children with beautiful color pictures. 
Story | Ages 4 - 10

 The Miraculous Catch of Fish
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 The Miraculous Catch of Fishes
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 To Love Is To Do
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

Commentary

 

An After-Breakfast Conversation      

By Joe David

This inscription is on a stone at the church hall in South Ronaldsey, in the Orkneys, northeast of Scotland.

An After-Breakfast Conversation
(A commentary on John 21:15-25)

In the first part of this chapter, seven disciples had come home to Galilee. They had gone fishing, seen Jesus on the shore, followed his instructions to fish on the right side of the boat, dragged a net loaded with 153 fish to shore, and... as the second half of the chapter begins, they have just finished breaking their fast with Him. Now they are relaxing.

Jesus says to Peter,"Do you love me?" and Peter, perhaps a little startled at the question, thinking that the answer is obvious, answers "yes", and Jesus responds, "Feed my lambs". Twice more this sequence is repeated, but with some changes. Then, after this unusual conversation, the Lord tells them all a little parable about being young and later being old. Then the Lord tells Peter to follow him, and Peter, apparently jealous, asks what John is supposed to do. The Lord mildly rebukes Peter’s jealousy by saying, "If this man tarry until I come what is that to you?", but then He tells John also to follow him.

Finally, the gospel of John, and indeed the collection of all four gospels, closes with an explanation by John that he is the writer of this gospel.

So now, let’s look more closely at the conversation, the parable, and the outbreak of jealousy.

Only two of the seven disciples, Peter and John, are mentioned in this part of the story. Peter represents faith, or truth, but truth about spiritual things that we really believe are from God. John represents good, or love to the neighbor. The former resides in the understanding part of the mind and the latter in the will part of the mind.

In telling Peter to feed His sheep, the Lord is saying that to follow Him means to preach the truths that all the disciples now know about the Lord, His coming, and about how a life should be led, in order to be a follower of the Lord in a new church. In the conversation the Lord is direct and probing. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" I think Peter is being asked whether he loves the Lord, Jesus, more than he loves his fellow Galilean friends, though it’s ambiguous, it could mean "do you love me more than these other six do?’ When Peter answers the first time he says "Lord thou knowest that I love thee."

With this first of the three probing questions, the Lord answers "Feed my lambs," while after that the response is "Feed my sheep." Sheep and lambs both represent people who are in a love of doing good, but while sheep means those who love to do good for the sake of the neighbor, lambs mean those who do good for the sake of the Lord. The first is spiritual good, and the second is higher, and is called celestial good. But people who wish to do good at first don’t know what is good; they need to learn that from the Word and be taught. This is why Peter is told to "feed them", which is to say that truth must indicate how good is to be done. In order to do things that are good, the will's wanting to, and the understanding's knowing how to go about it, must be conjoined. For a successful Christian life, or on a larger scale, a Christian church, 'Peter' and 'John' must work in harmony.

Then comes the parable. "When you were young you got yourself ready and did what you wanted on your own. But when you become old, you have to reach out for help and another shall carry you where you don’t want to go."

This doesn’t seem to fit in here, but of course it does, and in two ways. The first way is given in the Biblical text; it is about the Lord’s death, that all the prophecies were leading Him to His crucifixion, as is mentioned. The second way is a lesson for all of us. When we are young, confident, and strong, we feel that we can do what we want and don’t need any help. Temptations to do evil we ourselves can deal with. But when we grow wiser we realize that all our strength comes from the lord, and if we continue to depend only on ourselves, the temptations from the hells will be too strong and we will be led into doing what the hells want for us, not what we want. We must learn at the start to follow the Lord and depend on Him. This he says at the end of the parable, where it seems not to fit until we understand the parable. "And when He had spoken this He saith unto (them), follow Me." That’s what we need to do also.

Peter is happy to do this preaching of the truth and maybe feels that he has been singled out, but he also realizes that John also loves the Lord and is loved in return. So he asks "And what is this man supposed to do?" It seems that the needed harmony is not yet present, and that Peter is jealous of the bond, and probably hopes to be assured that he is number one... but that doesn’t happen. Peter is simply told that it doesn’t matter; he needs to do the job he has been given.

I’m reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau, in Genesis 25, where Esau is the firstborn and will inherit the birthright and blessing from Isaac, as his due. Jacob by craft devised by his mother deceives Isaac and steals what is Esau’s. Then he runs off to Padan-Aram and stays there with his uncle and becomes rich. It is only on his return journey that he wrestles with the angel and has his name changed to Israel, that he again meets Esau. The change of name means that now that Jacob is rich with truth from the Word, now with the friendly meeting with Esau, also rich, that the two twins can in parable, be merged into one personage, called Israel, meaning the joining of good and truth in the mind.

Esau means something similar to John, they both represent goodness or true charity. Jacob means something similar to Peter, they both represent truth learned from the Word. Any seeming enmity between them as to which is more important can make them both useless, and in a person who is becoming angelic (as everyone should be aiming for), there is no enmity. Truth enables good, and good inspires truth in order to get something done. Although we can think and speak of them separately, they are (perfectly in the Lord and less so in angels) conjoined into a oneness so as to be seen as married. The marriage of the Lord's Divine good and Divine truth is the origin of all creation. Yes, all creation.

This marriage of good and truth, and the need for both to work in our lives, in balance and harmony, is a core New Christian concept.

In the Gospels, there is just one more story that takes place after this one. In it, the rest of the disciples join the seven mentioned here to hear the Lord’s last commands.

From Swedenborg's Works

 

Apocalypse Explained #229

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

Study this Passage

Go to section / 1232  

← Previous   Next →

229. The beginning of the working of God signifies faith from Him, which in appearance is the first thing of the church. This is evident from the signification of "beginning," as being the first; and from the signification of "the working of God," as being the church (of which presently). Faith is what is meant by "the beginning of the working of God," for this is the subject treated of in what is written to the angel of this church; but that faith is "the beginning of the working of God," that is, in appearance the first thing of the church, shall now be explained. By faith here is meant faith from the Lord, for faith not from the Lord is not the faith of the church; but faith from the Lord is the faith of charity. This faith is in appearance the first thing of the church, because it is the first to appear to the man of the church. But charity itself is actually the first thing of the church, because this is what makes the church with man.

(References: Revelation 3:14)


[2] There are two things that make the church, charity and faith. Charity is of affection, and faith is of thought therefrom. Affection is the very essence of thought, for apart from affection no one can think; everything of life that is in thought is from affection. From this it is clear that the first thing of the church is the affection that is of charity or love. But faith is called the first thing of the church because it is the first to appear; for what a man believes, that he thinks, and by thought sees; but that whereby he is spiritually affected he does not think, and therefore does not see in thought, but he perceives it by a certain sensation that has no relation to sight, but to another feeling called the feeling of enjoyment. This enjoyment, as it is spiritual and is above the sense of natural enjoyment, man does not perceive, except when he has become spiritual, that is, when he has been regenerated by the Lord. For this reason the things that are of faith, and thus of sight, are believed to be the first things of the church, although they are not first except in appearance. This therefore is called "the beginning of the working of God," because the Word in the letter is according to appearance, since it is for the simple. But spiritual men, like the angels, are lifted above appearances, and perceive the Word as it is in its internal sense; consequently they perceive that charity is the first thing of the church, and that faith is therefrom; for as was said above, the faith that is not from charity and that is not of charity, is not faith (about which , see also in the small work on The Last Judgment 33-39).

[3] Even from ancient times, what the first thing of the church is, whether faith or charity, has been a disputed point; and those who have not known what charity is have declared that faith is the first things; but those who have known what charity is have declared that charity is the first thing, and that faith is charity in its manifestation, since the affection of charity made manifest to sight in thought, is faith; for when the delight of affection passes from the will into the thought it takes form, and presents itself to view in a variety of forms. This the simple have not apprehended, consequently they have taken that which appeared before the sight of their thought to be the first thing of the church; and because the Word in the letter is according to appearances, this therefore is there called "the first," "the beginning," and "the firstborn. " For the same reason, Peter, by whom the faith of the church was represented, was called the first of the apostles; when yet John was the first, because by "John" the good of charity was represented. That John, not Peter, was the first of the apostles, is clear from this, that it was John who leaned on the breast of the Lord, and that he, and not Peter, followed the Lord (John 21:20-22). (That the twelve disciples of the Lord represented all the truths and goods of the church, see Arcana Coelestia 2129, 3354, 3488, 3858, 6397; that Peter represented faith, n. 4738, 6000, 6073, 6344, 10087, 10580; and that John represented the good of charity, n. 3934, 6073, 10087).

[4] For the same reason, by Reuben also, because he was the firstborn of the sons of Jacob, faith was represented, and it was believed that the tribe that had its name from him was the first; but yet that tribe was not the first, but the tribe of Levi, since by Levi the good of charity was represented; and for this reason the tribe of Levi was appointed to the priesthood, and the priesthood is the first of the church. (That the twelve sons of Jacob, or the twelve tribes named from them, represented all the truths and goods of the church, see , n. Arcana Coelestia 3858, 3926, 3926, 4060, 6335, 7836, 7891, 7996; that Reuben represented faith, n. 3861, 3866, 4605, 4731, 4734, 4761, 6342-6345; and that Levi represented the good of charity, n. 3875, 4497, 4502, 4503.) For the same reason in the first chapter of Genesis, where in the sense of the letter the creation of heaven and earth is treated of, but in the internal sense the new creation or regeneration of the man of the church at that time, it is said that light was first made, and afterwards the sun and the moon (see verses 3-5, 14-19); when yet the sun is first, and light is from it. Light was said to be the first of creation, because "light" signifies the truth of faith, and "the sun and moon" the good of love and of charity. (That by the creation of heaven and earth in the first chapter of Genesis, in the spiritual sense, the new creation of the man of the celestial church, or his regeneration, is meant and described, see the explanation of that chapter in The Arcana Coelestia, also n. 8891, 9942, 10545. That "light" signifies truth from good, thus also the truth of faith, see in the work on Heaven and Hell 126-140; and that "the sun" signifies the good of love, and "the moon" the good of charity, both from the Lord, in the same work, n. 116-125, 146.) From this it can now be seen what "the beginning of the working of God" signifies, namely, faith from the Lord, which in appearance is the first thing of the church.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4502-4503, 6342, Genesis 1:3-5, 1:14-19; Revelation 3:3-5, 3:14-19, 3:14)

Go to section / 1232  

← Previous   Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 226

Other New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.


Translate: