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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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 #314

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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314. A Lamb standing, signifies the Lord in respect to the Divine Human. This is evident from the signification of "lamb," as being, in reference to the Lord, Himself in respect to the Divine Human. The Lord in respect to the Divine Human is called a "lamb" because a "lamb" signifies the good of innocence, and the good of innocence is the good itself of heaven proceeding from the Lord; and so far as angels receive this good, so far they are angels. This good reigns with angels that are in the third or inmost heaven; for this reason those in that heaven appear as infants before the eyes of other angels. (What the good of innocence is, and that the angels of heaven are in that good, see in the work on Heaven and Hell, in the chapter treating of The State of Innocence of the Angels of Heaven, n. n. 276-283, also n. 285, 288, 341, 382.) It is believed in the world that the Lord is called "a Lamb" for the reason that the continual burnt-offering, or what was offered every day, evening and morning, was from lambs, and especially on the Passover days, when a lamb was also eaten; and that the Lord suffered Himself to be sacrificed. Such a reason for His being so called may do for those in the world who do not think beyond the sense of the letter of the Word; but nothing of this kind is perceived in heaven when the term "lamb" is predicated of the Lord; but when "lamb" is mentioned, or is read in the Word, the angels, because they are all in the spiritual sense of the Word, perceive the good of innocence; and when the Lord is so called, they perceive His Divine Human, and at the same time the good of innocence that is from Him. I know that this will with difficulty be believed, but yet it is true.

(References: Heaven and Hell 276-283; Revelation 5:6)


[2] That "lamb" in the Word signifies the good of innocence, and in reference to the Lord Himself, "lamb" signifies His Divine Human, can be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:

Behold, the Lord Jehovih cometh in strength. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs into His arm, and shall carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead the sucklings (Isaiah 40:10-11).

This treats of the Lord's coming; the "flock that He shall feed as a shepherd," signify those who are in the good of charity; and the "lambs that He shall gather into His arm," signify those who are in love to Him. It is this love that, viewed in itself, is innocence; therefore all who are in it are in the heaven of innocence, which is the third heaven; and as this love is signified by lambs, it is also said, "He shall gently lead the sucklings." "Sucklings" and "infants" in the Word mean those who are in innocence (see in the work on Heaven and Hell 277, 280, 329-345).

[3] In the same:

The wolf shall sojourn with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little boy shall lead them; and the heifer and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together; the suckling shall play on the hole of the adder, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den (Isaiah 11:6-8).

These things are said of the Lord's coming and of His kingdom, also of those therein who are in the good of innocence, that they shall have nothing to fear from the hells and the evils therefrom, because they are protected by the Lord. The Lord's kingdom is here described by innocences of various kinds, and by their opposites from which they shall be protected; a "lamb" means innocence of the inmost degree, its opposite is the "wolf;" a "kid" means innocence of the second degree, the opposite of which is the "leopard;" a "calf" means innocence of the last degree, the opposite of which is the "young lion. " (That "lamb," "ram," or "sheep," and "calf," signify three degrees of innocence, see Arcana Coelestia 10132.) Innocence of the inmost degree is such as belongs to those who are in the third or inmost heaven, and its good is called celestial good; innocence of the second degree is such as belongs to those who are in the second or middle heaven, and its good is called spiritual good; and innocence of the last degree is such as belongs to those who are in the first or the last heaven, and its good is called spiritual-natural good. (That all who are in the heavens are in some good of innocence, see Arcana Coelestia 4797.) Because the goods of innocence are described by the animals above named, it is said further "and a little boy shall lead them," also, "the suckling shall play on the hole of the adder, and the weaned child shall put forth his hand on the basilisk's den. " These degrees of innocence are signified also by "boy," "suckling," and "weaned child." (That "boy" has this signification, see Arcana Coelestia 430, 5236; that "suckling," or infant of the first age, and "weaned child," or infant of the second age, have these significations see n. 318 3183 4563, 5608, 6740, 6745)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3183)


[4] Because a "lamb" signifies innocence, or those who are innocent, and a "wolf" those who are against innocence, it is said in like manner in another place in the same prophet:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together; they shall not do evil in the whole mountain of holiness (Isaiah 65:25);

"the mountain of holiness" is heaven, especially the inmost heaven. Therefore the Lord said to the seventy whom He sent forth:

I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves (Luke 10:3).

[5] Because "lambs" signify those who are in the love to the Lord, which love is one with innocence, and because "sheep" signify those who are in love towards the neighbor, which love is charity, the Lord said to Peter:

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 lambs; and afterwards, Feed My sheep (John 21:15-17).

These things were said to Peter, because by "Peter" truth from good, or faith from charity was meant, and truth from good teaches; "to feed" meaning to teach.

[6] In Ezekiel:

Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, these were the merchants of thy hand, in lambs, rams, and goats (Ezekiel 27:21).

This is said of Tyre, by which those who are in the knowledges of truth and good are meant. "Arabia" and "the princes of Kedar," who are "the merchants of her hand," signify those who are in truths and goods from knowledges; "merchants" signify those who communicate and teach these; "lambs, rams, and goats," signify three degrees of the good of innocence, the same as "lambs, rams, and calves." (That these signify the three degrees of the good of innocence, see Arcana Coelestia 10042, 10132)

[7] In like manner in Moses:

He made him to ride on the high places of the earth, and fed him with the increase of the fields; he made him to suck honey out of the cliff, and oil out of the flint of the rock; butter of the herd and milk of the flock, with the fat of lambs, of the rams of Bashan, and of goats, with the fat of the kidneys of wheat; and thou drinkest the pure blood of the grape (Deuteronomy 32:13-14).

These things are said of the establishment of the Ancient Church, which was the first church after the flood, and all these things describe its various kinds of good; but as scarcely anyone will understand them without explanation, I will briefly explain them. "To ride on the high places of the earth" signifies that the intelligence of those who were of that church was interior; "He fed him with the increase of the fields" signifies that they were instructed in all truth and good; "He made him to suck honey out of the cliff" signifies that they had natural good by means of truths; "oil out of the flint of the rock" signifies that they had spiritual good also by means of truths; "honey" and "oil" signifying those goods, and "cliff," "rock," and "hard rock," signifying truths; "butter of the herd, and milk of the flock," signify the internal and the external good of truth; "the fat of lambs, of the rams of Bashan, and of goats," signifies the goods of innocence of the three degrees (as above); "the fat of the kidneys of wheat" and "the blood of the grape" signify genuine good and genuine truth therefrom.

[8] In Isaiah:

The sword of Jehovah shall be filled with blood; it shall be made fat with fatness, with the blood of lambs and of he-goats, and with the fat of the kidneys of rams (Isaiah 34:6).

Here, too, "lambs, rams, and goats," signify the three degrees of the good of innocence (of which above); but here their destruction by the falsities of evil is treated of; for "sword" signifies falsity destroying truth and good; the "blood" with which it shall be filled signifies destruction.

[9] Since a "lamb" signifies innocence, which, viewed in itself, is love to the Lord, a "lamb," in the highest sense, signifies the Lord in respect to the Divine Human, for in respect to this, the Lord was innocence itself; as may be seen in the following passages. In Isaiah:

He endured persecution and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He is led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).

Send ye the lamb of the ruler of the land from the cliff toward the wilderness unto the Mount of the daughter of Zion (Isaiah 16:1).

In John:

John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. And afterwards, seeing Jesus walking, he said, Behold the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36).

And in Revelation:

The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters (Revelation 7:17).

They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the Word of the testimony (Revelation 12:11;

besides also elsewhere in Revelation (as Revelation 13:8; 14:1, 4; 17:14; 19:7, 9; (Revelation 19:9)Revelation 21:22-23, 22:1, 3).

(References: John 1:36-37)


[10] Since "burnt-offerings and sacrifices" signified all representative worship from the good of love and from the truths thence, "burnt-offerings" worship from the good of love, and "sacrifices" in a special sense worship from the truths thence, so:

Every day, evening and morning, there was a burnt-offering of lambs (Exodus 29:38-43; Numbers 28:1-9);

Every sabbath, of two lambs, besides the continual burnt-offering of them (Numbers 28:9-10);

In the beginnings of the months, of seven lambs (Numbers 28:11-15);

Likewise on the day of the firstfruits (Numbers 28:26 to end);

Likewise in the seventh month, when there was a holy convocation (Numbers 29:1-7);

Likewise, namely of seven lambs on each day of the passover, besides two young bullocks, one ram, and one goat (Numbers 28:16-24).

The burnt-offering was of "seven lambs" because "seven" signifies all and fullness, and it is predicated of what is holy, and because "burnt-offerings" in general signified worship of the Lord from the good of love, and the good of love to the Lord from the Lord is the good itself of innocence; and "lamb" in the highest sense signified the Lord in respect to the Divine Human. (That "burnt-offerings" signified all worship from the good of love to the Lord from the Lord, see Arcana Coelestia 923, 6905, 8680, 8936, 10042) On account of this representation there was also instituted:

The supper of the passover of lambs or kids (Exodus 12:1-29);

for "the feast of the passover" represented the glorification of the Lord's Human (see Arcana Coelestia 10655). Because "infants" signified innocence, it was also commanded that:

After birth, on the day of purification, they should sacrifice a lamb, a young pigeon, or a turtle dove; or, instead of a lamb, two young pigeons or two turtle doves (Leviticus 12:6, 8);

"young pigeons" and "turtle doves" signifying the like as "lambs," namely, innocence.

(References: Exodus 12:1-2; John 1:36-37; Numbers 28:9-16, 28:16, 28:24, 28:26-31; Revelation 5:6)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 312, 315, 319, 322, 327, 328, 337, 456, 460, 748, 816, 850, 864, 865, 1219

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.


 Lamb Masks for Little Ones
Project | Ages up to 6


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


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