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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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 #443

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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443. Verse 7. Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand sealed, signifies obedience, and that all who are in obedience are in heaven, and come into heaven. This is evident, from the representation and consequent signification of "the tribe of Simeon," as being obedience (of which presently); and from the signification of "twelve thousand sealed," as being all who are in heaven and who come into heaven (of which above). The tribes of Simeon, Levi, and Issachar, which are now mentioned, and which constitute the third class of the sealed, signify those who are in the first or lowest heaven, and who come into that heaven. For, as was said above, all who are in heaven, and who come into heaven are here treated of; and as there are, three heavens, the third or inmost, the second or middle, and the first or lowest, those who are in the third, in the second, and in the first are separately treated of. Those who are in the third or inmost heaven and who come into that heaven are signified by "Judah, Reuben, and Gad," these constituting the first class of those sealed; those who are in the second or middle heaven and who come into that heaven are signified by "Asher, Naphtali, and Manasseh," these, therefore, constituting the second class of those sealed; but those who are in the first or lowest heaven and who come into that heaven are signified by "Simeon, Levi, and Issachar," these constituting the third class of those sealed.

(References: Revelation 7:7)


[2] Those belonging to this first or lowest heaven are all obedient in doing the truths and goods that are commanded in the Word or in the doctrine of the church in which they were born, or that they have heard from some master or religious teacher, from whom they have heard that this or that is true and good, and ought to be done. Most of these are not in truths themselves, but in falsities from ignorance, nevertheless these falsities are accepted by the Lord as truths because they have the good of life for their end, and by this the evils that usually cling to falsities are removed (respecting these falsities, and those who are in them, see in The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem 21). Such, then, are in the lowest or first heaven. But in the second or middle heaven are all such as are in the spiritual affection of knowing and understanding truth and good, and in the affection of doing it; while in the third or inmost heaven are all such as are in love; but these two classes have already been spoken of above.

[3] "Simeon" and his tribe signify those who are in obedience, because Simeon, the father of the tribe, was named from the word that means "to hear," and "to hear" signifies to obey. This can be seen from the words of Leah his mother when she bare him, which are these:

And Leah conceived again and bare a son, and said, Because Jehovah hath heard that I was hated He hath therefore given me this one also; and she called his name Simeon (Genesis 29:33).

(For explanation of these words see Arcana Coelestia 3867-3872; and that "to hear" signifies to obey there, n. 2542, 3869, 4653-4660, 5017, 5471, 5475, 7216, 8361, 8990, 9311, 9397, 9926, 10061; and above, n. 14, 108, 249.) Because "Simeon" signifies obedience he also signifies faith, for faith becomes faith in man when he obeys and does the commandments; before this is done the knowledge of such things as man has drawn from the Word, from the doctrine of the church and from preaching, appears as faith, but this is not faith until man does these things; until then it is merely a matter of thought from the memory, in which there is nothing of the will, consequently nothing of the man, for the will is the man himself; it is therefore when a man does this, that is, obeys, that it enters the will, thus the man himself and becomes faith.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 3867, 5361, 5990; The Apocalypse Explained 14, 108, 249)


[4] This faith, which is obedience, is signified also by Peter, when he is called "Simon;" and the faith that is the affection of truth is signified by Peter when he is called "Simon son of Jonah" (as in Matthew 16:17-19, et seq.; Mark 1:16-18, 36; 14:37, 38; Luke 5:3-11; 7:40-43; 22:31-33, et seq.; Luke 24:34; John 1:40-42; 21:15-21). Because "Simeon" in the Hebrew signifies hearing and hearkening, and thence obedience, as was said above, and "the son of Jonah" signifies truth from good, but "Peter" truth itself, Peter is called by the Lord sometimes "Peter," sometimes "Simon Peter," and sometimes "Simon son of Jonah." That these names have such a signification anyone can see from Peter's having been called by the Lord now "Peter," now "Simon," now "son of Jonah," which was not done without cause or meaning. What was said to him at the time makes clear what is meant; thus when he confessed that the Lord was the Son of God, and in consequence the keys of the kingdom of the heavens were given to him, he is called "Simon son of Jonah" (Matthew 16:17, et seq.) and is also called a rock (petra), as the Lord Himself often is in the Prophets. Again, he is called "Simon son of Jonah" when the Lord said to him, "Lovest thou Me," and he answered, "I love Thee;" but when he presently turned himself away from the Lord and was indignant because John, who signifies the good of charity, was following Jesus, he is called "Peter" (John 21:15-21), "Peter" here signifying truth without good, or faith separate from charity.

(References: Mark 14:37-38)


[5] From this it can be seen that "Simon," when Peter is so named, has a similar signification as "Simeon" the son of Jacob, namely, obedience, the faith of charity, the affection of truth, and in general, truth from good; for in the Hebrew Simon means hearing, hearkening, and obedience, and Jonah in the Hebrew means a dove, which signifies in the spiritual sense the good of charity; and "the son of Jonah" signifies the truth of that good, or the faith of charity; while "rock" [petra], from which he is named Peter, signifies truth and faith, and in the contrary sense, falsity and absence of faith (see above, n. 411.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 411)


[6] That "Simeon" the son of Jacob, with the tribe named from him, signifies obedience, and truth in the will, and thence faith, can also be seen from the contrary sense, in which he signifies non-obedience, and falsity in the will, and thus faith separate from the will, which is no faith; for most things in the Word have also a contrary sense, in which they signify the opposite things. It is in this sense that Simeon is mentioned by Israel his father in the prophecy respecting his sons, where it is said:

Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of violence are their swords; into their secret let not my soul come; in their assembly let not my glory be united. For in their anger they slew a man, and in their good pleasure 1 they houghed an ox. Accursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their fury, for it is hard. I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel (Genesis 49:5-7).

"Simeon and Levi are brethren" signifies faith separate from charity; "instruments of violence are their swords" signifies that their doctrinals serve to destroy the works of charity, thus charity itself; "into their secret let not my soul come" signifies that spiritual good does not wish to know the evils of their will; "in their assembly let not my glory be united" signifies that spiritual truth does not wish to know the falsities of their thoughts; "for in their anger they slew a man" signifies that they have wholly turned themselves away from truths, and in their aversion have extinguished faith; "and in their good pleasure they houghed an ox" signifies that from their depraved will they have wholly disabled external good which is of charity; "accursed be their anger, for it is fierce" signifies a grievous aversion from good, and consequent damnation; "and their fury, for it is hard" signifies aversion from truth that is from good; "I will divide them in Jacob" signifies that this faith is to be exterminated from the external church; "and scatter them in Israel" signifies from the internal church also. (For fuller explanation of this see Arcana Coelestia, n. 6351-6361.)

(References: Arcana Coelestia 6351)


[7] The first three sons, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, were rejected and condemned by their father Israel because that prophecy describes the establishment of the church, and the church is not established by faith separate from charity, but by truth and good from the Lord; for the church, even at that time, had fallen into the error that merely knowing the Word, and saying that it is holy, is the essential of the church, and not life or charity, and that the God of heaven and earth is some other than the Lord. For this reason in that prophecy the three sons born first, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, were rejected, because "Reuben" there signifies faith alone, "Simeon" faith without charity, and "Levi" the absence of the good of charity; consequently these three in the series signify no church; for when faith alone is assumed as the essential of salvation, charity is immediately rejected and regarded as nonessential and of no value in respect to salvation; and because these three things were signified by these three sons, therefore they were rejected by Israel their father, who signified the church. Moreover, each of these three destroyed the representative of the church, Reuben:

By lying with Bilhah, the maidservant and concubine of his father (Genesis 35:22).

and Simeon and Levi:

By slaying Hamor, his son Shechem, and the whole city, which was the nation descended from Hamor, for no other reason than that Shechem loved their sister Dinah (Genesis 34 to the end).

This deed signifies in the spiritual sense that these two sons of Jacob, in other words, that constituent of the church which they represented, extinguished the truth and good of the Ancient Church, which church yet survived in the nation of Hamor; for this deed signifies in the spiritual sense that every truth and good of the church is extinguished by faith separated from charity. This, therefore, is what is meant in particular by the words of Israel, "into their secret let not my soul come; in their assembly let not my glory be united; for in their anger they slew a man, and in their good pleasure they houghed an ox;" for "man" [vir] signifies in the Word truth and intelligence, and "ox" moral and natural good. (For fuller explanation of this see Arcana Coelestia 4426-4522.)

[8] And for this reason Simeon was passed by in the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33), and instead of him Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned, by whom the truth and good of the church are signified. But although Simeon and Levi were such, yet elsewhere they signify the faith of charity and charity, "Simeon" the faith of charity, and "Levi" charity. Yea, the tribe of Levi was appointed to the priesthood; for it matters not of what quality the person is who represents, provided he is in external worship according to the laws and statutes; for representation does not regard the person, but only the thing, and nothing is required in the person except the external of worship. (On this see Arcana Coelestia 665, 1097, 1361, 3147, 3670, 3881, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4292, 4309, 4444, 4500, 6304, 7048, 7439, 8588, 8788, 8806, 9229.) For this reason "the tribe of Simeon" in this passage of Revelation and elsewhere in the Word signifies obedience, the faith of charity, the affection of truth, and in general, truth from good, as has been said above. (That "Simeon" and his tribe, when mentioned in a good sense, signify in the highest sense providence, in the internal sense faith in the will, in the interior sense obedience, and in the external sense hearing, may be seen in Arcana Coelestia 3869.)

-----
Footnotes:

1.  Photolithograph has "wrath," the Hebrew "good pleasure" is found on p. 1117, and in AC.

-----

(References: Deuteronomy 33:1)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 442, 444, 619, 625, 724, 820

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.


 Three Heavens
The New Church teaches there are three heavens in which angels receive the Lord in three fundamentally different ways.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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


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