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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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 #532

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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532. As all numbers in the Word signify things and states, and the composite numbers derive their signification from the simple numbers of which they are composed, and the simple numbers are chiefly two, three, five, and seven, it is important to show what these numbers signify in the word, and here what "three" signifies because it is said, "Woe, woe, woe, from the voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!"

(That all numbers in the Word signify somewhat of thing and state may be above, n. 203, 429; and that the greater and composite numbers have a similar signification as the simple numbers from which they arise by multiplication, and that the simple numbers are two, three, five, and seven, may also be seen above, n. 430.)

(References: Revelation 8:13; The Apocalypse Explained 203, 429, 430)


[2] That "three" signifies in the Word what is full and complete, and thence an entire period, greater or less, from beginning to end, can be seen from the following passages. In Isaiah:

Within three years, as the years of an hireling, the glory of Moab shall grow vile with all that great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and not strong (Isaiah 16:14).

"Moab" means those who are in falsities from evil; "his glory" and "his great multitude" mean such falsities; the "three years within which his glory shall grow vile" signify what is complete and finished; therefore it is said, "then the remnant shall be very small," which signifies that it shall be no more; "three years" are mentioned, by which is meant what is finished, thus from beginning to end. It is to be known that "three years" has a similar signification as "three months," "three weeks," "three days," and "three hours," since in the spiritual sense, times signify states, and "three times," whether greater or less, a full state.

[3] In the same:

Like as my servant Isaiah hath gone naked and barefoot three years, a sign and wonder upon Egypt and upon Cush, so shall the king of Assyria lead the captivity of Egypt and the crowd of Cush that is to be carried away, boys and old men, naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:3, 4).

By "Egypt" and "Cush," Egypt and Cush are not meant, but "Egypt" means the external or natural in respect to knowledge, and "Cush" the external or natural in respect to worship, and when this natural has no internal spiritual, it also has no truth or good, for all the truth and all the good belonging to the natural or external man is from influx through the spiritual man from the Lord; and when the natural or external man has no truth or good it is like, in respect to the things in it, a man "naked and barefoot." That there will then be only reasonings from falsities, and that these will destroy, is signified by "the king of Assyria shall lead the captivity of Egypt and the crowd of Cush that is to be carried away, naked and barefoot." That all innocence and all wisdom will perish is signified by "the boys and old men whom the king of Assyria shall lead away;" their total and complete destruction was represented by the prophet's going "three years naked and barefoot," "three years" signifying an entire period from beginning to end, consequently total destruction.

(References: Isaiah 20:3-4)


[4] In Hosea:

Jehovah after two days will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up (Hosea 6:2).

"To revive after two days, and to raise up on the third day," signifies to reform and restore the church; "on the third day" signifying full reformation and restoration, therefore it is said that then "He will raise up." Evidently neither two days nor the third day is meant.

[5] As the number three signified what is complete even to the end, that number was adopted and employed in the representative church, whenever something complete was to be represented, as can be seen from these things in the Word:

They were to go a journey of three days and sacrifice (Exodus 3:18; 5:3).

In the third month after going out from Egypt they came to Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1).

They were commanded to be ready against the third day, for on the third day Jehovah would come down upon Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:11, 15, 16, 18).

For three days there was darkness in the land of Egypt (Exodus 10:22, 23).

For three years the fruits of the trees planted in the land of Canaan should be uncircumcised (Leviticus 19:23-25).

No part of the flesh of the sacrifice should be left to the third day (Leviticus 7:16-18; 19:6, 7).

The water of separation should be sprinkled upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day (Numbers 19:11-22).

They who touched any slain should be purified on the third day and on the seventh day (Numbers 31:19-25).

Joshua commanded the people that within three days they should pass over Jordan (Joshua 1:11; 3:2).

Jehovah called Samuel three times, and three times Samuel ran to Eli; and the third time Eli perceived that Jehovah had called Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-8).

Jonathan said to David that he should hide himself in a field unto the third evening, and afterwards Jonathan should shoot three arrows to the side of the stone, and after that David bowed himself three times to the earth before Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:5, 12, 19, 20, 35, 36, 41).

Three things were offered to David, of which he should choose one, that a famine of seven years should come, or that he should flee three months before his foes, or that a pestilence should be in the land three days (2 Samuel 24:11-13).

Elijah measured himself upon the son of the widow three times (1 Kings 17:21).

Elijah told them to pour water upon the burnt offering and upon the wood three times, and they poured it three times (1 Kings 18:34).

Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights (Jon. Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40).

Daniel was mourning three weeks (Daniel 10:2-4).

The third year was the year of tithing (Deuteronomy 26:12).

The Lord said of the man who planted a vineyard, that he sent his servants three times, and afterwards his son (Mark 12:2, 4-6; Luke 20:12, 13).

The Lord said to Peter that before the cock crowed twice he would deny Him thrice (Matthew 26:34, 26:69-75 to the end; Luke 22:34, 57-61; John 13:38).

The Lord said three times to Peter, Lovest thou Me, and Feed My lambs and My sheep; and the third time Peter was grieved (John 21:15-17).

The Lord said that the kingdom of the heavens is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21).

The Lord said, I perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected 1 (Luke 13:32, 33).

The Lord said that He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40).

He said that He would be raised up the third day (Matthew 16:21; 17:22, 23; 20:18, 19; Luke 18:32, 33; 24:46).

He said that he would destroy the temple of God, and build it in three days (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; John 2:19, 20).

Jesus in Gethsemane prayed three times (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).

Jesus was crucified at the third hour (Mark 15:25).

Then there was darkness over all the land three hours, from the sixth hour to the ninth, when He said, It is finished, and expired (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:33, 37; John 19:30).

The Lord rose again on the third day (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

(References: 1 Samuel 20:19-20, 20:35-36; Exodus 10:22-23, 19:15-16; John 2:19-20; Leviticus 19:6-7; Luke 13:32-33, 18:32-33, 20:12-13; Mark 12:2-6; Matthew 17:22-23, 20:18-19, Matthew 27:45, 27:50; Numbers 31:19-24)


[6] From this it can be seen that the number "three" signifies what is finished or complete to the end, consequently an entire period, greater or less, from beginning to end. From this simple number many composite numbers derive their significations, as 6, 9, 12, 60, 72, which, from three, signify all truths and goods in the complex; in like manner the numbers 30, 300, 3000; for, as said above in this article, the composite numbers derive their significations from the simple numbers of which they are composed. Moreover, it is to be known that in the Word the number "three" is predicated of truths, and "two" and "four" of goods; for the reason that "two" and "four" signify conjunction, while "three" signifies fullness, and spiritual conjunction is love, and all good is of love; while spiritual fullness is formed by truths. One who does not know that all numbers in the Word are significative, when the numbers "two and three" or "three and four" are mentioned in the Word, has no other thought or belief than that two or three, or a few, are meant, instead of all who are in good and truth, as in the following passages.

[7] In Isaiah:

There shall be left in it gleanings, as in the shaking of an olive-tree, two three berries in the top of the bough, four five in the branches of the fruitful one (Isaiah 17:6).

This treats of the vastation of the church, and is said of the few remaining who are in good and truth; comparison is made with the shaking of an olive-tree, because an "olive-tree" signifies the church in respect to the good of love, and "branches" the truths therefrom; "two three" signifies the few that are in good and in truths therefrom, "two" meaning good, and "three" truths; and "four five" signifies the few who are in good, "four" meaning those who are good, and "five" a few. Because "four five" signifies the few who are in good, it is said, "four five in the branches of the fruitful one," "a fruitful olive" signifying those in the church who are in good in respect to life. Because of this signification of these numbers, therefore it is said "two three," "four five," and not two and three, four and five.

[8] In Amos:

Two three cities wandered unto one city to drink waters, yet they were not satisfied (Amos 4:8).

This treats of the lack of truth at the end of the church, when those who desire truth from spiritual affection will not find any truth in the doctrines, wherever they may search, and therefore it is said, "two three cities wandered unto one city to drink waters, yet they were not satisfied;" "two three cities" signifying those who are in the affection of truth from good, "city" signifying the truth of doctrine; "to draw waters" signifies to learn truths; "to wander" signifies to search; and "not to be satisfied" signifies not to find truth which in itself is truth; it is said "two three cities," because "two three" signifies those who are in good and in truths therefrom.

[9] In Zechariah:

It shall come to pass in all the land, two parts therein shall be cut off, shall expire, but the third shall remain therein. Yet I will lead the third part through the fire, and will prove them (Zechariah 13:8, 9).

This, in like manner, treats of the vastation of the church in respect to good; that every good will perish is meant by "in all the land two parts therein shall be cut off and shall expire," "in all the land" meaning in all the church, and "two parts" signifying every good. That something of truth would remain, but scarcely any genuine truth, is signified by "the third part shall be left therein; yet I will lead the third part through the fire and will prove them," "the third part" signifying the remaining truths; these must be proved whether they be genuine, which is signified by "they shall be led through the fire;" "to prove by fire" means by affection which is of love; if truth is not in accord with this it is not genuine truth, "fire" in the Word signifying love. When the good of love perishes in the church, truth becomes not truth, because all truth derives its essence from good.

(References: Zechariah 13:8-9)


[10] This makes evident what is signified by the Lord's words in Matthew:

Where two and three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).

Here two and three are not meant, but those who are in good and in truths therefrom; neither does the Lord's "name" mean His name, but all the good of love and truth of faith by which He is worshiped (see above, n. 102, 135).

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 102, 135)


[11] This makes clear what is signified by the Lord's words in Luke:

From henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three (Luke 12:52).

This means that after the Lord's coming, when He has become known, and the interiors of the Word have been revealed by Him and with Him, both in the church in general and in the man of the church in particular, there will be dissension between good and truth and between truth and good; this is meant by "there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three;" "house" meaning the church in general, and in particular with the man of the church, "three" meaning truths, and "two" goods; its being said that "five shall be divided" signifies that there will be such dissension with those who are reformed, consequently it is added:

The father shall be divided against the son and the son against the father, the mother against the daughter and the daughter against the mother (Luke 12:53).

"Father" signifies the good of the church, "son" the truth of the church, "mother" the truth of the church, and "daughter" the good of the church. Who cannot see that the numbers five, two, and three, would not have been used here unless they had been significative? In the Word, when "two" and "three" follow, "five" signifies all such; but when "ten" or "twenty" precedes or follows, "five" signifies some and few.

(References: Luke 12:1)


[12] Like things are meant in the commandment of the Decalogue by:

The third and fourth generation (or sons, thirds and fourths) upon whom God is to visit the iniquity of the parents (Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9, 10).

"The third and fourth generation" signifies all who are in falsities from evil, "the third generation" those who are in the falsities of evil and "the fourth generation" those who are in the evils of falsity; "three" in the contrary sense signifying falsities, and "four" evils. Who does not see that it would be contrary to the Divine justice to visit the iniquity of the parents upon the sons even to the third and fourth generation? For the Lord teaches:

The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the parent, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him (Ezekiel 18:20; Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6).

This makes evident that "the third and fourth generation" does not mean the third and fourth generation, but that which these numbers signify. Like things are signified by "three and four transgressions" in Amos (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). From this it can be seen how great arcana lie hidden in the Word merely in its numbers, which no one can know without the internal spiritual sense.

-----
Footnotes:

1.  Latin "consumed," Greek "perfected."

-----

(References: Deuteronomy 5:9-10; Luke 12, 12:52-53; Matthew 27:45, Matthew 27:50; Numbers 31:19-24; Revelation 8:13)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 528, 548, 569, 627, 638, 658, 680, 732, 811, 816, 847, 924, 1000, 1019, 1115


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


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