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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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 #785

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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785. Verse 3. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been wounded to death, signifies the discordance of their doctrinals with the Word, in which "love," "life," and "works," which do not at all agree with that religious principle, are so often mentioned. This is evident from the signification of the "heads" of that beast, as being the knowledge of the holy things of the Word which are falsified and adulterated (see above, n. 775. When the church and those of the church are treated of in the Word, "head" signifies intelligence and wisdom; and in the most universal sense the understanding of truth and the will of good. But as this treats of those who are not willing that the understanding should enter into the mysteries of faith, but who wish it to be held captive under obedience to their mysteries, and as these are described by "the dragon" and this his "beast," it follows that the "head" of this beast signifies knowledge [scientia]; for where the understanding does not see there is no intelligence, but in place of it knowledge. Moreover, intelligence cannot be predicated of those who are in falsities, but only knowledge (see about this in the New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, n. 33). The above is evident also from the signification of "being wounded to death," as being in disagreement with the Word; for doctrine which disagrees with the Word is dead; and this death is what is signified by "being wounded to death."

(References: Matthew 5:1, Matthew 6:1, Matthew 7:1; Revelation 13:3; The Apocalypse Explained 775)


[2] The discordance is that they separate the life of love, which is good works, from faith, and make faith alone justifying and saving, and they take away everything of justification and salvation from the life of love or from good works; and as loving and doing are mentioned in the Word in a thousand passages, and it is declared that man is to be judged according to his deeds and works, and as this does not agree with that religious principle, therefore this is what is signified by the death-stroke of the head of this beast. From this it can be seen that the words, "I saw one of the heads of the beast as if it had been wounded to death," signifies disagreement with the Word, in which "love," "life," and "works," which do not at all agree with that religious principle, are so often mentioned. That they do not agree is clearly evident from the fact that it is a dogma of that religion that faith alone, without the works of the law, justifies and saves, yea, that if anything of salvation be placed in works it is damnable, because of man's merit and what is his own [proprium] in them. For this reason many abstain from doing them, saying in their heart, Good works do not save me, and evil works do not damn me, because I have faith. From this principle they also assert that those are saved who about the hour of death declare with some confidence that they have faith, whatever their life may have been. But "deeds" and "works," also "doing" and "loving," are mentioned in the Word in a thousand passages, and as these disagree with that religious principle, therefore its dogmatists have devised means of conjoining them with faith. This, therefore, is the signification of the words "he saw one of the heads of the beast as if it had been wounded to death," and "the stroke of his death was healed, and the whole earth wondered after the beast." But how that stroke was healed, namely, by devised modes of conjunction, shall be said in the following article.

[3] In the first place, some passages shall here be quoted from the Word where "deeds," "works," "doing," and "working," are mentioned, that everyone may see the discordance that is here signified by "one of the heads wounded to death;" also that this stroke is wholly incurable unless man lives according to the precepts of the Word by doing them. In Matthew:

Everyone that heareth My words and doeth them is like to a prudent man; but everyone that heareth My words and doeth them not is like to a foolish man (Matthew 7:24, 26).

In Luke:

Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say? Everyone who cometh to Me and heareth My words and doeth them is like a man that built a house upon a rock; but he that heareth and doeth not is, like unto a man that built a house upon the ground without a foundation (Luke 6:46-49).

In Matthew:

He that was sown in good earth, this is he that heareth the Word and giveth heed, and who thence beareth fruit, and yieldeth some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold (1 Matthew 13:23).

In the same:

Whosoever shall break the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever doeth and teacheth them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens (Matthew 5:19).

In John:

Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you (John 15:14).

In the same:

If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them (John 13:17).

In the same:

If ye love Me keep My commandments. He that hath My commandments and doeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him. And I 1 will come unto him and will make 2 My abode with him. But he that loveth Me not keepeth not My words (John 14:15, 21-24).

In Luke:

Jesus said, My mother and My brethren are those who hear My 3 word and do it (Luke 8:21).

In Matthew:

I was an hungered and ye gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and ye gave Me to drink, I was a sojourner, and ye took Me in, I was naked and ye clothed Me, I was sick and ye visited Me, I was in prison and ye came unto Me. And to these the Lord said, Come, ye blessed, possess as inheritance the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. And to those who had not done these things He said, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:31-46 the end).

In John:

My Father is the vinedresser; every branch that beareth not fruit He taketh away (John 15:1, 2).

In Luke:

Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance; every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire.

By their fruits ye shall know them (Luke 3:8, 9; Matthew 7:19, 20).

In John:

Herein is My Father glorified, that ye may bear much fruit and become My disciples (John 15:7, 8).

In Matthew:

The kingdom of God shall be taken away from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:40-43).

In John:

He that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest that they have been wrought in God (John 3:21).

In the same:

We know that God heareth not sinners, but if anyone worship God and do His will, him He heareth (John 9:31).

In Matthew:

The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall render unto everyone according to his deeds (1 Matthew 16:27).

In John:

Then shall come forth they that have done goods into the resurrection of life, but they that have done evils into the resurrection of judgment (John 5:29).

In Revelation:

I will give unto you to everyone according to his works; he that overcometh and keepeth My works unto the end (Revelation 2:23, 26).

Their works shall follow them (John 14:13).

The dead were judged out of the things that were written in the books according to their works. And the dead were all judged according to their works (Revelation 20:12, 13).

Behold I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give unto everyone according to his works (Revelation 22:12).

Happy are they that do His commandments (Revelation 22:14).

He said to the angel of the church of Ephesus, I have against thee that thou hast left thy first charity; remember whence thou hast fallen, and do the first works; but if not, etc. (Revelation 2:4, 5).

It was said to the angel of the church in Smyrna, I know thy works; to the angel of the church in Pergamos, I know thy works; to the angel of the church in Thyatira, I know thy works; to the angel of the church in Sardis, I know thy works; and to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, I know thy works (Revelation 2:9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8).

These two chapters treat of the exploration and judgment of those seven churches as to what they are and will be from their works and according to their works.

(References: John 15:1-2, 15:7-8; Luke 3:8-9; Matthew 7:19-20, 21:43, Matthew 25:35-45; Revelation 2:4-5, Revelation 14:13, 20:12-13)


[4] Also in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew from their beginning to their end the Lord teaches good works, and what they must be, and that thence is heavenly happiness; likewise in the parables of the laborers in the vineyard, of the husbandmen and servants, of the traders to whom pounds [minae] were given and those to whom talents were given; of the fig-tree in the vineyard which was to be cut down if it bore no fruit; of the man wounded by robbers, to whom the Samaritan showed mercy, respecting whom the Lord asked the lawyer which of the three was a neighbor, who answered, "He that showed mercy," and Jesus said to him, "Go and do thou likewise;" of the ten virgins, of whom five had oil in their lamps and five had none, "oil in the lamps" signifying charity in faith; also in other passages.

(References: Matthew 5:1, Matthew 6:1, 7:1)


[5] Moreover, the twelve disciples of the Lord represented the church in respect to all things of faith and charity in the complex; and of them, Peter, James, and John represented faith, charity, and good works in their order, Peter faith, James charity, and John good works; therefore the Lord said to Peter, when Peter saw John following the Lord:

What is that to thee, Peter? Follow thou Me, John; for Peter said of John, What of him? (John 21:21-22).

This signifies that those who do good works must follow the Lord. Because John represented the church in respect to good works, he reclined at the Lord's breast. That the church is with those who do good works is also signified by the Lord's words from the cross to John:

Jesus saw His mother, and spoke to the disciple whom He loved, who was standing by; and He said to His mother, Woman, behold thy son; and He said to that disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour that disciple took her unto himself (John 19:26-27).

This signifies that where good works are, there the church will be, for in the Word "woman," like as "mother," signifies the church. Thus much from the New Testament; there are yet more passages in the Old Testament, as where:

All are called blessed who keep and do the statutes, the judgments, and the commandments, and those cursed who do them not (as in Leviticus 18:5; 19:37; 20:8; 22:31-33; 26:3-4, 26:14, 26:16; Numbers 15:39-40; Deuteronomy 5:9-10; 6:25; 15:5; 17:19; 27:26 in a thousand other passages).

(References: John 13:34-35, John 14:13-23; Leviticus 26:4, 26:14-15; Luke 10:27-28; Matthew 22:37-40)


[6] Besides those passages in the Word where "deeds" and "doing" are mentioned there are also very many where "love" and "loving" are mentioned; and "loving" means the like as "doing," since he that loves does, for to love is to will, since everyone wills what he interiorly loves; and to will is to do, since everyone does that which he wills when he is able. Moreover, what is done is nothing but the will in act. Respecting love the Lord teaches in many passages (as in Matthew 5:43-48; 7:12; Luke 6:27-39, 6:43-49; 7:36-50 to the end; John 13:34, 35; 14:14-23; 15:9-19; 17:22-26; 21:15-23), and in brief in these words:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God in thy whole heart and from thy whole soul; this is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:35-38, 40; Luke 10:27, 28; Deuteronomy 6:5).

"To love God above all things, and the neighbor as oneself," is to do His commandments (John 14:21-24); and "the law and the prophets" signify the Word in all things and in every particular. From all these passages cited from the Word it is fully evident that it is not faith separated from good works that saves, but faith from good works and with them. For he who does good works has faith, but he who does them not has no faith.

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Footnotes:

1.  The photolithograph has "I will come," the Greek "we will make."

2.  The photolithograph has "I will make," the Greek "we will make."

3.  The photolithograph has "My," the Greek reads, "of God."

-----

(References: John 13:34-35; Luke 10:27-28; Matthew 21:43, 22:37-40)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 784, 815, 829, 875


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


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