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.

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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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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 #9

Apocalypse Explained (Whitehead translation)      

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9. When one knows that all names in the Word signify things, and that the names of the twelve sons of Jacob, or of the twelve tribes, signify all truths and goods of the church in the complex; and in like manner, the names of the twelve disciples of the Lord; and that "Peter," "James," and "John" signify faith, charity, and the good of charity; he can see many arcana in the Word; as for example, why:

The Lord gave the name Peter to Simon, and to James and John the name Boanerges, which means sons of thunder (Mark 3:16-17).

For "Peter," like petra [rock], signifies the Lord as to truth from good, or faith from charity; and "sons of thunder" signify those who from affection, which is of love, receive the truths of heaven. (That "rock" signifies the Lord in respect to truth from good, or faith from charity, see Arcana Coelestia 8581, 10580; in like manner the "stone of Israel," n. 6426; that "thunders" signify Divine truths from heaven 7573, 8914; and "lightning" the splendors thereof, n. 8813; whence thunders were also called "voices," Arcana Coelestia ccc7573, 8914)

(References: Revelation 1:1)


[2] I will here mention some arcana that may be seen by those who are aware that "Peter" signifies faith, and "John" the good of charity. First, why the Lord said to Peter:

I also say unto thee, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build My church; and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens (Matthew 16:18-19).

It appears from the letter, as if that power was given to Peter, when in fact no power was given to Peter; but it was so said to him because "Peter" signified truth from good, which is from the Lord; and truth from good, which is from the Lord, has all power, thus the Lord has all power from good through truth. (That this is so may be seen illustrated in the small work on The Last Judgment 57.) A second arcanum that may be seen, when it is known that "Peter" signifies faith, is, why the Lord said to him, that:

Before the cock crowed, he would deny Him thrice; which also came to pass (Matthew 26:34).

By these words is signified, that in the last time of the church there would be no faith in the Lord, because no charity; for "cock-crowing," as well as "twilight," signifies the last time of the church (n. Arcana Coelestia 10134); and "three" or "thrice," signifies what is complete to the end (n. Arcana Coelestia 2788, 4495, 5159, 9198, 10127. That the end of the church is when there is no faith, because no charity, see in the small work on The Last Judgment 33-39, seq.).

[3] A third arcanum that may be seen is what is signified by the following words concerning Peter and John:

Jesus saith 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. He saith to him again a 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, Tend My sheep. 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 saith unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast younger, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shall be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and bear thee whither thou wouldest not. And when He had thus spoken, He saith unto him, Follow Me. Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved, following, and he saith, Lord, What shall this one [do]? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me (John 21:15-22).

What these things signify no one can know unless he knows the internal sense, and knows that "Peter" signifies faith, and "John" the good of charity, thus that "Peter" signifies those in the church who are in faith, and "John" those who are in the good of charity.

That Jesus said to Peter three times, "Lovest thou Me?" and that Peter said three times. "Thou knowest that I love Thee," and that Jesus then said, "Feed My lambs," and "Feed My sheep," signifies that those who are in faith from love, ought to instruct those who are in the good of love to the Lord, and in the good of charity towards the neighbor; for those who are in faith from love are also in truths, and those who from this are in truths, instruct concerning good, and lead to good; for all spiritual good that a man has, is gained and implanted by truths.

(That "lambs" signify those who are in the good of innocence and of love to the Lord, may be seen in Arcana Coelestia 3994, 10132; that "sheep" signify those who are in the good of charity towards the neighbor, n. 4169, 4809; and that "to feed" is to instruct, n. 5201, 6078)

[4] Faith, as it was to be in the first period of the church and as it was to be in the last, is then described by the Lord. The first period of the church is meant by "when thou wast younger," and its last by "when thou shalt be old." That when Peter "was younger he girded himself and walked whither he would," signifies that in the first period of the church men would imbibe truths from the good of charity and would act from freedom; for to act from freedom is to act from the affection of truth from good. "When thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee and lead thee whither thou wouldest not," signifies that in the last period of the church they would no longer imbibe truths from the good of charity, thus would not know them in any other way than as declared by another; and thus would be in a servile state; for a servile state ensues when good does not lead. (That "garments" signify truths, see Arcana Coelestia 1073, 2576, 5319, 5954, 92 9212, 9216, 9952, 10536; and that therefore to "gird oneself" denotes to imbibe and perceive truths, n. 9952. That to "walk" is to act and live; to act from freedom is to act from love or affection, since what a man loves that he does freely, n. 2870, 3158, 8987, 8990, 9585, 9591. That every church begins from charity, but that in process of time it turns aside to faith, and at length to faith alone, n. 1834, 1835, 2231, 4683, 8094.)

[5] Since, in the last period of the church, faith becomes such that it rejects the good of charity, saying that faith alone constitutes the church and is saving, and not the good of life which is charity, Jesus said to Peter, by whom such faith is here meant, "Follow Me; and Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved, following; and he saith, Lord, what shall this one [do]?" By this is signified that faith, in the last period of the church, would turn itself away from the Lord; for it is said of Peter, by whom such faith is signified, that "turning about, he saw;" also that he said of the disciple whom Jesus loved, or of John, by whom is signified the good of charity, "what shall this one [do]?" that is, that he is not anything. But Jesus said to him, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me." By this is signified that the good of charity will follow the Lord, and will acknowledge Him, even to the last period of the old church, and the first of the new. (That the last period of the old church is called "the consummation of the age," and the beginning of the new church "the coming of the Lord," see Arcana Coelestia 4535, 10622) A fourth arcanum that may be seen is, why the Lord loved John above the rest of the disciples, and consequently why John lay on the breast or in the bosom of the Lord (John 13:23; 21:20); namely, because the good of love was what the Lord saw when He beheld John, who represented and signified that good; since it is that good that constitutes heaven and the church (see the work on Heaven and Hell 13-19). A fifth arcanum is manifest when it is known that John represented the good of love, namely, what is signified by the words of the Lord from the cross to the mother Mary and to John:

When Jesus therefore seeth His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then He saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother. And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home (John 19:26, 27).

By "mother" and by "woman" is here meant the church, and by "John" the good of charity; and by the things here said, that the church will be where the good of charity is. (That by "woman," in the Word, is meant the church, may be seen in Arcana Coelestia 252-253, 749, 770, 3160, 6014, 7337, 8994; that the like is signified by "mother," n. 289, 2691, 2717, 3703, 4257, 5581, 8897, 10490. That to "take her unto his own home" is that these should dwell together, is evident.)

From this it can now be seen how great arcana lie concealed in the Word, which are laid open to those only who know its internal or spiritual sense. Apart from that sense it cannot be known, moreover, what is signified when it is said:

That the apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones, and shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30).

By "apostles" here are meant not apostles, but all truths from good, which are from the Lord; thus by these words is signified that the Lord alone will judge all from truths that are from good, thus that everyone will be judged according to those truths.

(References: John 19:26-27)


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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 4, 19, 64, 195, 209, 333, 430, 434, 851

Other New Christian Commentary

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


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