#FiveMinuteDevotions | John 21

Five Minute Devotions John 21

Five Minute Devotions: John 21

The book of John concludes in a sort of post-Resurrection epilogue. The end of John 20 would have been a worthwhile end to the book, but John continues to write a postscript that is primarily focused on the restoration of Peter and correcting a rumor about John.

The First Restoration

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs,” he told him. – John 21:15

There has been a lot of speculation about why Jesus repeats this conversation three times. Most English translations repeat the same phrasing without much sense of variation. But, in truth, the Greek text gives us much more depth. The CSB version gives us a good attempt to capture the nuance in Jesus’s meaning.

Here, Jesus’s key word is lambs (Gk. arnion). He’s specifically referring to sheep who are young and immature. The Greek word for feed is bosko. Here, it is in the present tense, meaning that Jesus is calling Peter to a continual action of tending, feeding and caring those who are young in the faith.

The Second Restoration

A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.”

“Shepherd my sheep,” he told him. – John 21:16

The second restoration from Jesus moves from Peter’s call to bring up those young in the faith to a call to sustain those more mature in the faith. The word arnion for a young lamb switches to probaton for a mature sheep. The word bosko, meaning to carefully tend and feed, switches to poimaino, which carries the connotation of supervising. The sheep are growing up and Peter’s direct involvement lessens.

The Third Restoration

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said. – John 21:17

Undoubtedly, Peter now connected this threefold restoration with his threefold denial of Jesus before the cross.

Interestingly, Jesus returns to bosko, to feed or pasture, but keeps probaton, the word for a mature sheep. Jesus brings the two phrases together to make the job of shepherding God’s flock very clear. Those in spiritual leadership are to tend, care for, and provide spiritual food for all of God’s people—from the youngest to the oldest, from the newest in faith to the most mature, from the lambs to the sheep. There should be continual action to nourish them and care for them and bring them into all fullness of spiritual maturity that they might take upon the mantle of shepherd themselves.


The words directed at Peter ring down to us as well. The gospel of John closes with a command to make disciples, to raise lambs into sheep and sheep into shepherds. It is a message that is relevant not just for Peter but for us today. Do we love him? Do we love him more than anything? Then take care of his people.


Father, we admit to having failed you, having ignored you, maybe even having denied you. Restore us like you restored Peter. Bring us back into relationship with you. Give us a task and set us to it. Help us inaugurate your Kingdom.

Discussion Questions

Another interesting bit of linguistic information is that, in the first two restorations, Jesus uses the word agape for love, but Peter replies with phileo. The final time, Jesus uses phileo. Do you think there’s significance in this?

Today’s header image is Raphael’s Christ’s Charge to Peter. It was commissioned by Pope Leo X and currently hangs in the Vatican.

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