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Verse 13. “Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise."
Verse 15. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith unto Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?"
Perhaps it was our Lord's design to turn the thoughts of Peter inward upon the depths of his own heart. He was always the most eager to press forward to Him. His were the lips ever the most ready to confess that He was the Lord, yet he had denied Him! Was it that he really loved more than the others, or was it the eagerness of his temper? He might easily be deceived in this matter ; but there was a way in which his love could, while it proved its reality, strengthen itself by working in the Redeemer's cause, and carrying on His plans of mercy after that He should no more go in and out among them. Peter readily replied:
Verse 16. “ He saith unto Him, Yea Lord : Thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 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.”
Peter was grieved, for it seemed as though his Lord doubted his love. It was but too true that his actions might cause it to be doubted. He had denied and forsaken Him in His hour of need, yet even then he had devotedly loved Him. It had been the weakness of fear that had overcome him, for his nature was to act upon the impulse of feeling. It was a nature precisely such as this that required the most careful guiding; and therefore before the Saviour left him, He gave him directions for his life, and told him beforehand what he was to expect, that danger might not again take him by surprise. “Thou knowest all things,” Peter said, and therefore "thou knowest that I love thee.” Ilow blessed the knowledge that with Christ there can be no mistake. Man sees but in part, and misjudges the whole; but Jesus sees the heart. Amidst all the contradictions and inconsistencies of human nature, He knows the true love that is in His disciple's heart. He appoints him a work that would closely unite him to Himself. He had declared Himself to be the good shepherd, * who so loved his sheep that he laid down bis life for them.
He had told his apostles that He had other sheep that were not of the fold of Israel. He was about to send them forth through all the world to gather them in. Here was a work that would fully employ Peter's ardent nature. In this work his love for “ the good Shepherd” might ever testify itself. Not for a moment need he forget Him, while he carried out His solemn charge, “Feed my lambs-feed my sheep.” And when in old age dangers should gather round him, and death in its most awful form should come upon him, then let the thought of his master's love be his light through the gloom. All had been fore-seen and provided for,-he would not again be taken by surprize. Strength would be given him according to his need. The words of the warning were these :
Verses 18, 19. “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. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.”
The Lord Jesus saw what was yet to come, as though it were already. He knew that Peter, when he was old, should end a life of labour in His cause by the painful death of the cross ; from this his flesh must necessarily shrink, though his spirit would be willing to suffer whatever it pleased God to ordain.
* John X. 4–18.
This willingness of the spirit, and shrinking of the flesh, is well expressed by the words “Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. And when He had spoken this, he saith unto bim, Follow me.” Peter did not hesitate a moment, but
John xxi. 20—22. “turning about, he seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following ; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee ? Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”
It is our own duties and not the duties of others that we ought to be careful for; nor are we to suppose that others are called upon to follow the same path as ourselves, or are to be judged by the same rule. It might be the Saviour's will that Peter should be erucified, and that John should not die at all; that was nothing to him, all that concerned him was that he should himself follow Christ. What a lesson to that desire which there is in the nature of man to reduce all to his own level, and in religious matters to insist upon judging all by his own rule of life.
Verse 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?"
St. John seems to have added these last few words in explanation of an opinion which he knew at the time he wrote, (and that was after the crucifixion of St. Peter,) had gained ground among his fellow-disciples, and which was long believed among the early christians, that he should not die, but should live to behold the second coming of his Lord. These are in truth the last words of St. John's history of the life of Christ; for it was probably some later writer who added the two last verses with which it closes, as a sort of witness to the truth of the gospel which it is probable he had been employed to copy out; and as they are found in all the early manuscripts, it is likely that he, who added them, was the first copier of the gospel of St. John. They are these,
Verse 24, 25. “ This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things : and we know that his testimony is true. 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.”
This verse is in the figurative style of the East, and is only intended to express strongly the great number of things which Jesus said and did most interesting to bis disciples, but which have not been recorded. The meaning has been given by St. John himself, with perfect simplicity in the two last verses of the twentieth chapter; when after he had described our Lord's several appearances in Jerusalem immediately after his resurrection, he adds,
John xx. 30, 31. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book : But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God : and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
This is the great end for which the Gospel has been written, and may God of His infinite mercy grant its fulfilment to each of us who now have read and pondered upon it.
Prayer. 0 Thou, who art the Searcher of hearts, from whom no desires are hid, to whom all thoughts are known, Thou knowest that I love Thee. Faint and feeble is my love, and unworthy of Thee whose perfection is as boundless as thy love is infinite ; yet, let me for the sake of thy finished work, find acceptance with Thee; blot out my past transgressions. Oh I have forsaken, and forgotten Thee, again and again. I am not worthy to be named among thy servants—yet do not Thou forsake me, number me still among thine own-speak by thy Holy Spirit to my heart, yea, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within
The future is hidden from mine eyes, I desire not to know it; only this I desire, that I may be able to trust thee for evermore, willing if need be to suffer for thy sake; and oh, grant me this that, in whatever shape my death may come, Thou mayest be near me, Thou mayest give me grace to glorify Thee; —while life lasts let thy command "Follow me,” be my guide, and when my thoughts and wishes would stray into another path, say to my soul “What is that to thee; follow thou me,” and give me thy grace, that hearing I may obey ; so in life and death shall I be thine, thine for evermore, through the glorious eternity of thy kingdom. Oh what on earth is there to compare with this ! Blessed be thy name for every trial that binds me fast to Thee Thou Father, Saviour, Sanctifier, accept my prayers. Amen.
After these things, by their Lord's command, the Apostles assembled again at Jerusalem. It will give us a clearer view of all that took place at this time, if we put together all that we