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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Broken Vessels: How God Uses Imperfect People

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This week’s study is the first in a series focused on restoring broken vessels for God’s use, even when we may think life is a mess and there is no hope—there is a Fresh Start in Jesus Christ!





July 23

A Fresh Start


July 30

Objections Overruled


Aug. 6

The Gift Of Grace


Aug. 13

A Channel Of Comfort


Aug. 20

A Passion To Share The Gospel


Aug. 27

Right Here, Right Now



We fail; Jesus restores.


John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19




Followers Of Jesus May Falter and Fail  (John 18:15-18,25-27)

Even If We Fail, Jesus Restores Us (John 21:15-19)


John focused almost half his book (chapters 12-21) on Jesus’ final week of ministry. He includes Jesus’ speeches and prayers along with an account of Jesus’ arrest, trials, crucifixion, and resurrection. He relates how Jesus shared a final meal with His disciples and told them He would have to suffer (13:31-38). Peter boasted he would die for Jesus.  Jesus then uttered words that would deeply sting Peter, “Truly I tell you, a rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times” (v. 38).

That statement and the events that followed were precursors of Peter’s greatest failure—his three denials of Jesus. Nonetheless, the story did not end there. Jesus, after His resurrection, personally restored Peter to his place among the key leaders of the early church.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Anyone who is a baseball fan knows that Barry Bonds holds the record for lifetime homeruns with 762. What is less known is that Bonds struck out more than twice that many times with 1,539 (20th worst of all time).

Let’s face it, as many times as we succeed, as many or more times we strike out. Though it may be painful, sometimes we need to reflect on our mistakes in life. Knowing and admitting where we have erred is crucial for restoring relationships, freeing our consciences, and learning for the future.

In this session, we will see how one of the Bible’s most important figures, the apostle Peter, came to grips with his greatest failure. He was among the Lord’s closest disciples, yet when the stakes were at their highest, he failed miserably. So, was Peter finished as a servant of God? Jesus confronted Peter about what he had done. We will see how Peter responded and what Jesus told him to do next.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Followers Of Jesus May Falter and Fail  (John 18:15-18,25-27)








 1.    How does failing at a task make you feel?  What caused it? 

  2.   What resulted from this failure?  How did it impact you and those around you?  What did you learn from it?

  3.   Who was Peter and what do we know about him? (see “Digging Deeper” on pg. 10 for more information on Peter.)

  4.   What was at issue as this study opens with Peter following Jesus (v. 15)? (see “Setting” above; and the opening 4 paragraphs of Adv. comm. on pg. 4; “On the night of His arrest,  .  .  .  )

  5.   Why do you think Peter remained standing outside by the door instead of entering the room with the other disciple?

  6.   Who do you think may have been the other disciple? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “Jesus was taken  .  .  .  )

  7.   What emotions do you think you would have experienced in a situation similar to Peter’s situation? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “At this point,  .  .  .  “; “Sadly, Peter’s ignominy  .  .  .  & “But even that wasn’t  .  .  .  )

  8.   If Peter’s first denial was bad enough, why do you think he denied Jesus a second time? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “Sadly, Peter’s ignominy  .  .  .  )

  9.   In what ways, both positively and negatively. do you identify with Peter in this story?

10.   Based on verse 17,  what was the first test Peter faced as Jesus was taken before the high priest?  (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “In any case,  .  .  .  & “At this point,  .  .  .  )

11.   How would you describe the attitude of the servant girl who was keeping the door to the high priest’s courtyard? (see Adv. comm.., pg. 4, “In any case,  .  .  .  )

12.   Do you think the servant girl’s attitude toward Jesus had anything to do with Peter’s denial of Him? Why, or why not?

13.    What was the difference between the third denial and the first two? (see Adv. comm.,, pg. 4, “But even that wasn’t  .  .  .  )

14.   Do you think Peter ever thought of what he said earlier about dying for Jesus?  Why, or why not?

15.   What was the significance of the rooster crowing and Peter’s emotions when he heard it? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “John reported that  .  .  .  )

16.   What are some factors you think might cause you to shrink back from identifying as a follower of Jesus Christ?

17.   What do you think may be the biggest cause of our failure to identify as  followers of Jesus and why?

18.   What steps should we take when we know we have fallen short of living for Jesus?

19.   What role does God’s Holy Spirit play in restoring us to a right relationship with Christ?


Lasting Lessons in John 18:15-18,25-27:

1. All Christians, at one time or another, fail to live up to their calling as disciples of Jesus.

2. Believers should not remain silent in the face of moral or ethical conflicts in society or their business dealings.

3. When we sin, God’s Spirit lovingly convicts us so we will turn back to Him in heartfelt repentance.



Even If We Fail, Jesus Restores Us (John 21:15-19)

15 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. 16 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. 17 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.  18 “Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.”

  1.   What were the events that followed Peter’s denial of Jesus? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, Thankfully, the story did not end  .  .  .  ,” and the next 2 paragraphs.)

  2.   What events took place when Jesus appeared by the Sea of Galilee? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “One evening Peter  .  .  .  and the next 3 paragraphs.)

  3.   What does John 21:1-14 tell us about Peter’s attitude during Jesus’ arrest and accusations by the Jewish priesthood?  (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Together the men  .  .  .  and “John, who was apparently nearby  .  .  .  )

  4.   What was the significance of Jesus using Peter’s given name, “Simon,” when He asked Peter the question? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Now Jesus reverted back  .  .  .  )

  5.   What question did Jesus ask Simon Peter (v. 15)? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Jesus went on to ask  .  .  .  )

  6.   What does the paragraph beginning with: “Jesus went on to ask  .  .  .  “ and the next two paragraphs, tell us about John’s use of the word for “love” ?

  7.   What’s the difference between Jesus’ and Peter’s uses of the word “love” (v. 15)? (see Adv. comm., btm. pg. 5, “Peter’s answer.  .  .  )

  8.   How do you think Jesus asking Peter the same question a second times impacted Peter? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Jesus was still not finished  .  .  .  )  What did Jesus challenge Peter to do this time—meaning what?

  9.   Based on verse 17, how would you describe Peter’s attitude as Jesus asked him the same question a third time? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Finally, Jesus asked Peter  .  .  .  )

10.   Then Jesus told Peter to do what—meaning what?

11.   How would you explain the meaning of verses 18 and 19? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Jesus accepted Peter’s  .  .  .  and  “In this case, Jesus  .  .  .  )

12.   How should we embrace the hope and restoration that Jesus provides when we fail to live up to His standards for our lives?

13.   How do you think we should seek to do first?

14.   How would you summarize the restorative message of this study? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “God’s forgiveness of our sins . . . )


Lasting Lessons in John 21:15-19:

1. When we fail God, His Spirit seeks us out in order to restore us to fellowship with Him.

2. God loves His children and will forgive and restore us if we confess our sins and turn back to Him.

3. Despite our past mistakes, God can still use broken vessels to serve and minister in His kingdom.




  Consider the summary of this event in Peter’s life, “Peter failed at this stage of his discipleship.  He was merely a fallible human who the church must not remake into something more than human.  Clearly, sometimes he was a miserable failure as a follower of Jesus.  But that fact helps us human failures to realize that we do not have to be perfect to become followers of Jesus or to be accepted by God.”1 

Yes, we can be encouraged that our failures are not beyond the scope of the Lord’s love and grace.  We may rejoice that one failure, not even a glaring one, disqualifies us from service.  In His amazing love and grace, Christ reaches out to us, gives us strength for living, and the opportunity to represent Him.

So how do you stack up with the “Peter” in your life?  When it comes to seeking God’s restoration when you fall short of His Mark, where do you stand?  On a scale of 1 (very slow to seek restoration) to 10 (the first thing I do is seek restoration), how do you rate yourself when you fail and need God’s restoration?  If you have not rated yourself very high, do you really want to do to improve your rating?  If so, what do you want to do?  Ask God’s Holy Spirit to guide you in your effort to improve!  He will show you what you need to do if you are really sincere and want His help!  To God Be The Glory !!!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

SOURCE: Borchert, John 13—21, vol. 25B in The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2002) [W0RDsearch].


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19

John 18:15-18,25-27 (KJV)

15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. 16 But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. 17 Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man's disciples? He saith, I am not. 18 And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.

John 18:25-27 (KJV)

25 And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. 26 One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? 27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

John 21:15-19 (KJV)

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.


New King James Version: 

John 18:15-18 (NKJV

15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. 16 But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. 17 Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." 18 Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.

 John 18:25-27 (NKJV)

25 Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. Therefore they said to him, "You are not also one of His disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not!" 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with Him?" 27 Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.


 John 21:15-19 (NKJV)

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. 18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."


New Living Translation:   

John 18:15-18 (NLT)

15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. 16 Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. 17 The woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?” “No,” he said, “I am not.” 18 Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself.

John 18:25-27 (NLT)

25 Meanwhile, as Simon Peter was standing by the fire, they asked him again, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “No, I am not.” 26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” 27 Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.

John 21:15-19 (NLT)

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”


  (NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)


Lesson Outline — “A Fresh Start” — John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19



Followers Of Jesus May Falter and Fail  (John 18:15-18,25-27)

Even If We Fail, Jesus Restores Us (John 21:15-19)


Advanced Bible Study Commentary:  John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19

I. Followers Of Jesus May Falter and Fail  (John 18:15-18,25-27): On the night of His arrest, Jesus took His disciples (minus Judas

who had left to betray Him) to an olive grove (the Garden of Gethsemane per the Synoptic Gospels). After they had been there a while praying, Judas brought a squad of soldiers and religious officials to find and arrest Jesus. The soldiers were probably Roman legionnaires temporarily assigned in Judea to keep order during the crowded Passover celebration. The “officials” were most likely a detail of the Jewish temple police whose usual job it was to patrol the precincts around the Jerusalem temple complex.

Jesus stepped forward and asked them who they were looking for. They answered that they were searching for “Jesus of Nazareth,” to which Jesus replied, “I am he” (18:5). Perhaps to deride the supposedly brave and tough soldiers and to emphasize Jesus’ deity, John reported how when Jesus identified Himself they all inexplicably dropped to the ground. When the troops picked themselves up, they immediately took Jesus into custody. Suddenly, the frequently impetuous Peter took a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus (18:10). This action would later come back to haunt Peter.

Jesus was taken from there to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. There, He was interrogated and beaten. Meanwhile, Peter and another disciple followed them to the house. The other disciple is not named, but considering the author’s practice of not identifying himself, it may well have been John. It seems reasonable to assume it was John since he was as close to Jesus as any of the disciples and would naturally be concerned about His fate.

In any case, the unnamed disciple went inside the gate to speak to the servant woman doorkeeper and then called in Peter. At that moment Peter faced his first major test of loyalty to Jesus. The doorkeeper looked at him and asked pointedly, You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you? Her referring to Jesus as “this man” denotes contempt. Her question was phrased in such a way that she expected a negative answer, which is exactly what she got. I am not, Peter relpied. Strike one.

What a contrast was Peter’s frightened denial compared to Jesus’ many bold avowals when asked about His identity (vv. 5,8). In John’s Gospel, Jesus often used the term “I am” (4:26; 6:35; 8:12,58; 9:5; 10:9,11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5). That Greek phrase (ego eimi) is reflective of the Old Testament Hebrew divine name, YHWH (“Yahweh”), which is a form of the word “I am.” Moses asked God His name when He spoke from the burning bush, and God identified Himself as “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). These “I am” statements are among Jesus’ clearest self-declarations of His deity. Consequently, they present major translation, interpretation, and theological difficulties for non-Trinitarian cult groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny the full deity of Jesus Christ.

At this point, it isn’t clear whether Peter remembered how he had boasted that same night about dying for Jesus. Regardless, he lost his bravado when the chips were down and even lied to the door maid to save his own skin. Peter then went over to a nearby charcoal fire to warm himself. Passover season was in the Hebrew month of Nisan (March/April). The nights were cold that time of year.

Sadly, Peter’s ignominy did not end there. As Jesus was being harshly questioned inside, Peter remained outside still warming himself at the fire. The others with him once again challenged him, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” (v. 25). Peter had already denied his relationship with Jesus, so he could not very well change his story, especially if the doorkeeper was listening. So, he again took the coward’s way out, I am not. Matthew’s Gospel indicates that he answered with an oath and denied he even knew Jesus (Matt. 26:72). He had ducked his promise to defend Jesus at all costs. Strike two for Peter.

But even that wasn’t the end of it. John states that a servant of the high priest and a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter cut off in the garden, was standing nearby. Apparently, this servant was also present when that incident occurred. So, with a hint of accusation in his voice, he inquired, Didn’t I see you with him in the garden? Again, Peter denied knowing Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel says Peter’s negative and untruthful response was immediate: “I don’t know the man!” (26:74). Strike three.

John reported that at the exact moment Peter denied Jesus a third time, a rooster crowed. The soldiers worked in shifts while on guard duty. It was common for the night shift to change at about 3 a.m. So, Peter’s denials took place in the middle of the night when the darkness was at its most powerful state. John certainly recognized the irony of that fact since Peter had fallen as far to the dark side as he could go. He had betrayed his Lord and lied three times to save his own skin. Lie was piled upon lie, and Peter was well aware of it. The sound of the rooster’s crow must have driven the dagger of guilt into his heart even deeper since Jesus had clearly predicted at the Last Supper that Peter’s denials would happen (13:38). Matthew says Peter went out and wept in shame (Matt. 26:75).

This passage in John’s Gospel reminds readers of our own human frailties and fallibility. If the apostle Peter could fall despite being so close to Jesus, it could happen to anyone.

In a sense, we are all in that same situation. Few of us in America have suffered much for our faith, unlike Christians facing serious persecution in many parts of the world. Nonetheless, we all have sinned and, by our behaviors and perhaps even our words, have denied the authority and lordship of God in our lives. Even those of us who have known Christ for many years cannot honestly say that we consistently live holy lives that glorify God in every way. Though we may never have directly denied Jesus, how many times have we remained silent in the face of moral compromise by our business associates, classmates, political leaders,

and so forth? Does this mean we are disqualified from being effective disciples? No, Jesus’ grace toward Peter was greater than Peter’s own sin, as we will see.

II. Even If We Fail, Jesus Restores Us (John 21:15-19): Thankfully, the story did not end with Peter’s betrayal of Jesus. But things got worse before they got better. John’s Gospel continues with Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate and His being sentenced to die (18:28–19:16).

Jesus was led to Golgotha and nailed to the cross where He was cruelly crucified between two thieves. When the Romans were sure He was dead, His body was taken by Joseph of Arimathea and buried in a tomb he owned (19:17-42). Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead (John 20). On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty and brought Peter and the other disciples, including John, to see the vacant tomb. Jesus then appeared first to Mary that same day (20:14). Later that evening He also came to the disciples, including Peter but minus Thomas. A week following, Jesus visited them again, this time with the skeptical Thomas present.

Finally, John recorded the appearance of the risen Lord to seven disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius (the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee) where they were fishing (21:1-14). This event, which occurred at an unspecified later time, set the stage for Jesus to confront Peter about his denials—not with the intent of chastising him, but for the purpose of restoring their relationship.

One evening Peter told his associates he was going fishing (21:3). The others decided to go also. This made sense given that fishing was their profession and they still needed to make a living. Unfortunately, or so they thought, they would catch nothing that night. When daylight broke, they saw a solitary man standing on the shore who pointedly asked, “Friends, you don’t have any fish, do you?” (21:5). They had to admit they did not. So, the man told them to throw the nets on the right side of the boat. Sure enough, the nets became so full they could not even pull them in.

This incident was almost identical to what Peter, James, and John had experienced when they were first enlisted by Jesus (Luke 5:1-11). Perhaps that’s why John blurted out, “It is the Lord!” (21:7). Peter excitedly grabbed his outer garment, jumped in the water, and headed toward the shore with the others following in the boat. On the beach, they found fish frying on a charcoal fire. One interesting sidelight in John’s story is that the word for “charcoal fire” is only used here and in John 21:9 at Peter’s meeting with the resurrected Jesus. Was that a coincidence for John? Maybe not. He probably wanted to tie the two events together and the fire was one aspect of it.

Together the men pulled the nets on shore filled with 153 fish. The men then quietly shared breakfast with Jesus. That’s when things began to get very uncomfortable for Peter. Jesus would soon address Peter’s unresolved status as His disciple. Remember, Peter had promised to be loyal even to death, “I will lay down my life for you” (13:37). He had even defended Jesus with a sword (18:10). Nonetheless, when the ultimate test came, Peter failed miserably. His reckoning time had come.

John, who was apparently nearby and possibly listening, reported that after breakfast Jesus approached Peter. Notice that Jesus addressed Peter by his given name, not the name He had bestowed on him after his great confession of Jesus’ messiahship (Matt. 16:13-20). Jesus had named him Petros, “the rock.” Now Jesus reverted back to calling him Simon, son of John. Jesus was possibly pricking Peter’s conscience by using that older designation instead of his identity-based name, Peter.

Jesus went on to ask Peter the most pertinent question of his life in verse 15: Do you love me more than these? Two interesting aspects of Jesus’ question are worth pointing out. There are three Greek words that are usually translated in English as “love.” One of them is eros, which refers to romantic or sexual love. That word is never used in the New Testament. The word Jesus used for love in this verse is the Greek agapao, a form of the word agape. Verse 16 uses the same Greek word. That type of love is normally used in the context of the love of God (e.g., John 3:16) or the love between Christians (John 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 13). Verse 17 uses a different word, which we will get to momentarily.

The other curious point in verse 15 is that Jesus asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Did Jesus mean, “Do you love me more than these other men love me?” Or, did he mean, “Do you love me more than you love these other men?” While scholars debate the issue, it is best to assume Jesus meant the latter statement. Peter, as is true of us all, had to love Jesus above all other persons, things, occupations, or even life itself. Only then would he have demonstrated the real depth of discipleship that Jesus is after.

Peter’s answer was a bit curt: Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, but, in doing so, John recorded that he did not use the same Greek word for love as did Jesus. He used the third Greek term translated “love,” phileo. In traditional Greek this word is used in the context of brotherly love, as in Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love.” Was Peter’s phraseology intended to mean he had a somewhat lesser love for Jesus than Jesus desired? Some scholars have seen significance in the variation. Other scholars downplay the difference as having no real consequence since in the New Testament era both words were commonly used interchangeably. Making too much of the disparity is probably unnecessary in this context.

Following Peter’s affirmation, Jesus gave him a somewhat enigmatic commission, Feed my lambs. A lamb of course is a young sheep. Jesus was well known as the Good Shepherd and on numerous occasions referred to His followers as sheep (John 10:1-30). So, it makes good sense at this point for Jesus to transfer care of His flock to Peter and the other disciples.

Jesus was still not finished with Peter. He repeated His question a second time in a slightly different way, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Again, Jesus used the Greek word agapao. And again, Peter replied with phileo, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. And, again, the Lord challenged him to act as a shepherd for His flock, Shepherd my sheep.

Finally, Jesus asked Peter essentially the same question one more time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? This time Jesus used the word phileo as Peter had. Whether that alteration was meant to make a greater impact on Peter is not clear. In any case, this third time hit Peter particularly hard. John wrote that he was grieved or pained. Peter must have recognized that Jesus’ three questions, in the context of a charcoal fire, were intended to parallel his three denials, which made him feel deeply ashamed. Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you, Peter mustered.

Jesus accepted Peter’s sincere confession of love and implied repentance, and he was restored to take his place as a leader of God’s people. But Jesus added something this time to His command. He prefaced His words with Truly I tell you. Literally, Jesus said, “Truly, truly” (Amen, amen). This was a common way in John’s Gospel for Jesus to introduce an especially important principle or truth (see John 1:51; 3:3,5,11; 5:19,24,25; 6:26,47,53; 8:51,58, et al.).

In this case, Jesus made it clear that Peter’s confession of his love would carry a big price. When he was older, he would stretch out his hands, be dressed in humiliating garb, and be taken where he did not want to go. John emphasized that Jesus predicted Peter was going to die a martyr’s death. Jesus closed his statement with the same challenge he used when had first called Peter and the other disciples, Follow me. Peter’s life would focus on shepherding the Lord’s sheep, but it would end in martyrdom for God’s glory. Second century tradition indicates that Peter was indeed executed, probably in Rome in the A.D. 60s.

God’s forgiveness of our sins is free when we ask for it in Jesus’ name. We, like Peter, need the absolute redemption of our lives, which we receive only by God’s grace and by our faith in Jesus alone (Eph. 2:8-9). However, it is a mistaken notion to believe that receiving Christ is the final objective of the discipleship process. It is not the end, but only the beginning. The rest of our earthly lives are to be lived out in dedicated service and witness to the Lord. It may seem unlikely in America that we should have to make the ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom (in the near future, anyway). Nonetheless, we must never forget that even as we study this passage believers in Jesus in many parts of the world are suffering persecution or even death for His sake.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament:  John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19

The Denial by Peter (John 18:15-18, 25-27)

John 18:15-16 The imperfect tense of the verb “to follow” (ekolouthei) is descriptive. It implies that Peter and an unnamed disciple had traced Jesus and his captors back from Gethsemane over the Kidron Valley to the residence of the high priest in Jerusalem. The identity of the other disciple is not disclosed, nor does the account specify that it was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (cf. 13:23; 19:26; 20:2-3; 21:20, 24). The association of the two, however, would favor that view since they appear together both at the Last Supper (13:23-24) and on the morning of the Resurrection (20:2-3). This anonymous disciple was known to the household of the high priest and readily obtained access for himself and Peter. The basis for this acquaintance is not explained. On the assumption that this disciple was John, it may be that the family had connections with the priesthood, either by business relationships or possibly by marital ties. Salome, the mother of John, was a sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother (cf. John 19:25 with Mark 15:40), and would have been equally related to Elizabeth, whose husband, Zechariah, was a priest (Luke 1:36). The evidence is tenuous, but the author does exhibit a considerable knowledge of Jerusalem and the events that took place there. “Courtyard” is a translation of the Greek aule, which could be rendered “palace” (cf. Note on 10:16). The former rendering (NIV) is preferable here in view of the fact that Peter was not in an inner assembly room but was standing with servants and retainers by a fire (v. 18).

18:17. Apparently Peter’s first statement of denial accompanied his admittance to the courtyard; the last occurred somewhat later, perhaps just as Jesus was about to be taken to the council chamber. There are minor differences in all four accounts of the denial, but there are broad general agreements. The first denial was a reply to a question asked by the girl who tended the gate and granted access to Peter and the other disciple. The wording of the Greek text, me kai su (“are you not?”), implies that the girl recognized both the unnamed disciple and Peter as followers of Jesus. Matthew and Mark agree that the first questioner was a servant girl (Matt 26:69; Mark 14:66), but they do not connect her with the disciples’ entrance into the courtyard. Luke agrees that the first accuser was a servant girl who thought Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples (Luke 22:56).

18:18. Jerusalem is twenty-six hundred feet above sea level, and on a spring night the air is chilly. The servants had lighted a charcoal fire (anthrakian), which would warm only those near it and would not give off a great deal of light. Peter must have edged toward it, hoping to absorb some warmth, yet not wishing to make himself visible. He certainly did not want to be recognized again!

John 18:25. The focus of attention on Peter is interrupted by the author’s reversion to the interrogation of Jesus by the high priest (vv. 19-24). Matthew and Mark agree that the second interrogator was a girl; Luke, however, does not state whether it was a man or a woman (Matt 26:71; Mark 14:69; Luke 22:58). The first two questions were introduced by the particle mg, which calls for a negative answer. Peter’s answer to this suggested negative drew him into a position he could not escape from and caused him to make an emphatic denial: “I am not.”

18:26-27. The third question, according to John, was raised by a relative of Malchus and was worded in such a way as to expect an affirmative answer. He was sure that he had seen Peter in the olive grove. Matthew and Mark agree that the questioner identified Peter as Galilean (Matt 26:73; Mark 14:70), and Luke agrees with them at this point (Luke 22:59). As the questioning proceeded from suspicion to reasonable certainty, Peter became more nervous. With increasing vehemence he disavowed any connection with Jesus, and on the third occasion the rooster crowed. The shrill sound must have recalled Jesus’ words spoken a few hours before: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (John 13:38). The author adds no further comment at this point, but the fact that he recorded the denial implies that it was a turning point in Peter’s experience. It was a revelation of his own weakness that he could not escape. It no doubt prompted self-examination, and Peter’s response was exactly the opposite of that of Judas. Judas in his failure fell into despair; Peter returned to Christ.

The Reinstatement of Peter (John 21:15-23)

John 21:15-17. The chief reason for the narration of this episode seems to be to let Peter know that the Lord still loved him and had not cast him out (cf. 15:6). The three questions Jesus addressed to Peter stand in contrast to Peter’s three denials. The disciples were no doubt aware of Peter’s denial of Jesus, and the commission that Jesus renewed with him in their presence would reassure them of Peter’s place among them. The wording of the first question, “Do you truly love me more than these?” contains an ambiguity. There are three possible solutions:

1. Do you love me more than these other men do?

2. Do you love me more than you love these men?

3. Do you love me more than these things—the boats, the fish, etc.?

Grammatically, the comparative adverb “more” (pleon) is followed by the ablative of comparison “these” (touton). Whether the ablative represents the first or second alternative is not clear (see BDF, 185.1, p. 99). In view of Peter’s boastful promise that whatever the others did he would not fail, the former alternative seems more likely. The third solution seems least probable.

The words translated “love” have also raised considerable debate. Two different terms are used: agapao is used in Jesus’ first two questions and phileo is used in Jesus’ third question and in Peter’s three replies. Agapao is the same word “love” that appears in John 3:16. It is used of divine love and usually carries the connotation of will or purpose as well as that of affection. Phileo implies affinity, friendship, and fondness. Both words represent a high aspect of love. Since they are used of both God (3:16; 5:20) and men (14:21; 16:27) in this Gospel, they seem to be interchangeable with no great difference in meaning. Morris has a thorough discussion of the synonyms in this passage (NIC, pp. 870-75). He maintains that there is no essential difference in meaning between them. On the other hand, a good case can be made for a difference in Jesus’ emphasis. There was less doubt concerning Peter’s attachment to Jesus than there was concerning his will to love at all costs; and the change of term in Jesus’ third question makes his probing of Peter even deeper. If the latter alternative is adopted, it explains better Peter’s distress when questioned a third time, since Jesus would not only be challenging his love but would be implying that it was superficial. NIV brings out the nuance between agapao and phileo by translating agapao “truly love” and phileo “love.”

Peter’s affirmative answer to each question is substantially the same. The verb “know” (oida) implies the intellectual knowledge of a fact. In his third reply, however, Peter strengthened his statement by using ginosko for “know.” This word denotes knowledge gained through experience. While one cannot assert beyond contradiction that the distinctions between these two pairs of synonyms are always uniformly observed, in a context where a definite change is made the difference is worth considering. Peter’s protestations are emphatic; and even if the conversation were carried on in Aramaic which would not use separate words where the Greek employs these synonyms, they may represent accurately the meaning of the dialogue as the writer heard and remembered it.

Jesus’ commands to Peter also contain fine distinctions:

1. “Feed (pasture) my lambs” (v. 15).

2. “Take care of (shepherd) my sheep” (v. 16).

3. “Feed (pasture) my sheep” (v. 17).

The first and third imply only taking the sheep to pasture where they are fed; the second implies the total guardianship a shepherd exercises. This threefold injunction does not necessarily give Peter the sole responsibility for the oversight of Christ’s followers; all of his spiritually mature disciples were called to be shepherds (cf. 1 Peter 5:2). This challenge to Peter demanded a total renewal of his loyalty and reaffirmed his responsibilities.

21:18-19. The introduction of v. 18 by “I tell you the truth,” rendered “verily, verily” in KJV, makes the statement of Jesus solemn and important. The author adds an explanation of Jesus’ enigmatic words. They were a prediction of Peter’s career: a new responsibility a new danger, and violent death. Jesus placed Peter in a category with himself—a life spent for God and ultimately sacrificed to glorify God. Similar language was used concerning Jesus earlier in the Gospel (12:27-32; 13:31). The command “Follow me” is a present imperative, which literally means “Keep on following me.” Jesus showed Peter that if he were to fulfill his promise of loyalty, he would have to follow him to his own Cross.

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary: John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19

Peter Denies His Lord (18:15-18)

18:15. Most Bible scholars believe that the other disciple mentioned here was John, but that humility prevented him from mentioning his own name, especially in view of Peter's shameful failure. We are not told how John had become so well known to the high priest, but it is a fact that gained him admittance into the courtyard.

18:16,17. Peter was not able to get in until John went out and spoke to the woman who was the doorkeeper. Looking back, we wonder if it was a kindness for John to use his influence in this way. It is significant that Peter's first denial of the Lord was not before a powerful, terrifying soldier, but before a simple servant girl who kept the door. He denied that he was a disciple of Jesus.

18:18. Peter now mingled with the enemies of his Lord and tried to conceal his identity. Like many another disciple, he warmed himself at this world's fire.

Peter's Second and Third Denials (18:25-27)

18:25. The narrative now turns back to Simon Peter. In the cold of the early morning hours, he warmed himself by the fire. Doubtless his clothing and accent indicated that he was a Galilean fisherman. The one standing with him asked if he was a disciple of this Jesus. But he denied the Lord again.

18:26. Now it was a relative of Malchus who spoke to Peter. He had seen Peter cut off his relative's ear. "Did I not see you in the garden with this Jesus?"

18:27. Peter for the third time denied the Lord. Immediately, he heard the crowing of a rooster and was reminded of the words of the Lord, "The rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times." From the other Gospels we know that Peter went out at this point and wept bitterly.

The Restoration of Peter (21:15-17)

21:15. The Lord first took care of their physical needs. Then when they were warm and had eaten, He turned to Peter and dealt with spiritual matters. Peter had publicly denied the Lord three times. Since then, he had repented and had been restored to fellowship with the Lord. In these verses, Peter's restoration is publicly acknowledged by the Lord.

It has often been pointed out that two different words for love are used in these verses. We might paraphrase verse 15 as follows: "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these other disciples love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I am fond of You." Peter would no longer boast that he would never forsake the Lord, even if all the other disciples did. He had learned his lesson.

"Feed My lambs," Jesus said. A very practical way of demonstrating love for Christ is by feeding the young ones in His flock. It is interesting to note that the conversation had changed from fishing to shepherding. The former speaks of the works of evangelism; while the latter suggests teaching and pastoral care.

21:16. For the second time, the Lord asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter replied the second time, with genuine distrust of himself, "You know that I am fond of You." This time He said to him, "Tend My sheep." There are lambs and sheep in Christ's flock, and they need the loving care of one who loves the Shepherd.

21:17. Just as Peter had denied the Lord thrice, so he was given three opportunities to confess Him.

This time, Peter appealed to the fact that Jesus was God and therefore knew all things. He said the third time, "You know that I am fond of You." And for the last time, he was told that he could demonstrate this by feeding Christ's sheep. In this passage, the underlying lesson is that love for Christ is the only acceptable motive for serving Him.

Jesus Predicts Peter's Death (21:18-19)

21:18. When Peter was younger, he had great freedom of movement. He went where he wished. But the Lord here told him that at the end of his life, he would be arrested, bound, and carried off to execution.

21:19. This explains verse 18. Peter would glorify God by dying as a martyr. He who had denied the Lord would be given courage to lay down his life for Him. The verse reminds us that we can glorify God in death as well as in life. Then Jesus exclaimed, "Follow Me!" As He said it, He must have started to leave.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

The Moody Bible Commentary: John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19

Interrogation and Trial (18:12-18)

18:12-14. The first phase of the six-phase trial of Jesus took place at night. Jesus was bound and led to Annas first (v. 13). Except for Peter and John, the disciples had all scattered (16:32; Mt 25:46). Annas reigned as high priest from AD 6-15. But he continued to influence the subsequent high priests. Caiaphas, his son-in-law, was high priest from AD 18-36. That year refers to the prophesied year of Christ's death (Dn 9:24-26). Since Caiaphas foresaw the prudence of one man dying on behalf of the people (v. 14; cf. 11:49-52), God sovereignly placed him in the position of high priest (cf. Rm 13:1) during the year foreordained for Christ's death.

18:15-16. In the trial narrative, only two disciples are mentioned: Peter and another disciple—probably John. He was known to the high priest (mentioned twice; vv. 15, 16), Annas. John's father, Zebedee, seemed to have been affluent (e.g., he had servants, Mk 1:20). This may have brought John into contact with Annas and Caiaphas since they were also wealthy. So John freely entered with Jesus into the court of Annas, but had to negotiate for Peter's admittance (v. 16).

18:17-18. Peter's first temptation to deny Christ came through the least likely source—a slave-girl. She asked if Peter was one of Jesus' disciples. Her question anticipated a negative answer (You are not... are you?) and tempted Peter all the more to deny it. Peter feared being identified as a disciple of Jesus in front of the slaves and the officers there (v. 18). John's comment that it was cold marks out both the physical and the spiritual climate.

18:25-27. Annas was fearful of the threat posed by the disciples, while ironically Peter was nearby denying Christ. According to the Synoptics, they said to him included the servant girl who kept the door (v. 17; Mk 14:69), another servant girl (Mt 26:71), and another unidentified person (Lk 22:58). Others may have joined in the question You are not also one of His disciples, are you? For a second time, Peter denied Christ. When a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off was sure he saw Peter in the garden with Jesus, Peter then denied it a third time. Just then a rooster crowed, fulfilling Jesus' earlier prophecy (Jn 13:38). Jesus would have six phases in His trial and would be faithful in each; Peter had three tests and failed in each.

Future Roles of Peter and John (21:15-19)

21:15-17. The following threefold exchange between Christ and Peter paralleled the apostle's threefold denial of Christ (18:17, 25, 27). Twice Christ asked Peter if he loved Him (agapao). Twice Peter affirmed his love using another Greek word (phileo; see the discussion on the two words at 5:20-21). In the last significant conversation between Peter and Jesus before the crucifixion, Jesus nuanced agapao as "laying down one's life" (13:15-23). He also called on his followers to love (agapao) one another "even as I have loved you" (13:34; cf. 15:13, 12, 17), referring to the love by which He would lay down His life. Phileo and agapao probably do not differ in meaning in this context (i.e., phileo does not refer to some "superficial, inferior love" since the word is used for the Father's love for the Son in 5:20-21, and agapao can be used for frivolously craving the acclaim of people in 12:43). In John's gospel they both mean "love." They may, however, have slightly different references, agapao referring to an aspect of love that includes sacrifice, an aspect not associated with phileo in John's gospel. In other words, John may have noted Jesus' use of agapao to elicit from Peter a commitment to the kind of self-sacrificing love Jesus modeled and demanded from his disciples as seen in the previous uses of agapao.

The question, "Do you love Me more than these disciples love Me?" corresponds to Peter's boastful promise to love Jesus so much he would lay down his life for Him, even if the other disciples do not (13:37; Mk 14:29). Jesus was asking Peter if he would still claim what he did previously—that He would lay down his life for His Lord. Remembering his denials in the courtyard, Peter was hesitant to make that promise again. Tend My lambs and Shepherd My sheep (v. 16) evoke Jesus' teaching on laying down His life for the sheep (Jn 10:15, 17) and dovetail with the sacrificial nuance of agape. Peter replied in ignorance with phileo and not agapao because he had still not understood the sacrificial emphasis of agape love as Jesus had delineated it in the upper room. For the third time (v. 17), Jesus asked, Do you love Me? now using Peter's own word for love (phileo) in hopes that Peter would be shaken from his misunderstanding and recall Jesus' original call to self-sacrificial agape. Instead, Peter was grieved because Jesus had questioned him three times.

The threefold pattern of questions and answers recalls Peter's three denials predicted by the Lord in 13:38 and fulfilled in 18:15-27. It is impossible to be certain, but Peter's distress may have been due to his awareness of the parallel between Jesus' third question and Peter's three denials. Jesus' use of phileo in this third question may also include probing Peter for his affection for Jesus when none was evident during his denials. So perhaps agapao in the first two questions asked by Jesus is to explore Peter's willingness to sacrifice himself for Jesus and His people, while the use of phileo in His third question was designed to compel Peter to reflect on his lack of affection for Jesus evident during the denials. It was this third interrogation by the Lord that so pained Peter. But it is impossible to be certain of this.

21:18-19. Jesus now predicted that Peter would lay down his life just as Christ did. Peter will stretch out his hands, a term that suggests crucifixion. Signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God parallels other statements that speak of Christ's crucifixion (12:33; 18:32). Others would gird Peter (NET, HCSB, "tie you up") for his death. Despite the prospect of suffering, Christ commanded Peter, Follow Me! (cf. 1:43; 12:26).

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.



PETER (pee’ tehr):  Personal name meaning, “Rock.” Four names are used in the New Testament to refer to Peter: the Hebrew name Simeon (Acts 15:14); the Greek equivalent Simon (nearly fifty times in the Gospels and Acts); Cephas, most frequently used by Paul (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal. 1:18; 2:9,11,14) and occurring only once outside his writings (John 1:42). Cephas and Peter both mean rock. Simon is often found in combination with Peter, reminding the reader that Simon was the earlier name and that Peter was a name given later by Jesus. The name Peter dominates the New Testament usage.

Family of Peter:  The Gospels preserve a surprising amount of information about Peter and his family. Simon is the son of Jona or John (Matt. 16:17; John 1:42). He and his brother, Andrew, came from Bethsaida (John 1:44) and were Galilean fishermen (Mark 1:16; Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3), in partnership with the sons of Zebedee, James and John (Luke 5:10). Peter was married (Mark 1:29-31; 1 Cor. 9:5) and maintained a residence in Capernaum (Mark 1:21,29). Before becoming disciples of Jesus, Peter and Andrew had been influenced by the teaching of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42).

Role of Peter Among the Disciples:  Peter is credited with being a leader of the twelve disciples whom Jesus called. His name always occurs first in the lists of disciples (Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Matt. 10:2). He frequently served as the spokesman for the disciples (compare Mark 8:29) and was usually he one who raised the questions which they all seemed to be asking (Mark 10:28; 11:21; Matt 15:15; 18:21; Luke 12:41). Jesus often singled out Peter for teachings intended for the entire group of disciples (see especially Mark 8:29-33). As a member of the inner circle, Peter was present with Jesus at the raising of the synagogue ruler’s daughter (Mark 5:35-41), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8), and at the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemene (Mark 14:43-50). As representative disciple, Peter frequently typified the disciple of little faith. His inconsistent behavior (see Matt. 14:27-31) reached a climax with his infamous denial scene (Mark 14:66-72). Peter was, however, rehabilitated in the scene where the resurrected Jesus restored Peter to his position of prominence (John 21:15-19; compare Mark 16:7).

Peter’s Role in the Early Church:  Despite Peter’s role among the disciples and the promise of his leadership in the early church (see especially Matt. 16:17-19), Peter did not emerge as the leader of either form of primitive Christianity. Though he played an influential role in establishing the Jerusalem church (see the early chapters of Acts), James, the brother of Jesus, assumed the leadership role of the Jewish community. Though Peter was active in the incipient stages of the Gentile mission (see Acts 10-11), Paul became the “apostle to the gentiles.”

Peter probably sacrificed his chances to be the leader of either one of these groups because of his commitment to serve as a bridge in the early church, doing more than any other to hold together the diverse strands of primitive Christianity.

The Legacy of Peter: Tradition holds that Peter died as a martyr in Rome in the 60s (1 Clem. 5:1-6:1). His legacy, however, lived on long after his death. Both 1 and 2 Peter in the New Testament are traditionally attributed to the apostle Peter. Significant also was the presence of a group of devotees of Peter who produced several writings in the name of the apostle—the Acts of Peter, the Gospel of Peter (and some would include 2 Peter). To a great extent, subsequent generations of the church rely on the confession, witness, and ministry of Peter, the devoted, but fallible follower of Christ.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.



The Shepherd’s Work

By R.D. Fowler

R.D. Fowler is pastor or Bethel Baptist Church, Lincoln, Nebraska.

“One should not romanticize the occupation of shepherds.  In general shepherds were dishonest . . . and unclean according to the standards of the law.”


 JOHN 21:15-17, Jesus questioned Peter concerning his love.  Conservative biblical scholars generally agree that this is a story about Jesus reinstating or re-commissioning Simon Peter.

Prior to Jesus’ arrest, Peter had been quite vocal about his devotion to Him (Matt. 26:33; Mark 14:29; Luke 22:33; John 13:37).  Jesus’ three questions correspond to Peter’s three denials.  I don’t believe any interpretive distinctions exist between the two Greek verbs Jesus and Peter used for “love,” (agapao and phileo).  John used them interchangeably in other places in his Gospel.1  Likewise, I don’t think we should place a great deal of emphasis on the distinctions between the world “tend” and “shepherd” or “lambs” and “sheep” that Jesus used in His charge to Peter.

Using the metaphorical language of shepherding, Jesus charged Peter to provide complete spiritual care for God’s people.2  Jesus’ three-fold repetition required Peter to search deep within himself for the truth concerning his love and devotion to Jesus and willingness to follow Him.  Three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”  Three times Peter affirmed his love, and three times Jesus charged Peter to shepherd His sheep.3

The Positive Assumptions

Shepherding was one of the most common occupations in Israel.  I have always imagined shepherds having a certain amount of respect and standing within the Hebrew community.  After all, the Old Testament refers to God as the Shepherd of Israel (Gen. 49:24).  The same metaphorical use is in the Psalms and prophets (Pss. 23:1; 28:9; 80:1; Isa. 40:11).  At least two great national leaders, Moses and David, were shepherds.  Plus, in the New Testament Jesus referred to Himself as “the good shepherd” (John 10:11).  Shepherding is also the most frequently used New Testament imagery for picturing the leadership, care, and oversight of the church.  We can argue that the responsibilities of physically shepherding sheep and spiritually shepherding the flock of
God are similar in many ways (see Ezek. 34:11-15).

The Negative Reality

The reality of shepherding, however, is much different than I imagined.  Shepherds were not highly esteemed or well respected.  As New Testament professor and scholar Dr. Robert H. Stein warns, “One should not romanticize the occupation of shepherds.  In general shepherds were dishonest . . . and unclean according to the standards of the law.”4  People often viewed shepherds with distrust and even scorn.  That distrust could be in part because of the itinerant nature of the vocation.  Shepherds were constantly moving from field to field, town to town.  Distrust might also have developed because many who tended the flocks were hired shepherds, meaning they had no ownership or interest in the flock.  Jesus pointed out the most glaring difference between hired shepherds and true shepherds in John 10:13.  The hired shepherd, Jesus said, “does not care about the sheep” (NKJV).  For that reason, hired shepherds were often unreliable.5  For the purpose of this article, shepherd and shepherding will refer only to true shepherds, not to hirelings.

The Job Requirements

Like most agriculture occupations, shepherding was a hard and sometimes dangerous job.  It required, upon occasion, the shepherd to be firm and to be ready to confront an especially challenging situation or dangerous threat (Gen. 21:25; Ex. 2:15-17; MIc. 5:8).

The shepherd was responsible for the complete care of his flock.  Being a shepherd thus required keen watchfulness, especially at night.  Shepherding also called for extraordinary patience and, at times, great tenderness (Isa. 40:11).  These are certainly character traits essential for the spiritual shepherd as well.

Shepherds were regularly exposed to the extreme elements of nature (Gen. 31:40).  The shepherd’s wardrobe consisted of a woolen garment that provided protection against rain, wind, and cold.  Shepherds also commonly had a mantle or cloak, usually made of sheepskin, that served as both a coat and blanket; a goatskin bag for food and other supplies while in the fields (1 Sam. 17:40); and a pail for carrying water.

Caring for his flock often brought the shepherd face to face with wild animals (vv. 34-37) and thieves.  Consequently shepherds carried a rod and/or a staff (Ps. 23:4).  The rod was a short, heavy stick with a knot or knob on one end, used mainly for protection.  The staff was longer, usually about six feet, sometimes with a crook on the end.  While the staff was primarily a walking stick, the shepherd could also use it to nudge wayward sheep or lambs back to the rest of the flock or as a weapon if necessary.  In addition to a rod and staff, shepherds might also carry a sling for added protection (1 Sam. 17:40).

Defending the flock was just one of the shepherd’s many duties.  Each morning he would lead the sheep to pasture.  For me the concept of herding any type of livestock involves driving them from behind.  Eastern shepherds, however, did not drive their sheep, they led them.  This serves as an important theological image for effectively shepherding the flock of God.6 

Finding adequate pasture sometimes required traveling a great distance, especially during the dry months when both food and water were scarce.7 

Keeping sheep watered could also be a challenge.  Sometimes a well with a trough or stream might be near the pasture (Gen. 29:7; 30:38; Ex. 2:16).  In the dry season, however, a shepherd could search for hours before finding water.  If water was not available nearby, the shepherd might have to transport water in a pail he carried.  Having numerous sheep meant he would have to repeat this task many times in order to water his entire flock.

At the end of the day, the shepherd would gather his sheep.  Should any sheep have strayed along the way, the shepherd would search for it and bring it back to the flock—bearing it on his shoulders, if necessary (Matt. 18:12; Luke 15:5).  The shepherd carefully counted each sheep, as they entered the fold (Jer. 33:13).  Although a shepherd at times may have had to watch his flock at night in an open field (Luke 2:8), a sheepfold provided more protection and security for the sheep.  Types of sheepfolds varied and included caves (e.g., 1 Sam. 24:3), temporary pens made from thorn bushes, and more sturdy structures made with stone walls.

The shepherd would guard his flock by sleeping in the entrance of the fold overnight.  At times, more than one flock would be in a single sheepfold.  In such a case the shepherds would take turns guarding the fold.  Each morning the shepherd would again count his sheep and lead them to pasture.  Even with different flocks sharing a single fold, separating the flocks was not difficult because each shepherd knew his own sheep, often having named them.  Further, the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd (John 10:27).  He called his sheep, whistled, and gave them verbal commands; and His sheep followed him until they again reached pasture (vv. 1-5).

The shepherd invested his life in his sheep—a life of great commitment and great devotion.  When Jesus charged Peter to shepherd His sheep, He likewise called him to a life of discipleship, devotion, and commitment as a shepherd of God’s church.   Bi

  1.  Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 676.

  2.  For a thorough discussion of the variation in  word use in this passage, see Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 869-70. Hendriksen supports a different view in his commentary Exposition of the Gospel According to John: New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954), 486-87.

  3.  Tenney correctly points out: “This threefold injunction does not necessarily give Peter sole responsibility for the oversight of Christ’s followers.”  “The Gospel of John” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Gaebelien, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 202.  See also 1 Peter 5:2; Peter gave these same instructions to other leaders in the church.

  4.  Stein, Luke, vol. 24 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 108.

  5.  See Ezekiel 34:2-11, a prophecy that metaphorically compares unreliable shepherds to the flock to unreliable spiritual shepherds.

  6.  God calls spiritual shepherds to lead His church, never to force, bully, or drive it.

  7.  For a more complete discussion of the climate of the region wee Paterson, “Palestine” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, gen. ed. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 4:576-83.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2013-14.

Peter’s Shepherd Assignment

By Steve Lemke

(Steve Lemke is provost, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.)

SIMON PETER was one of the most mercurial leaders of the early church. He could both soar to great heights and sink to great depths; he could either hit a home run or strike out. Peter was the first disciple to articulate that Jesus was the messianic Son of God (Matt. 16:13-19), but also discouraged Jesus from fulfilling His messianic mission (Matt. 16:21-23). Peter denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest (Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:17-27), but proclaimed Him boldly on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-39).

In Jesus' post-resurrection appearance recorded in John 2 1, Peter was reeling from his greatest failure -denying his Lord three times on the night of His arrest, just as Jesus had foretold he would (Matt. 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38). At this time, Simon Peter and the other disciples had already seen the empty tomb (John 20:1-10) and witnessed at least two appearances of the risen Christ (John 20:19-29). After these things, Peter returned to his native region of Galilee, along with other disciples, and went fishing (John 21:1-3).

We do not know exactly what motivated Peter to return to fishing in the Sea of Galilee within weeks of Jesus' resurrection. In at least one of Jesus' earlier post-resurrection appearances, He had instructed His disciples to meet Him in Galilee (Matt. 26:32; 28:10,16; Mark 14:28; 16:7). Perhaps the disciples were simply following their Lord's command by going there. However, apparently the location they were to meet Jesus was on a designated mountain, not by the sea (Matt. 28:16). Perhaps in Peter's mind his return to fishing was at least in part leaving his apostolic mission and returning to his fishing career. Or perhaps this fishing expedition was simply a pragmatic way of getting food while they awaited Jesus' appearance. At any rate, Jesus took advantage of this opportunity to recall Peter to shepherd God's flock.

When Jesus had first called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be disciples, He had given them a miraculous haul of fish (Luke 5:1-10) and then called them to be fishers of men. Now, three years later, Jesus gave them another miraculous haul of fish (John 21:4-6,10-I 1). The disciples knew from this miracle that the person along the shoreline was Jesus, and Simon like Peter jumped out of the boat in his eagerness to see Jesus again (John 21:7-8,12). Jesus invited all the disciples to breakfast, and they ate along the seashore (John 21:9- 10,13).

After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and three times Peter replied that he did (John 21:15-17). Each time Jesus asked the question, He addressed His disciple as 'Simon, son of John," rather than 'Peter," the name Jesus Himself had given Peter after his affirmation of Jesus' divinity in the area of Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:15-18). Perhaps allowing Peter to affirm his love three times was Jesus' way of offering him a second chance to live like the Peter whose faith was like a rock. Jesus did not repeat exactly the same wording three times in asking these questions. The specific Greek words He used varied slightly each time He asked Peter a question. The first two times in the John 21 account that Jesus questioned Peter's devotion, He used the verb agapao (usually referring to selfless, godly love, as in vv. 15-16), and Peter answered using the verb phileo (usually referring to tender affection or brotherly love, as in w. 15-16). On the final question, both Jesus and Peter used phileo (v. 17). While many scholars believe that agapao and phileo are essentially synonymous for "love" in John 21:15-17, perhaps Jesus’ changing His wording in the third question to a slightly less exalted expression of love might have been a factor in Peter's grief over Jesus' third question (v. 17). In his first question, Jesus asked if Simon loved Him "more than these" (w. 15-17). We do not know with certainty what Jesus was referring to when He said “these"; maybe He was pointing to the fishing nets that were stretched out on the shore (v. 11). If so, Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him enough to leave his nets and serve full-time in kingdom service.

After each affirmation Peter made of loving the Lord, Jesus commanded him to shepherd His flock (w. 15-17). What did Jesus mean when He told Simon Peter to 'feed my lambs" or ”tend my sheep" (NRSV)? Jesus did not merely repeat the same words each time He repeated this command. The three commands alternate four words - two different words regarding the task to be done and two different words regarding those to whom the ministry was to be performed. The two words regarding the ministry Peter was to have are boske (translated "feed" in vv. 15-17) and poimaine (translated “tend" or “shepherd" in v. 16). The ministry was to be performed for Jesus' arnia (translated “lambs" in v. 15) and His probata (translated "sheep" in vv. 16-17). One could make too much of these different wordings, but they do connote different shades of meaning.

The first time Jesus asked the question, He commanded Peter, "Feed My lambs" (v. 15), and after the third question, 'Feed My sheep" (v. 17). The word for "feed' (w. 15-17) simply refers to providing food, but in this Context undoubtedly refers to providing the flock with spiritual nourishment. Scripture often utilizes this analogy of physical food and spiritual food.1 Jesus instructed Peter to provide spiritual sustenance for both the young lambs (v. 15) and the older sheep (v. 17). Applied in the church today, this means we should faithfully proclaim the Word of God and live it out in our lives.2

Jesus' second statement of the command to Simon Peter was, "Tend my sheep” (v. 16, NRSV). Tending sheep includes feeding them, and also guiding them, protecting them, and caring for them. Shepherding was a common profession in the largely agricultural economy of the ancient Middle East. Scripture often depicts humans as sheep who are lost without a shepherd to guide them.3 The imagery of shepherding sheep is utilized in many places throughout Scripture as a metaphor for God's care of His people4 and of His Messiah who would be a Chief Shepherd.5 In an interesting play on words in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb of God will Himself become the Great Shepherd (Rev. 7:17). Jesus was instructing Simon Peter to care for the flock of God as an undershepherd. Peter dearly took this message to heart, because in his epistle he urged his fellow elders to shepherd the flock of God lovingly until the Chief Shepherd returned (I Pet. 5:2-4). Applied to the church today, this means we must nurture, protect, and care for one another (Acts 20:28).

Shepherding is not easy work Good shepherds must be willing to lay down their lives to protect their sheep (John 10:10- 18). Jesus described to Peter the kind of martyrdom he would suffer if he became the kind of shepherd Jesus was calling him to be. He would be crucified like Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus said, "Follow Me" (John 21:18-19). Indeed, taking up our cross and following Him is the key issue for us all (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).           Bi

1. (Ezek. 2:8; 3:1; Matt. 26:26; John 4:31-34; 6:31-58; 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 6:5; 1 Pet. 2-.2)

2. (2 Cor. 4:1-6; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:2-5; Jas. 1:22-27, 1 Pet. 1:23-25; 1 John 2:14)

3. (Ps. 119:176; Isa. 53:6: Jer. 50:6; Matt. 9:36; 10:6; 15:24; 18:12; 26:31; Mark 6:34; 14.27; Luke 15:4-6; John 10:1-18; Rom. 8:36; 1 Pet. 2:25)                                                  

4. (Ps. 23:1-6; 80:1; Ezek. 34:1-31)

5. (Ezek, 37:24; Mic. 5:4; John 10:1-18; Heb. 13:20, 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4)

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 27, Number 4; Summer 2001

Jesus’ Post-Resurrection Appearances

By Tony Tench

Tony Tench is an International Mission Board teacher in the Baptist Mission in Malawi.


ITH THE FOLLOWING WORD LUKE succinctly described Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances: “He showed himself to these men and gave man convincing proofs that He was alive.  He appeared to them for over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”1

A sequencing of these appearances can be outlined beginning with Easter morning when a group of women went to visit Jesus’ tomb.  On the way to tell others about the empty tomb, they encountered the resurrected Lord.  After these women reported their encounter, Peter and the others ran with excitement to the tomb.  After the disciples had returned to their homes, Mary Magdalene remained near the tomb where she saw Jesus.

That same day two disciples who had heard the women’s report, were walking toward Emmaus disappointed by the events of the weekend.  On the road they met Jesus.  These two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem to hear that Jesus had also appeared to Peter.  That same evening Jesus appeared to the disciples while Thomas was not present.  One week later while they were still in Jerusalem, He appeared again to the disciples, but this time Thomas was with them.

As Jesus had instructed them through the women’s testimony, the disciples went to Galilee.  There, while waiting to meet with Jesus; some of the disciples went out on the lake to fish.  Jesus appeared to them on the lake shore.  Later, still in Galilee, the disciples gathered on the mountain where Jesus shared with them His plans for their ministry.  Paul recorded that Jesus appeared to 500 at one time.  This appearance may have been the mountainside event that Matthew recorded.2 If not, this appearance occurred prior to the disciples’ return to Jerusalem. 

Before the end of the 40 days of instruction, the disciples returned to Jerusalem from Galilee.  At some point, in Jerusalem, Jesus also appeared to His brother James.  Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples at Bethany where they watched as Jesus ascended into heaven.  Following the ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit’s coming.

Luke also recorded Jesus’ appearance to Saul on the Damascus road about AD 34-35.  Some time prior to Saul’s conversion, Jesus appeared from heaven to Stephen as he was being stoned to death.  Years later, about AD 90, John wrote that Jesus appeared to him on the island of Patmos.

The significance of the appearances is found in the following answers to the question, Why did Jesus reveal Himself first to those faithful women?  They were with Him when He died.  These women, whose “testimony carried little if any official or legal value in the first century,”3 represented the poor in spirit receiving the kingdom and the meek inheriting the earth.  Jesus sent these humble, het faithful ones with the message of new life.

THE GRIEVING COMFORTED (John 20:10-18) Jesus next appeared to Mary Magdalene.  Her tears of grief were turned into joy at the sight of Jesus.  Her testimony to the disciples was an excited, “I have seen the Lord.”  Thus is the testimony of one who has known the comfort of the risen Lord.

SCRIPTURE FULFILLED (Luke 24:13-35) Jesus found the two on their was to Emmaus disappointed because they had hoped that Jesus was the One to redeem Israel (v. 21).  Jesus helped renew their hope by showing them from Scripture that He was the One; in Him all Scripture had been fulfilled.

THE FALLEN RESTORED (Luke 24: 34; 1 Cor. 15:5) Peter had denied Jesus at His trial.  He had failed miserably to keep his promise to stand with Jesus no matter what.  Through this appearance, Jesus forgave and restored His fallen disciple to the place of leadership the Lord had planned for him to accomplish.

PEACE, PURPOSE, AND POWER (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:4)  The accounts of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on Easter evening have three commonalties.  Jesus came into the midst of their fears with the promise of peace.  He described for them from Scripture the purpose for which He had called them, in other words, to be sent as witnesses of His gospel.  And He promised them the power of the Holy Spirit who would soon some to dwell within them.

DOUBTS REMOVED (John 20:24-29) By the next week Thomas had already carefully explained his doubts.  Thomas wanted to place his finger in Jesus’ hand and to place his hand on Jesus’ side.  Jesus appeared to Thomas to remove his doubts.  When Jesus came, He offered to let Thomas do what he needed to do.  He met Thomas at the place of his doubts and dispelled them.

“FOLLOWSHIP” RESTATED (John 21:1-23) As Jesus walked with Peter by the sea, He allowed Peter to renew his commitment to care for the flock of disciples whom the Lord had already called.  Peter had regained hope from Jesus’ first appearance, but there by the lake Jesus challenged him to stand anew as the “rock” in whom Jesus had placed confidence.

SERVICE COMMISSIONED (Matt. 28:16-20)  Still in Galilee, the disciples arrived at the place where Jesus had instructed them to gather.  There Jesus gave them the “mission statement” for the rest of their lives.  Based on His authority, they were to go, disciple, baptize, and teach, knowing all the while that their Lord would be with them.

TESTIMONY CORROBORATED (1 Cor. 15:6)  The significance of Jesus’ appearance to a group of 500 was to document that many people had seen the resurrected Lord.  A group so large was sufficient testimony to the event.  The story was not fabricated!

TRANSFORMATION REALIZED (1 Cor. 15:7)  Jesus’ appearance to His brother James showed the change that came from an encounter with the resurrected Lord.  James and his family were not simply doubtful of Jesus’ ministry; they were opposed to it (Mark 3:21).  So this appearance transformed James’s skepticism into real faith as he became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

VISION FOCUSED (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-11)  On the day of His ascension, Jesus helped focus His disciples vision for their future.  He blessed them, bringing closure to their time together.  They responded with joy, praising God for new life in Christ.  Then Jesus promised them power, sending them to the rest of the world as His witnesses.

ASSURANCE REVEALED (Acts 7:55-56)  Having proclaimed the gospel before a hostile crowd, Stephen was stoned.  He saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand in heaven.  This appearance gave Stephen assurance that his death was not in vain.  Because he had been faithful to proclaim the gospel without regard for his personal well-being, he would be received by the Lord!

APOSTLE CHOSEN (Acts 9:3-6,17; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8)  God had chosen Paul as His messenger to “. . . Gentiles and kings ans the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15, NASB).  Paul would bridge the gospel was one sent with a message.  Saul had been an apostle of the high priest, but this appearance transformed his message from persecution to proclamation of eternal life in Jesus!

HOPE VICTORIOUS (Rev. 1:10-18)  As the first century came to a close in the midst of great persecution, Jesus revealed Himself to John.  Imprisoned on Patmos, John received the “revelation” as a message of hope for all believers in every age who lay down their lives for their Lord.  Victory over physical and spiritual tribulation was promised for all who were faithful to the Lord, “the Living One” (v. 18, NIV).      

1.  Acts 1:3, New International Version.

2.  James Orr, “The Resurrection of Jesus” in the Resurrection of Christ  by H. C. G. Moule and James Orr (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., 1980 reprint), 156.

3.  Holman Bible Handbook, David S. Dockery, gen. ed. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 604.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 35, No. 2; Winter 2008-09.

Jesus Post Resurrection Appearances

By Gregory T. Pouncey

Gregory T. Pouncey is pastor of First Baptist Church, Tillman’s Corner, Mobile, Alabama.


HEN THE DISCIPLES first proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, they did not simply include the fact that “Jesus died for our sins and that He was raised.”1  Rather, they emphasized that He died, was raised, and appeared to eyewitnesses after His resurrection.  Nearing the conclusion of the first recorded Christian sermon, Simon Peter said, “God has resurrected this Jesus.  We are all witnesses of this” (Acts 2:32).2  At Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Colonnade, the apostle proclaimed, “You killed the source of life, whom God raised from the dead; we are witnesses of this” (3:15).  When Peter responded to the high priest and Sanhedrin after his arrest, he defended his right to preach the message by stating, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him” (5:32).  To the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house, Peter declared, “God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead” (10:40-41).  Lastly, Paul summarized the gospel thusly, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.  Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:3-6).  But why were the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ central to the gospel? 

The importance of the post-resurrection appearances lies in the promise and fulfillment of Jesus’ foretelling of His death and resurrection.  One of the most striking traditions of the Gospels is Jesus’ threefold passion declaration (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34 and parallels).  In these statements, Jesus explained He would suffer rejection, be killed, and rise from the dead.  Jesus’ death would be vindicated by His resurrection; but in order for that promise to reach its intended fulfillment, people would have to witness the resurrected Christ.3   Certainly the people closest to Jesus, though they had heard His statements of His death and resurrection, did not expect Him to rise from the dead on Sunday morning.  This was evidenced by the women wondering who would roll away the stone for them so they could finish anointing Jesus’ body (Mark 16:3).  Clearly they were not expecting to encounter the resurrected Christ.

Neither did the disciples dare believe that Jesus had fulfilled His passion statements.  They thought the women’s report of an empty tomb to be “nonsense” (Luke 24:11).  Thomas refused to believe that Jesus’ passion statements could be fulfilled—until he saw the resurrected Christ with his own eyes (John 20:25b).  The disciples and the others who were closest to Jesus certainly were not in a heightened sense of expectation that Jesus’ words would be fulfilled—but something changed their minds.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances changed the disciples from defeated skeptics to encouraged believers.  Though reconstructing an exact timetable and chronology of Jesus’ appearances is difficult, the fact that He appeared to those who knew Him best is certain.  Something changed the disciples from their skepticism to belief, and that something was seeing the resurrected Christ.4  Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene (vv. 11-18).  Again, she was not expecting Jesus’ resurrection.  When she heard someone talking to her and asking her why she was crying, she thought it was the gardener.  But when Jesus called her name, she realized who this was; and this discourage woman returned to the disciples with encouraging news, “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18).  Apparently on the way to tell the disciples, Jesus made an appearance to the other women who had accompanied Mary to the tomb (Matt. 28:8-10).  These same women who had pondered how the stone would be rolled away now worshiped Jesus by falling at His feet.

After appearing to the women near the tomb, Jesus made an appearance to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32).  These travelers had heard stories of strange occurrences at the tomb, but they did not dare believe that the prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection had been fulfilled.  The resurrected Christ appeared to them along the way and even chided them for being unwise and slow to believe (v. 25).  However, when He broke bread with them, they realized that they had indeed seen the resurrected Christ.

Jesus appeared several times specifically to His disciples.  John 20:19-23 records Jesus appearing to 10 of His disciples; Thomas, though, was absent.  Jesus made an appearance eight days later to all of His disciples, including Thomas (John 20:26-29).  This changed Thomas from skeptic to believer; he responded to Jesus in faith, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).  Jesus also appeared to the Eleven (Luke 24:33-49) and later to seven apostles (John 21:1-14).  In this last appearance, He reassured Peter of his calling to ministry and encouraged the disciples to shepherd His sheep (v. 16).  Prior to this encounter, Peter had returned to his fishing nets; he had been a fisherman before Jesus called him to fish for men (Matt. 4:19).  Jesus also appeared on a mountain to teach the disciples, giving them the Great Commission (28:19-20).  Interestingly, some worshiped; others doubted.  They still struggled with the fulfillment of Jesus’ earlier statements.  However, Jesus continued to appear to them in order to help them believe and to instruct them in what they would do after His ascension.

Paul mentioned three appearances of Jesus that the Gospels do not.  In his list in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, he mentioned Jesus appearing to over 500 brothers at one time.  We know no further details about this, except that some of the witnesses were still alive and available to validate the claims of Jesus’ resurrection.  Paul also mentioned Jesus appearing to James, His brother, and to Paul himself, though the apostle admitted this was after the ascension, explaining he was “abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15:8).  The increasing number of people who saw Jesus served to verify the truth that He had indeed fulfilled the predictions of His death and resurrection.

Jesus’ final appearance to His disciples was at His ascension (Acts 1:4-11).  Luke described what Jesus did: “After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them my many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and dpeking about the kingdom of God” (v. 3).  This summarized the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.  Jesus had foretold that He would die and rise in three days.  Then He validated His promise by appearing to various groups of people, convincing them that He had fulfilled His promise.  Then He ascended into heaven and left those eyewitnesses to bear witness to the truth of His claims.  Jesus emphasized this in His words in His special appearance to Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Those who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29).                                                                                                                                         Bi


Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus:

·   To Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)

·   To the other women (Matthew 28:8-10)

·   To Cleopas and another disciple on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-32)

·   To ten disciples excluding Thomas (John 20:19-23)

·   To eleven disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-30)

·   To eleven disciples again (Luke 24:33-39)

·   To seven disciples (John 21:1-14)

·   To the disciples in giving the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)

·   To Simon Peter and the other disciples (1 Corinthians 15:5)

·   To the 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6)

·   To James (1 Corinthians 15:7)

·   To the disciples at His ascension (Acts 1:4-9)

·   To Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8)

1.  Stein, Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 270.

2.  All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

3.  Osborne, “Resurrection” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Green and McKnight (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 675.

4.  For a list of resurrection appearances, see Strobel, The Case of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 234.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2015.




(22, 115)  What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found:  What Persian king exempted the priests and Levites from paying taxes?  Answer Next Week : 

Last Week’s Question:  What prophet was sent to encourage the rebuilding of the temple under the priest Joshua?  Answer: Haggai,