Love for Christ is Usefulness.

We learn in John 21:15-19 that love for Christ is usefulness. Christ calls Peter to be useful and to give his life.

Your usefulness is initiated by Christ.

Our provider in every way, Christ provides breakfast on the shore of Galilee for Peter and the disciples with him.

This time with Peter and the disciples is initiated by Jesus with a purpose. Jesus specifically addresses Peter three times by his birthname, Simon, rather than by the name Cephas that Jesus had given him (John 1:40-42; Matthew 16:18-20). Cephas was not a proper name but means "rock" in Aramaic. The Greek equivalent is "petros" from which we get Peter.

Ephesians 2:19-22 helps us understand Matthew 16:18-20 correctly. Along with a new name, Jesus gives Peter (and the other apostles) authority as part of the foundation of Christianity with Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone.

At this point in John 21, Peter is recovering from his failure of denying Christ three times, but by Acts 2, Peter is living up to the new name Jesus had given him. Peter’s failure did not stop the purposes of Christ. This should be a comfort for every believer.

Jesus has a plan for Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, telling him to feed His sheep.

In John 21:18-19, Jesus describes the preparation for one being crucified, indicating the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After this statement, Jesus tells Peter to follow Him.

Your usefulness is defined by Christ.

This conversation with Peter in John 21:15-17 is about Jesus defining usefulness. Two different words for love are being used between Jesus and Peter. There are never exact word usage rules in any language. The same concept may be expressed in different ways. We see this in regards to the word love.

Peter needed a reorientation, a change in focus and priorities. His definition of love for Jesus included cutting off a servant’s ear (John 18:10-11) only to be followed by three times denying Jesus.

It is Jesus who defines what loving Jesus looks like. Three times Jesus said loving Him would be seen when His followers feed His sheep, not physical food but the Word of God (Matthew 4:4).

Believers need to consume the Word of God, to internalize this truth and be changed by it.

Your usefulness is measured by Christ.

According to this passage, love for Christ is measurable. With Christ’s perspective, we can participate in the care of the church body. We can invest in other people and minister the Word of God.

Loving Christ in this way is critical to the life of the church (Revelation 2).

Application Points

  • How do you love Christ? Do you love Jesus the way He has defined it? What are you doing with the Bible in the lives of others? You can start now by studying God’s Word with another believer.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Matthew 16:13-20; John 10; Acts 2:22-47; Ephesians 2; Revelation 2