15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
Peter has seen the charcoal fire; he has been reminded of his denying Jesus three times around the charcoal fire in the high priest’s courtyard. We have seen his eagerness to do anything for Jesus now, swimming to shore, dragging in the net. But now, Jesus asks him a question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He uses Peter’s formal name, rather than the name, “Peter” or “rock”, which he had given him – sort of like when your mother calls you by your full name and you know you’d better sit up and take notice! “Do you love me more than these?” This question can mean all sorts of things – more than fishing? more than the other disciples love? more than he loves the others? The essence of the question, however, is “Do you love me?” And Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” Or, take care of those who were mine, of those who would follow me. And then, Jesus asks again, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” no conditions or qualifiers this time, simply, “Do you love me?” Again, Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” Again, he tells Peter to care for his followers. A third time, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Now Peter is hurt, and he says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” In the courtyard Peter had denied Jesus three times; now, after the resurrection, beside the sea, he has the opportunity to profess his love for Jesus three times, to know that he is forgiven. Peter can again step into the leadership role, caring for Jesus’ followers, as Jesus tells him to do.
Jesus says a strange thing then – he tells Peter that when he gets old someone will tie a belt around him and take him where he does not want to go – the author says that he says this in order to show Peter the kind of death he would die. Peter would be crucified by Nero in Rome; the tradition says that he was crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to die like Jesus. But that would be some 30 – 40 years away, and in the meanwhile, Peter would lead the fledgling church.
And Jesus closes this section by saying once again to Peter, as he had when he first called the fishermen by the sea, “Follow me.”
The attachment is the chapel built on the shore of the Galilee, "The Church of the Primacy of Peter", in the place where these things are said to have happened.