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. – John 21:15-17

This is another passage Roman Catholic Church uses to suggest that Jesus made Peter His representative on earth to justify the papal office. You can check the one from Matthew 16:18 here.

John 21:15-17 is Jesus giving Peter instruction for his (Peter) own ministry, to take care of His Church (disciples – not necessarily the Apostles) IN JERUSALEM. He gave Paul another instruction, to take care of the Gentiles [to win and keep them] (Acts 9:15; 13:47; 15:3 etc…); the same thing Paul told Timothy to take care of his congregation (2Timothy 4:1-5…).

Paul, when giving instruction to the elders of the Church in Ephesus, said the same thing as Jesus to Peter, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Then he gave the reason, “29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31)

Peter was only head of the Church at Jerusalem, if any was the head of the one in Rome, it was Paul. Truth is, God actually gave Paul more revelations than Peter. Peter himself knew this (2Peter 3:15-16). If Peter was His SOLE REPRESENTATIVE, why didn’t He reveal them all to him? Even John wrote more books than Peter; Jesus even revealed the book of Revelation to him, not Peter. Why? Because they had different ministries!

If you read verse 7 of the same John 21, it was John who told Peter that it was Jesus who talked to them. Why/how couldn’t Peter have known it? Wasn’t he the Pope, the ‘know it all’ one? (Not against Peter at all, he was a great Apostle of Christ)

Jesus had to talk to Peter one on one because Peter was so ashamed that he denied Jesus thrice. Peter could have killed himself like Judas if Jesus hadn’t prayed for him prior to His death (Luke 22:31-32). After His resurrection, Jesus’ first message through the angel was to tell his disciples AND PETER to meet Him in Galilee (Mark 16:7).

Why not just tell his disciples? Why singling out Peter?

That’s because Jesus knew how Peter felt about denying Him. So in John 21:15-17, Jesus was only reminding Peter to pray for the other disciples in case they are in the same situation as he (Peter) was (Luke 22:32):

31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32  But I HAVE PRAYED FOR THEE, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, STRENGTHEN THY BRETHREN.

That’s what happened in John 21:15-17, not that Jesus made him His representative on earth. Peter probably was still ashamed; he didn’t even want to be alone with Jesus. He said what about the others? Jesus said don’t worry about them; I want to talk to you personally.

If He truly wanted to make Peter His sole representative on earth, He would have wanted the other disciples to witness and let them know that Peter is the Pope; but that didn’t happened. Nowhere in the entire Bible did Peter even suggest that he was the only representative of Christ on earth. Rather, he said all Christians are (1 Peter 4:12-17; 1 Peter 2:5-10; 2 Peter 1:1-4)

He gave the authority to represent Him to the Church [i.e. All Christians] on the earth:

21 Then said Jesus to THEM again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, EVEN SO SEND I YOU. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on THEM, and saith unto THEM, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 WHOSE SOEVER SINS YE (all of them) REMIT, THEY ARE REMITTED UNTO THEM; and WHOSE SOEVER SINS YE (all of them) RETAIN, THEY ARE RETAINED. – John 20:21-23

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and HATH GIVEN US (Christians) THE MINISTRY of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and HATH COMMITTED UNTO US (Christians) the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then WE (Christians) ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (Further Passages Luke 10:19; Mark 16:15-18…)

As we can see, using this passage to justify the papal office is frivolous because Jesus already gave the Church (all Christians) to represent Him on earth; as He is, so are WE on earth (1 John 4:17)

  • Further interesting things to learn from John 21:15-17

Something worth noticing in this encounter (John 21:15-17), Jesus asked Peter the same question thrice (Do you love me?), and the Bible says that Peter was grieved because (perhaps) he thought Jesus was gonna rebuke him for denying Him thrice, but Jesus never even mentioned it. He only strengthened and counseled Peter to take care, pray (feed) for His disciples in case they fell from grace, as He did to him.

Furthermore, Peter actually didn’t reply Jesus correctly (twice). Jesus asked him, if he love (Greek: agapao, ‘God kind of love’) Him; Peter twice answered, yes Lord, I love (Greek: Phileo, ‘brotherly or friendly love’) you. The THIRD time, Jesus asked him, Do you love (Greek: Phileo) me. Peter knew, he should have answered, I love (Greek: agapao) you the first times. That’s why he was grieved, not that because Jesus asked him the same question thrice; but because Jesus wanted ‘agapao’, not ‘phileo’. Interestingly, the third time Jesus asked, He used ‘phileo’, instead of ‘agapao’.