The Concluding Allegory of Johnís Gospel: Feeding the Lord's Flock

Jesusí Final Instructions to Peter

by Steve Santini

May 2012

 

Much of Johnís gospel was written as an allegory. An allegory is both literally and figuratively true. Being so, the facts stated in an allegory also represent and point to something beyond themselves. For example, the detailed Eastern wedding feast, in scope, points toward spiritual forgiveness and the hope of regeneration.[i] Language, rhetoric and culture in the ancient Middle East were spiritually figurative. Natural objects like animals, trees and mountains had names with allegorical meanings that pointed to aspects of the divine. Johnís gospel employs this cultural figurative lifestyle and associated figurative rhetoric to direct oneís attention from the temporal to the higher spiritual.

John leads one to the allegorical nature of Eastern thought in scripture when he includes the fact that Jesus was speaking allegorically in chapters fourteen, fifteen and sixteen of his gospel. Jesus said ďThese things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.Ē The Greek word translated ďproverbsĒ is defined as figurative language including both metaphors and allegories.

The apostle Paul, educated at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most enduringly revered Hebrew scholars, frequently wrote allegorically. In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul states that Abrahamís fatherhood of his two sons is an ďallegoryĒ. (Gal. 4:24) He explains that Ishmael, born of the bond woman, Hagar, agarHrepresents the earthly bound Jerusalem and that Isaac, born of the free woman, Sarah, represents the free heavenly Jerusalem that is the mother of us all. Similarly, the apostle Paul implies that the marriage relationship is an allegory when he concludes his Ephesiansí section on marriage by writing, ďbut I speak concerning Christ and the church.Ē (Eph. 5:21-32)

John concludes his gospel with a record of what he witnessed in a conversation between Jesus and Peter. In its fullness, the conversation summarizes Johnís gospel in which, through the allegories of Eastern marriage and family customs, things that were both then to come, and are ultimately yet to come, are revealed

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.

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.

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.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. John 21:15-25

This section may be the most concise frameworks for understanding the pinnacle of the great mystery that the apostle Paul was raised up to preach. There are four major points from the section directed towards this understanding: 1) Jesusí three requests of Peter to tend to the sheep of the Fatherís flock; 2) Jesusí statement that another would gird him when he was old; 3) John witness of the fact that Peter would glorify God as he passed through death; and 4) Peterís question to Jesus regarding what John would do in the future.

In a flock of sheep there are four groupings that each need distinctive methods of care. They are young males or lambs, young females, mature females and mature males or rams. Shepherds of large flocks had assistants that were responsible for each of these four groups.[ii] In this record Jesus was assigning Peter the responsibility for three of the groups; the young males, the young females and the mature females.

In the Greek language from which the King Jamesí version of the bible was translated there are four different words for each of the four groups in a flock. They are: young males or lambs-arnion, young females-probation, mature females-probaton, and mature males-aren. Aren or mature males are noticeably absent in Jesusí request for Peter to assist him with his care of the entire flock.

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.(arnion)

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.(probaton)

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. (probation)[iii]

However, the word aren does appear distinctively once in the scripture records. In chapter ten of Lukeís writing, after Jesus had sent out the twelve apostles in chapter nine, he sends out ďother seventy alsoĒ.

After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Luke 10:1-3

The Greek word for other here is word heteros. Basically, it means another of a different kind in contrast to the Greek word allos that means another of similar kind in sequence. The usage of this word heteros in the subject change following the record between the sending out of the twelve and the seventy in Lukeís gospel is revealing. In the interim between the sending out of the twelve and the seventy Jesus fed the five thousand, was identified by Peter as the Messiah, revealed his future coming in association with the holy[iv] angels and then was gloriously transformed on the mount with the manifested Moses and Elijah.

After the statement that the seventy were of a different kind, the word aren is used in verse three. Here, it is translated as lambs but according to Strongís Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, it should be translated as rams or, in other words, the mature males of the Fatherís flock. Also, the Greek words probation and probaton translated as sheep in scripture are never translated as lambs or rams in secular classical Greek

In this regard, it is important to note that the twelve were given power and sent out as the probaton rather than aren according to Matthewís record. (Matthew 10:16) So, according to Matthewís record of the sending out of the twelve apostles, Jesus sends them as they allegorically were to become; mature female sheep of the Fatherís flock.

In contrast to the twelve, the seventy were ďappointedĒ by Jesus. In the Greek language this word means to be lifted up and shown forth for a specific task. (Friberg, Lindell Scott) Here in this record the seventy appointed aren[v],were lifted up for the specific task of preparing the way for his then final entrance into Jerusalem without having gone through the forthcoming full maturation process

(A thorough comparative study of these two records exhibits noticeable differences in the spiritual nature of those of the twelve sent out and the seventy sent out.)

Peter had heard that there were others in the history of Israel that had been of a different spiritual nature than the apostles. He had been present when Jesus rebuked James and John as such:

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. Luke 9:51-55

As an Easterner, Peter also had an understanding that there were both masculine and feminine representations among Jesusí followers at that time when Jesus was instructing him. He had been there as one of the twelve when he was identified as a figurative probaton and he had been there when Jesus had sent out the other seventy of a different kind identifying them figuratively as aren. In addition, he had heard Jesus say to him and the other of the twelve that he was going to prepare a place for them in his fatherís house; a statement that the Eastern groom made to his bride. He also understood that he was not to be the forthcoming under shepherd for the adult spiritual males or aren of the Fatherís flock.

Peter understood that the mature feminine, represented by the wife in this extended figure of an Eastern family, was responsible exclusively for the maturation of the young male and female children in the family. But when a male child reached his thirteenth birthday his continued maturation was the responsibility of the matured masculine represented in this family figure by the father.

He also realized that a family without the support of the matured masculine members was considered as orphanos; a state in which Jesus had promised the twelve that he would not leave them. (John 14:18)

In this context, Peter also had an understanding of Jesusí next statement to him.

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. John 21:18

Within the figurative Eastern dialogue Peter understood that to be girded by another was to become married. In the final ceremony of the Eastern wedding feast the groom knotted the girdle of his bride symbolizing his commitment to sustain her soul and that of hers passed on to the children to be generated by the union. So, Peter knew there would be a time during which he would be singularly responsible for the young males, young females, and mature females of the flock without the support of the mature masculine. But now he knew that when he was old he would be united with the matured masculine identified as saints in Paulís gospel.

The next statement, although generally misunderstood for a long time, continues with the flow of this extended figurative instruction given to Peter.

This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

In this verse the words by what death are poios thanatos in the Greek texts. The sense of the words from lexicons is passing through the rising tide of death. It does not necessarily mean the immediacy of dying. Jesus had just informed Peter that he would become joined with another when he was old. As the context states, it was after this that Peter was to glorify God as he was dying in his old age. (II Peter 1:14)

Historically these verses played out as represented in the developing relationship between Peter and Paul during the first century church. The records are expressed in the book of Acts, Paulís epistle to the Galatians and Peterís letters to the faithful. In the early first century church Paul was a young masculine that depended on Peterís shepherding. (Acts 9:27, 15:1-30, Galatians 1:15-19) In the fourteenth year after Paul was converted he declared his independence from the shepherding of Peter and the other apostles. (Galatians 2) Near the end, in Peterís first letter to the femininely represented faithful, Peter wrote of a time period between the sufferings of Christ and the glories of Christ.

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:

Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. I Peter 1:10-12[vi]

In Peterís second and final letter he states that his time is short, then writes of the distant future times and then confirms Paulís ministry on the subject.

Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. II Peter 1:14

Then, in conclusion to his second letter Peter acknowledges Paul as a beloved brother with a truth confirming his own yet beyond his own.[vii]

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. II Peter 3:15-17

The closing of Peter's first letter from Babylon reveals that Silvanus was present and the scribal writer of Peter's letter. Silvanus was one of Paul's closest ministerial companions. The Mark, likewise identified at the end of Peterís first letter, was most likely John Mark whom Peter nurtured until he matured as an aren and began to associate himself fully with Paul's ministry. The word for son is teknon and can be used as a literal son or a spiritual son. Marcus is a Latin name that is written in Greek as Mark. So, it is doubtful that the Hebrew Peter would have named a literal son with a Gentile name. Then, as documented above, Peter in his first letter states that his time is short, then, in his second and final letter, he writes of the then distant future times and closes by confirming Paulís writing on the subject.

It was not the manner in which Peter died that glorified God. It was what Peter accomplished during the times leading up to his demise. In his letters he informed the then present and future mature figurative feminine of the matured masculine position in the family of God an their eventual union. He wrote of the significance of the appearances of Moses and Elijah with the glorified Jesus on the holy mount. In these waning years he was writing in regards to the then distant end of the age and beginning of a new age. After his difficult transition from his position as the early church leader, Peter, by the time of his writing, recognized that it was Paul and his ministration that was girding him when he was old.

At this point in Jesusí figurative instructions in Johnís gospel, Peter had an understanding of what the extent of his responsibilities were to be. He also heard that when he is old he is to be girded by another of masculine spiritual nature. Seeing John, the disciple Jesus loved, it appears as if bold Peter curiously asked if John were to be the one to gird him when he was old.

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus responded.

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

This John, the author who had a noticeably unique relationship with Jesus, did live till Jesus, the Christ came-not literally at the time, as misunderstood by the then present apostles, but as Jesus had told them earlier in his allegory; as the emergent second spirit Ė the spirit of truth.

It was in from this attained perspective of the spirit of truth that John retrospectively wove the allegory of masculine and feminine union through his layered figurative gospel unto this concluding encounter between Peter and Jesus, the Christ.

Likewise, all of Paulís writings were from the spirit of truth sent into the figuratively masculine of the body of Christ. In Ephesians, the apex of Paulís revelation from the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, the matured feminine and matured masculine as the faithful in Christ Jesus and the saints are delineated, then brought back together in the allegory of marriage as Paul is closing his letter.

This John, as a maturing masculine in the early first century church, had later become an adherent of Paulís revelation. From the similarities in Johnís and Paulís writings[viii], it appears that Johnís mature purpose in writing was to confirm to the church the truth of the apostle Paulís revelation of the family of God in heaven and on earth as the one body of Christ comprised of both mature masculine and mature feminine in union.

Why is this understanding important? John wrote:

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. John 10:16

The first fold was that of the sufferings of Christ. It, as the suffering Jesus, met its demise with the death of Paul and the rejection of his gospel in the midst of the first century. The second fold is yet to come.[ix] It will begin when the glories of Christ are manifested in his transformed saints-the glorified aren appearing like Moses and Elijah on the holy mount-to precede the Lord himself as his holy angels.

 

Johnís Gospel Series

 

Four Other Accounts of Marriagies in Johnís Gospel

 

The Two Comforters of John's Gospel:

The Feminine Holy Spirit and The Spirit of Truth

 

Identifying the Spirit of Truth

 

The Concluding Allegory of Johnís Gospel:

Feeding the Lord's Flock

 

Introduction and Main Index

 

 

 

 

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:31,32

 

 

 

 

 



[i] Edersheim, A. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, i pg 353

[ii] Lamsa, G. M., Gospel Light, p. 494,495

[iii] Berry, G. R., Interlinear Greek English New Testament, pg 310, footnote p

[iv] Strongís Gk #40 saint and holy in the Greek language are the identical word hagios. When hagios is employed singularly it means saints.

[v] Luke 10:3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs (aren) among wolves. This is the only usage of aren in the NT

[vi] Paul also wrote of two bookends of the age extending from Jesusí first coming to his second coming as Jesus the Christ. In I Corinthians 10:11 Paul wrote ďNow all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.Ē Here the Greek word for world is aion defined by Strongís as age. In the other places of Paulís writings this word is translated age. The Greek word cosmos, not aion, is the word translated as world most often in the New Testament.

[vii] Peterís ministry was that of the feminine Holy Spirit through Jesus while Paulís ministry was that of the Father through Christ.

[viii] Ring, S. R., A paper presented at the Xth Symposium Syriacum, Granada, Spain, September 22nd to 27th 2008.

[ix] In the visual heavenly realm these two folds are represented by the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper or Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. In antiquity they were known as The Greater Sheepfold and the Lesser Sheepfold. One other ancient name recorded in Frances Rollestonís Mazzoroth is ďdaughters of the assembly.Ē http://philologos.org/%5F%5Feb%2Dmazzaroth/202.htm#cancer In this context it is interesting to note that the Greater Sheepfold and the Lesser Sheepfold at the zenith of heaven are separated by Draco. This separation may represent the time span of what Paulís termed as ďmanís dayĒ As such it would separate the bookends of this age or, in other words, the two folds of Johnís gospel