The Lord asks Peter what he already knew, and that not once, but a second and a third time, whether Peter loved him. And each time he has the same answer, that he is loved, while just as often he gives Peter the same charge to feed His sheep. To the threefold denial there is now appended a threefold confession of love. His tongue is not to yield a feebler service to love than it did to fear, and the testimony of his word must be just as open in the presence of life as it was before the threat of death. Let it be the office of love to feed the Lord’s flock, if it was the signal of fear to deny the Shepherd.
Those who have this purpose in feeding the flock of Christ, that they may have them as their own, and not as Christ’s, are convicted of loving themselves, and not Christ. They are motivated by the desire either of boasting, or wielding power, or acquiring gain, and not from the love of obeying, serving, and pleasing God. The thrice repeated saying of Christ condemns those, therefore, of whom the apostle complains that they seek their own interests, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s (Phil 2,21). For what do the words mean: “Do you love me? Feed my sheep”? It is as though he said, “If you love me, do not think of feeding yourself, but feed my sheep as mine, and not as your own; seek my glory in them, and not your own; my dominion, and not yours; my gain, and not yours… Let us, then, not love ourselves, but him; and in feeding his sheep, let us be seeking the things which are his, not the things which are our own.