As the “breast” from correspondence denotes the good of charity, and the good of charity is to do what is good from willing it, therefore John, who represented this good, lay on the breast or in the bosom of the Lord (John 13:23, 25); by which is signified that this good was loved by the Lord; for “to lie on the breast and in the bosom” denotes to love. He who knows this is also able to know what is signified by these words of the Lord to Peter and to John:
Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith, Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My lambs. He saith to him again, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith, Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, Son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved, therefore he said, Lord Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep. Verily I say unto thee, When thou wast younger, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not. When He had said this, He said to him, Follow Me. Peter turning about saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also lay on His breast at supper. Peter seeing him saith, Lord, what about this man? Jesus said to him, If I will that he abide till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me (John 21:15-21)
no one can know what these words signify except by the internal sense, which teaches that the twelve disciples of the Lord represented all things of faith and of love in the complex, as did the twelve tribes of Israel; and that Peter represented faith, James charity, and John the works or goods of charity. …
As faith without charity does not love the Lord, and yet can teach such things as belong to faith and love, and to the Lord, therefore the Lord said three times, “Lovest thou Me,” “Feed My lambs,” and “Feed My sheep,” and for this reason the Lord says, “When thou wast younger, 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 lead thee whither thou wouldest not,” by which is signified that the faith of the church in its rising is in the good of innocence like an infant; but that when it is in its setting, which is in the end of the church, faith would be no longer in this good, nor in the good of charity; and that then evil and falsity would lead, which are signified by “when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not;” thus from being free it would become enslaved.
“To gird” denotes to know and perceive truths in light from good; “to walk” denotes to live according to these truths; hence “to gird himself and walk whither he would,” denotes to act from freedom, and to act from freedom is to act from the affection of truth from good; and is to be led by the Lord; but “to be girded by another, and to be led whither he would not,” denotes to be a slave, and to be a slave is to act from evil, thus to be led by hell.
That “lambs,” of which the Lord first speaks, denote those who are in the good of innocence; and that “sheep,” of which the Lord speaks in the second and third place, denote those who are in the good of charity and from this in faith; and that “three” denotes a whole period from beginning to end. Therefore, as the Lord spoke to Peter concerning the church from its rising to its setting, He said three times, “Lovest thou Me?”
But by “John following the Lord” was signified that they who are in the goods of charity follow the Lord and are loved by the Lord, neither do they draw back; while they who are in faith separate not only do not follow the Lord, but are also indignant about it, like Peter at that time – not to mention more arcana which are contained in the above words. From all this it is also plain that to “lie on the breast and in the bosom of the Lord” denotes to be loved by Him, and that this is said of those who are in the goods of charity, like what is said of His “carrying them in His bosom” (Isa. 40:10, 11), and of “lying in the bosom” (2 Sam. 12:3).