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Peter and Jesus

 

DO YOU LOVE ME?

John 21

 When the meal of love had ended, Jesus started a conversation of love. Eating together should always be more than feeding ourselves in the presence of others, like cattle at a feedlot. Apart from the occasion to socialize, a meal can have a wonderful symbolic meaning of friendship and outreach, closeness and sharing.

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me” (Greek: agapas me) “more than these?” He pointed either to the other disciples or to the fish. Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know I like You” (Greek: philo se).

There is a difference of strength between the two words. In the gospels agape is always used to indicate God’s love for us, and our love for Him and for fellow believers; philo is used to indicate fondness for people, animals or things. The name Philip (Philippos) literally means “liking horses.” Although they probably spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, John phrased it in Greek in such a way that the difference in word nuance was preserved.

Peter was a broken man after he had failed his Friend and Teacher in the crisis hour. Before that, he had boasted that even if all would forsake Jesus, he, Peter, would never do such a thing. Now that his inflated ego had been punctured, he was not going to engage in big talk again. Therefore, he modestly said what he felt he could truthfully say, “Yes, Lord, I like You.” In his shame, he made an understatement regarding his love for Jesus.

Jesus repeated His question, using the same word agape, but leaving out the reference to others. Peter responded again with the same word philo, confirming his friendship with Jesus. Then Jesus bowled him the heartbreaker: “Simon, do you like Me?” Peter’s heart ached when Jesus the third time said, “phileis me, do you like me—are you sure about your friendship-love?” With tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, he re-affirmed softly: “Lord, You know all things, You know I like You, You know I’m Your friend.” He stuck to philo se.

Three times he had denied that he knew Jesus. Three times he now affirmed his love for his Friend. Three times Jesus responded with an assignment: “feed My lambs”, “tend My sheep”, “feed My sheep.” Yeshua replaced Peter’s heavy yoke of guilt with His light yoke of forgiveness and service. In the presence of his fellow disciples, Jesus restored Peter to fellowship with Him and with them. Jesus accepted Peter’s mustard-seed-faith and his friendship-love.

A prayer: Lord,  I say with all my heart: I love You.

A thought: Which word will I use when Jesus asks me this question?