There are some things the English language can not explain thoroughly. John 21 is one of them for no matter which English translation you read, you don’t get the full story.
It’s the only passage I can think of where the word LOVE does not do justice.
You know the one–where Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves Him. Three times (Read HERE).
But the story changed for me when I read the original Greek (and by that, I mean a commentary which explained it to me*). You see there are a few levels of love. This portion of scripture uses two, and it’s what makes the story applicable to you and I.
When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus used the form of agapao (agape) love. The selfless, sacrificial kind of love. The same kind of love we find here:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Peter responded that yes, he did love Him, in the phileo sense. The friendly, brotherly kind of love. Which, at first glance, I get because let’s face it — I don’t hear too many men confessing love for each other — a radical kind of love at that.
So Jesus asked again. Giving him a second chance…
A part of me thinks Peter was simply being honest with where he was at the time. For he had failed Jesus. He had shown doubt. He had proof he hadn’t given his all — the way agapao love requires.
But Jesus…in grace-like fashion…steps down to the level
we’re Peter’s at. And accepts us him where he is as He asks Peter a third time:
“Peter, do you phileo love me?”
Jesus didn’t belittle him like He could have. He didn’t scold him for failing.
Still it hurt Peter. Maybe because it was the truth. I’m expecting he felt guilty. I feel like I get Peter, so I’d even be willing to bet there was a bit of pride blocking the way of him fully surrendering.
This is where love takes hold as Jesus reminds Peter of where he’s been and where he’s going. He showed Peter he had agapao love in him –he displayed it as a child. And He prophesied Peter would achieve it once again, even in his own death. (READ HERE).
Friends, a part of me wonders if Jesus was asking one of His closest friends — would he do the same thing Jesus was planning on doing for him?…and Peter couldn’t, at the time, say he would.
I get Peter. I really do.
Yet that didn’t stop Jesus…from loving
him us that way. In agapao form–sacrificial. selfless. relentless love.
I adore how Jesus encouraged Peter by showing he is capable of such love. For, friends, it’s how God’s designed us.
This is the very kind of love we’re made of.
For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love…
God’s been revealing this Lent what’s been standing in my way of giving agapao love. He’s been peeling back layers of pride, self-doubt and guilt I’ve been harboring for years. And I’m guessing soon, in Peter-like fashion, I’ll be ready to do something about it. In fact, I’ve already begun taking steps the way Jesus suggested in this very passage:
“Then feed my lambs…take care of my sheep…follow Me”
Okay, Jesus. You’ve got a deal. You keep working on me and I’ll keep sharing about You. I’ll feed Your sheep with my story. I’ll stretch myself to help those who need it. I’ll search for the lost ones and show them the way as I follow You Home.
Because, Jesus, I love You, too. I really do. I just need Your help of taking away everything in me that doesn’t.
This song is my Lenten prayer.
Father, burn away the ropes that bind until only agapao love remains… (Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in).
Only Love Remains
by JJ Heller
How about you, friend? Do you relate to Peter? Do you agapao love Jesus? How do you show it? How do you feed/take care of His sheep? I’d love to hear.
Thanks for sharing your time with me.
* I wish I remembered which commentary I read this out of years ago so I could give them credit. I can not find it, but do have a book on my bookshelf that talks about this portion of scripture really well: Deeper into the Word New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent (pg 116-118) found HERE. (I’m not an affiliate)