As Christians, hopefully we have either heard or read most, if not all, of the Bible. Sometimes we discover something completely new in a Bible story even though we have heard or read it many times before. Please join me in today’s message as I reveal a recent discovery for me.
In the account from John 21:15-19, after His resurrection Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. I always understood that these three professions of love from Peter were juxtaposition to his previous three denials of Christ prior to His Crucifixion. Just recently, however, I discovered that there was so much more going on in this exchange between Peter and Jesus.
Much of the true meaning in this dialog between Peter and Jesus has been lost in its translation into modern day English. In Greek, there were three different words for our one word love. Using the Greek words really helped me to see this story in an entirely new light.
In the Greek language, AGAPAS or AGAPE was used to mean unconditional or sacred love. The word PHILO was used to mean brotherly love. With this understanding of these two words, let’s take a fresh look at the passages in John’s Gospel.
When Jesus questioned Peter the first time He asks, “Do you love (agape) me more than these [the other disciples]?” Look closely at Peter’s reply, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (philo) you.” In other words, Jesus asked Peter if his love for Him was an unconditional sacred love. Peter replied honestly, based on where his faith and understanding of Jesus were at that point on his conversion journey. He told Jesus that he had a brotherly love for Him.
Jesus pressed Peter a second time, “Do you love (agape) me?” Again, Jesus was asking Peter if he had a sacred and unconditional love in Him. Peter replied a second time, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (philo) you.” In his second reply, Peter still used a different word than Jesus.
These two exchanges are really important for you and me. Jesus asked Peter for his unconditional love. Peter responded honestly by stating that his love for Jesus was not that deep yet. Jesus asks us for our unconditional love, too. If we are honest, we most likely must respond like Peter. Our response might be, “Yes Lord I love you, but my love for you is not as unconditional and as sacred as I know you want it to be.”
So what did Jesus do? Jesus met Peter right where Peter was. The third time Jesus asked Peter, He said, “Simon, son of John, do you love (philo) me?” Notice this time Jesus used Peter’s term. Peter replies by saying, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (philo) you.” In his third response, two things happened. First, Peter answers our Lord with the same word for love. And second, Peter uses a new Greek word for “know.” Peter says, “Lord, You know (oidas) everything; You know (ginoskeis) that I love (philo) You.” We could possibly interpret this passage as Peter saying to Jesus, “You know everything about me, and you understand that at this time my love for you is only a philo love.”
Jesus accepts Peter’s answer but He goes on to tell Peter he will undergo a journey of the heart. He points out to Peter that his love will move from a philo love to an agape love. He tells Peter that he will one day give his life for his Lord.
It has often been said, “God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.” That is my new discovery by using the Greek text reading of this familiar passage. Jesus met Peter right where he was and yet expected more. Today Jesus is ready to meet us right where we are. However, we can never lose sight of the fact that He is calling us to an UNCONDITIONAL AND SACRED LOVE. Jesus is calling us to make a journey of the heart. Are we ready to move ourselves from a philo love of Jesus to an agape love for Him? Let’s begin that journey now!
- Is my love for Jesus unconditional?
- Do my daily actions reflect an agape love for Him, so much so that I place my love of Jesus above everything else in life?
- Peter died for Jesus. What things am I ready to put to death in my life that keeps me from having an agape love for Him?
Heavenly Father, I long to love your Son more deeply! Please grant me the grace to achieve an agape love for Him, amen!
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I was scheduled to give a retreat at Holy Family Catholic Community in Fond du Lac, WI this past weekend. I came down with the flu and was unable to travel and therefore forced to cancel the retreat. I apologize to everyone there. I was looking forward to being with you. I hope we can reschedule soon.