While at the conference weekend before last, the teacher brought up a familiar scripture passage. You remember, right before Jesus went to the cross, Peter denied him 3 times? While at an ocean-side fish fry, Jesus instituted this restoration for the ashamed apostle.
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” – John 21: 15-19
All of the preceding, I’d read dozens of times before. But the last paragraph and how the teacher, Dr. Ted, interpreted it, got me thinking. The Greek word Jesus used when he asked “Do you love me?” is agape. Agape is altruistic, an all-encompassing love. Peter, when he said, “You know I love you”, didn’t use the word agape. He used the Greek word phileo, which is brotherly love. Think Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Or so I’m told. Finally, the last time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus, Jesus himself used the word phileo. Peter could only say, head hung low, “Lord, you know everything.” They reached an agreement that Peter indeed loved Jesus as much as he was able – with great affection.
Jesus started telling Peter how Peter’s life would end. That little bit always seemed incongruent to me, like is Jesus meting out punishment because of Peter’s betrayal? Dr. Ted said Jesus was up to something.
“Jesus was telling Peter, Hey, you love me. It’s enough. My love that I have for you and the world is enough. You will grow in your love for me and the lost over time. So much so that when you die, it will be for my glory. I know your limitations. Don’t fret. My love covers you.”
I know in my life, I see how much I fall short of God’s ideal. I’m terse when I should show mercy. I could give more of my time and money. But God. It’s not over yet. His love for me means that in the moment, who I am is enough. Yes, I submit to His lordship and am willing to change. Because of Jesus’ love, I can put down my personal club of condemnation – like Jesus had Peter do – and love as best I can now, today.