I think as I told you yesterday that Jesus is asking Peter “do you love me more than the others love me?” But Jesus may be meaning both senses of “these”. This is Peter’s moment of reckoning in the aftermath of his denial.
There are four different Greek words that are translated into our one English word “love”:
- [eros] which describes passionate love. We get the word erotic from this Greek word.
- [storgeo] which is natural love. It was used for family love. Mostly it was used to denote the love between parents and children.
- [phileo] which is brotherly love. One loves something in this way because he finds qualities which appeal to him and create a warm and personal fondness for that object.
- [agape] “ This word describes a feeling of benevolence towards another person; it means that no matter what that person does to us we will never allow ourselves to desire anything but his highest good; and we will deliberately go out of our way to give our best for him” (William Barclay). This is a supernatural kind of love. It is unnatural to us in our humanity. It’s the ultimate, mirrored by God’s sacrificial love.
So Jesus asks him “Simon son of John, do you agape Me?” and Peter responds, “You know I phileo You.”
Then Jesus wont let it go and asks Peter again, “Simon son of John, do you agape Me?” and Peter responds, “You know I phileo You.”
Finally Jesus asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you phileo Me?” and Peter answers, “Lord, You know everything. You know that I phileo You.”
Peter has had a habit of making bold claims in the past, the last time was the prelude to his denial. Peter it seems has learned his lesson. When the Lord asks him if he agape(s) Jesus he wisely says :I phileo you”. He does make any more bold claims to agape but rather settles for the more usual human level of phileo. Jesus asks him again and Peter responds that same way. The second question was a test for Peter to see if he would change his statement. Then finally Jesus changes the word used (the standard of the measure of love) and ask Peter “Do you phileo me?” Peter says. You know everything Lord. You know I phileo you.” A sane sensible, truthful answer, Peter has learned from the experience of his denial.
What is the point of Jesus responses to Peter’s answers? There is much debate about these response. Feed My lambs (feed the fresh young believers). Take care of my sheep (look after the disciples who will follow in your footsteps. Feed My sheep (the mature believers) with all you have learned from me. i.e take them deeper in their walk with Me on the basis of your own experience. There are many commentators see the connection between these two fishing trips and the commissioning of the disciples. They liken this to a re-commissioning of Peter, inferring that he lost office due to his denial. But that is not clear from the biblical text.
What is clear is that Jesus expects Peter to use his experience to strengthen others. In fact he made that very clear at the time of the initial prophetic statement. Read Luke 22:31-34 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to Me again, strengthen your brothers.” But Jesus said, “Peter, let Me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me.”
Always use Scripture to interpret it’s self. It is safer than launching off into the deep waters of our own interpretation without the light Scripture.
Life is not so much a matter of position as of disposition.Anon