Do You Love Me?

Most Christians remember the story in the Book of John where Jesus says, “Peter, Do you love me?”. In John 20 and 21, Jesus appeared multiple times after his crucification and resurrection – First to Mary Magdalene, then twice to His disciples in the locked room (with and without Thomas) and then to Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John as they were back to fishing the Sea of Galilee. 

Jesus appears this third time, on the distant shore, while the men were fishing, and guides them to a miracle catch of 153 fish. When they see how big the haul was, Peter realizes that Jesus is on shore and literally jumps for joy – out of the boat and in to the water, swimming to see his Lord. Later when the men are relaxing together with Jesus, the following occurs (please forgive that I broke up the conversation so that it was easier to follow and added the form of the word love, which I will address later):

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love {agapeo} me more than these?”
[Peter replied] to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love {phileo} you.”
[Jesus] said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 [Jesus] said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love {agapeo} me?”
[Peter replied] to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love {phileo} you.”
[Jesus] said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 [Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love {phileo} me?”
Peter was grieved because [Jesus asked] him the third time, “Do you love {phileo} me?” and [Peter replied] to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love {phileo} you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

– John 21:15-17

Now, I am not going to rehash the agape vs phileo debate as you have probably heard others give their varied opinions, except to say that John’s word choices are interesting. If you would like to read different opinions, I have attached a few  below – They are interesting reads. I am also not going to go deep on who (the other disciples) or what (the fish or the profession of fishing) Jesus is referring to when He said “These”.

There is no doubt that this interaction is loaded with meaning, for Peter and us. Jesus is certainly balancing Peter’s denials, giving Peter a chance to recant in a very personal and heartfelt way. John’s usage of the different words, regardless of where you stand on the potential undertones, does get the reader to think about the different kinds and depths of love. I would also argue that the non-specific reference to “these” gets the reader to consider what we, ourselves, might be loving more than Jesus.

To me, the fact that 3 simple verses in John can drive so much soul-searching and discussion might, in fact, be the goal of the Holy Spirit as he wrote through John. When I read this I feel my Paraclete, my helper, the Holy Spirit asking me:

Jeff, Do you love me more than your friends, your job, your profession, your testimony?

Jeff, Do you love me as a friend, as your esteemed teacher and as an intellectual advocate?

Jeff, Do you love me as a father, as your Lord, with a sacrificial, servent’s heart?

Do you Love me?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

https://finestofthewheat.org/evangelical_myths_01-4/

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