Do You Love Me?

After Jesus’ resurrection, he and Peter had a chat near the water about love and feeding sheep, well, not literal sheep, but still… The conversation sounds pretty straightforward, but we miss something in the English translation.

The New Testament is written in Greek, which is a very precise language. Verb conjugations have to meet 5 criteria to be correct, for example. There are also multiple words that mean “love.” “Eros” is romantic love. “Phileo” is brotherly love, the kind where you like someone a lot. “Agapao” is absolute, unwavering devotion, total commitment. All three are translated just as “love” in the English versions, and as a consequence, you’ll sometimes miss out on what’s really being said.

Look again at the conversation Peter and Jesus had by the waterfront. This time, I’ll fill you in the words for love they’re really saying. Remember, “agapao” is absolute devotion, total commitment. “Phileo” is the love you have for your friend.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest [agapao] thou me more than these?

He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee.

He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest [agapao] thou me?

He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee.

He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest [phileo] thou me?

Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest [phileo] thou me?

And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee.

Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Did you notice what happened here? The first two times, Jesus asked Peter for his unwavering commitment. Both times, Peter couldn’t go there. The best he could offer was friendship. The third time, Jesus came back to the level Peter could get to.

Remember that this is the same Peter who said in Matthew 26:35 that he would never deny Christ. Later that night, he did so three times. (One of which is in Matthew 26:72). The text doesn’t explicitly say this, but I suspect that Peter learned something about himself that night, which is why he couldn’t give his unwavering commitment. Notice, also that Jesus gave him more than one chance then met Peter where Peter was comfortable. After the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, you’ll notice that Peter did develop that kind of commitment Jesus had asked for. There’s something encouraging about that.

Source: [I originally heard this in one of the Koinonia House commentaries, but I forget which one. I can tell you it wasn’t the John commentary because I was  taking them in order, and I was only up to Matthew when I wrote this. It was probably Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. I confirmed the translations using an interlinear Bible and the online site www.blueletterbible.org]

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2 thoughts on “Do You Love Me?

  1. An amazing example of Christ’s immanence! He doesn’t ask for more than we can truly offer to Him. A little boy with a small packed lunch comes to mind…

    Like

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