FRIDAY, JULY 14
SCRIPTURE: John 21
There is a lot of really cool stuff happening in this chapter as Jesus deals with and restores Peter. Remember Peter denied Jesus three times the night of Jesus’ arrest. So, let’s just get right to it.
In verse 3, Peter and his friends had fished all night and caught nothing. There was a very similar episode that occurred some three years earlier that is recorded in Luke 5. No fish had been caught that night either. In both episodes, Jesus told the fishermen to throw their nets back out and in both stories, there was an overwhelming number of fish caught. None of that was lost on the group of fishermen. In verse 7, John told Peter that it was Jesus who was standing on the shore. Peter jumped in and swam to Jesus.
In verse 9, when the disciples got to shore, they discovered Jesus had started a charcoal fire. In John 18:18, that was the exact kind of fire Peter warmed himself by the night he betrayed Jesus.
When you get to verses 15-17, we find where Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. That, by the way, is the number of times Peter had betrayed Him. But thanks to the English language, we really miss the significance of this conversation about whether Peter loved Jesus or not.
The first two times that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me”, Jesus used the word agape for love. That, of course, is the Greek word for God’s love. It refers to a love that is an act of the will. It is a sacrificial love, a serving love, and, even a submissive love. It is not a natural love but a supernatural choice to love.
The first two times that Peter responded, “You know that I love you”, he used the word phileo for love. Phileo is an important love. It is often described as a brotherly love. It may actually be the greatest, deepest love a human can have apart from God. In other words, Peter may have confessed the most love he could have had for Jesus at the moment.
But when we get to the third time Jesus asked, “Do you love Me”, Jesus changed the question. This time He used the word phileo. I don’t think that means that Jesus lowered His standard one bit. I am quite convinced that phileo was all that Peter could muster at this point in his life. Agape would not be possible until Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the disciples on Pentecost.
So, why did Jesus use the word Agape the first two times? One reason, I think, is Jesus was setting a standard so high that it would be impossible for Peter to reach it on his own. He would have to have the Holy Spirit in him. Another reason, I think, is Jesus allowed Peter to do what Peter could do on his own until Peter wasn’t on his own any more.
This really is an important and interesting conversation that speaks volumes to those who are willing to listen.
And there you have it. We have completed the Gospel of John. I hope you have enjoyed this journey. I hope you have been encouraged through this journey. Tomorrow we start another book of the Bible. I hope you will stay on board with us as continue through the Scriptures.