Some of you may not have been around for the beginning of the Wednesday series on Peter and Jesus. Since we can safely assume that Peter was Jesus's BFF while he was on earth, I think it's worthwhile to dig a little deeper into their friendship. Check out the first three weeks below, and then let's get started!
We're comin' atcha from John 21 today! It's been about 10 days since Peter had betrayed Jesus. Jesus has appeared to the disciples (Peter included) twice already, and they have not had the chance to talk things out yet. Have you ever ended a conversation or relationship with absolutely no opportunity to make things right again? This must have been pretty uncomfortable for Peter (being with Jesus again with no reconciliation) because all these guys were with Peter and Jesus when Jesus told Peter that he would disown Him three times. They were all there when Peter begged to differ, and John was an eyewitness to Peter disowning Jesus. I'm SURE the rest of these guys knew the entire story. It's accounted for in ALL FOUR GOSPELS. It's interesting that Jesus reinstating Peter is only accounted for in John.
So Peter, being a fisherman, decides to go fishing, and his buddies (the disciples) go with him. Fished ALL NIGHT...caught nothing. Then Jesus stands ashore and calls out, telling them how to catch fish. When they catch the fish, they realize it's Jesus. Notice this: Peter's in the boat...a distance from shore. Jesus is on shore, calling out. When they realize that it's Jesus, Peter jumps ship and swims back to shore. He seemed to be trying to bridge this gap between himself and Jesus no matter the cost. Was he just past the point of waiting for reconciliation? Did he need a couple minutes alone with his Lord? A couple minutes to reconcile this relationship? Well, he didn't actually get that conversation after all. Jesus waits until the rest of the guys are back ashore and have eaten breakfast before He approaches the subject, and THIS...is how it went down.
First, we need to define LOVE. We have one measely word for LOVE in the English language, and it's OVERUSED and UNDERAPPRECIATED. I'm talking, I'm not even sure any of us truly understand what it is anymore, overused. In Biblical times, there were several words for love, but we'll focus on two: AGAPE and PHILEO (since they are the two used in the following scenario)
AGAPE: A love that comes from your soul. Loving with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. This is the love that is mentioned in Matthew 22: 37, 39, where Jesus defines what the GREATEST COMMANDMENT is. This is how we are supposed to love the Almighty, with a love that's so deep and wide that by seeing this kind of love, one can see the very person of Christ.
PHILEO: A brotherly love. To be personally attached to someone.
Because Peter's sin was laid out for all the disciples to see. Jesus reconciled that relationship for all the disciples to see. They were all there, and Jesus says, "...do you truly AGAPE me more than these?" (Jn 21: 15) Jesus wants to know how deeply and truly Peter loves Him. Peter's reply? "Yes, Lord...you know that I PHILEO you." I love how transparent Peter is with Jesus here. And, all these others are around to hear this. I also wonder if Peter is being a little hard on himself. Think about it. If it were ME in that situation, I think I would be thinking "Of course I don't AGAPE Him. If I HAD, I would not have disowned Him! I'm going to call this love PHILEO because I'm pretty sure AGAPE love is not the "save your own hide" kind of love I expressed on that fateful night."
Jesus replies, "Feed my lambs."
Jesus asks him again, "Simon son of John, do you truly AGAPE me?" Peter, again, "Yes, Lord, you know that I PHILEO you."
Jesus replies, "Take care of my sheep."
A third time, Jesus asks, but changes his definition of love to see if they now match up, "Simon son of John, do you PHILEO me?" Peter was hurt this time, the Bible says, because Jesus asked him a third time, but I wonder if, it was the changing of the word to PHILEO that hurt. This time, in Peter's mind, Jesus got it right. And, let's face it, the truth hurts. Reconciliation sometimes hurts.
Jesus replied, "Feed my sheep...Follow me!"
This conversation must have been pretty intense...and very healing. Notice Jesus didn't come at Peter with a list of things Peter did wrong. He didn't lecture Peter about how he should have acted. He didn't say, "Don't do it again." Jesus forgave even before Peter had the chance to ask for forgiveness. He spoke healing words in to Peter. Jesus bridged the gap that Peter tried earlier to swim.
I think it would be wise to mention that Jesus STILL does this today. He doesn't come at me with a list of all the things I do wrong, but rather, waits with open arms for when I run back to Him. He doesn't give me some guilt trip when I mess up daily. He forgives freely when I go to Him with a heart grieved over the fact that my sin, again, separated me from Him. He speaks words of healing to ME! Jesus bridges the gap that I try to fill but can't. And, I think it's worthy to note that EVEN IF my love for Him is PHILEO and not AGAPE, He still desires a relationship with me.