When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon peter, “Simon son of John, do you love [agape] me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love [phileo] you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love [agape] me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love [phileo] you.” John 21:15-16a
Tevye and Golde singing, “Do you love me?” from The Fiddler on the Roof (<— click here to hear this classic favorite.)
A few years ago, around the time of our 25th wedding anniversary, this scripture from John came up in the lectionary. My husband and I were both serving as pastors in the same congregation at the time, and we sang this song from “Fiddler on the Roof” as the opening story for the sermon. There haven’t been many sermons when we’ve received applause, but this was one of those days!
“Do you love me?” is a question that many people ask of others, either explicitly or implicitly. Sometimes the answer is known even before the question is asked. Sometimes it is asked in desperation, and the answer really is unknown.
Do you love Jesus? Really love Jesus? This is one of those transformative questions. The answer matters. What does your love look like on a daily or a weekly basis? Can other people tell that you love Jesus?
In this text, Jesus returned to his disciples after he has been raised from the dead. The disciples didn’t know how the story was going to end, so they were astounded to see Jesus. The risen Jesus asks the same question of Simon Peter three times. This is the same Peter who denied Jesus three times just before Jesus was crucified. Peter knows it. Jesus knows it.
But this is the God of love and second chances. And third chances. Even seventy times seven chances.
Jesus asks, “Do you love me?”
In the Greek (the language in which the New Testament was written) there is more than one word for “love.” They describe different types of love. More on that tomorrow as we look at “phileo” love and “agape” love. My teaser for the day. (Come back tomorrow!)
For today just ponder your love of Jesus, and what happens when you turn your eyes on him. Here is Michael W. Smith singing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,” a song I learned to love in my high school youth group.
Or, listen to this lovely surprise by the Indiana Wesleyan University Chorale when their plane was delayed for a maintenance check: “Give Me Jesus.” I think they were singing about love. I leave you with this as your prayer for today. God bless you!