“Beautiful Things” by Gungor:
[Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love [phileo] me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love [phileo] me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love [phileo] you.” John 21:17
The New Testament was written in Greek, and there are three words that all translate as “love” in English, but have very different meanings. The first is agape (pronounced “ah-gop-aa”). Agape is the perfect love that God has for us. It is sacrificial love: with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second word for love is phileo (pronounced “feel-ee-oh”). Phileo is brotherly or sisterly love toward another. The city of Philadelphia is rightly called the city of brotherly love. The third word for love is eros (pronounced “air-oos”) from which the word “erotic” is derived. You get the idea.
So in this passage, Jesus is asking Simon Peter if he loves Jesus with a complete, total, sacrificial love. And Peter just can’t go there. Twice Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves [agape] him. And twice Peter answers that he loves [phileo] Jesus. So the third time Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love [phileo] me?” And Peter can finally answer, “Lord you know everything; you know that I love [phileo] you.”
I have often heard it said that Jesus accepts us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. In this passage, Jesus tries to show Peter the deeper love that Jesus desires from each of us. Total. Sacrificial. Whole-hearted. But when Peter isn’t ready, Jesus brings it down a notch, to a level of love that Peter understands.
I had a seminary professor who said the toughest job we would have in ministry is convincing the people we serve that God really, really loves them. After a number of years in the ministry, I’d have to say that he is correct. It is hard for any of us to grasp the extravagant, unconditional, amazing grace and love that God has for us. It is wondrous love. If you have time to listen to a choir singing the well-loved hymn, “Wondrous Love” – here it is. It can be your prayer of thanks and gratitude for today:
* Questions to Ponder
* When and where have you been most aware that Jesus loves you? What words, songs, or images does Jesus’ love bring to mind for you?
* Worshipping, praying, giving, reading the Bible, teaching, inviting, and serving are among the many ways we can grow and develop our love for Jesus. Consider making one of these practices a more regular part of your life for the remaining days in Lent.
* “Material from Book of Faith Lenten Journey: Beyond Question by Eric Burtness copyright © 2012 Augsburg Fortress. Posted by permission. All rights reserved.”