When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter," Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." John 21:15 NRSV
I often wonder how much we English speakers/readers miss in not being able to read the New Testament in it original Greek. I know I tried to learn Greek in seminary....but that is for a future post on falling short of our goals. Anyway, here is one such verse that really makes no sense in English. Why does Jesus keep repeating himself? Simon Peter seems to be understanding him the first time - he even repeats what Jesus has said! What is going on here?
Well, what is going on is that Jesus and Peter are using two different words for love: agape (whole, complete and total love) and philo (fond of as in friendship). Jesus keeps asking if Simon Peter loves Jesus completely and Peter keeps responding that he is very fond of Jesus. In the final question, Jesus changes his question to ask if Simon Peter is very fond of him. It is after this affirmation that Jesus tells Peter what is going to happen to him.
I think many of us are very fond of Jesus. He is, after all, our brother, and he is due our brotherly (or sisterly) love. Our fondness for Jesus shows in our somewhat casual attitude in our worship, study and struggle with his teachings. We go along with it or put on a good performance but inside we are still rebellious. We may give Jesus lots of wonderful lip service but then we turn and do our own thing.
However, Jesus asks Simon Peter (and us) for complete, total, whole and uncompromising love. That is what he really wants. But he seems to settle for fondness in the end.
Jesus, have we, like Simon Peter, let you down with the kind of love we have for you? Forgive us, we ask, and help us to open up our hearts and lives completely so that we can love you with agape love. It is in your name we pray. Amen.
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims