“Do you love Me with a strong, unfailing, loyal love?” If Jesus were to ask us that question, what would we say? Sadly, I would have to say, “I do not,” because I fail Him everyday.
I look forward to going to church. At church this past Sunday, we partook of the Lord’s Supper. Before we each partook of the Lord’s Supper, we were to ask God to examine our hearts for sin and confess it. Our Pastor prepared each of us to examine our own hearts by teaching from a familiar passage.
I might even subconsciously think that because I have read a passage a thousand times there is nothing new to glean from that passage, but God’s Word is alive.
There is always something new to glean, even if we have read a passage a million times. I should not be surprised when God reveals something new to me from a very familiar Scripture passage, but I am always pleasantly surprised. That is what happened at church on Sunday. I am so excited about this new truth I learned, that I want to share it with you.
I also want to mention that when God reveals truth from His Word that is new to you, pass it on to your children. Excitement is contagious. How wonderful it is to share the contagious excitement you have over God’s Word with your family (and with others too). I can remember many times, after my Quiet Time, gathering our children to share my excitement of what the Lord had shown me. I think if our grown children were asked if mom got excited over God’s Word, they would have to answer, “Yes.” Remember, this is coming from someone who did not love God’s Word at one time. I had to humbly and honestly tell God I did not love Him enough nor His Word and to change my heart. He did!
I can think back on my favorite teachers and they were the ones who had a love for children and who had an enthusiastic love for the subject they taught.
In church this past Sunday, our Pastor explained how God uses the broken, crushed, humble and sincerely truthful person for His glory. The familiar passage our Pastor read is John 21:15-17. Please, take time right now to read this passage in your Bible.
The newness of this passage for me was the different Greek meanings of the key word, “love” in that passage. We use the same word, “love” in all kinds of meanings in our English language. We might say, “I love pizza so much” and then, we might say, “I love my children so much.” In reality, we love our children so much more than we love pizza. Those are two different kinds of love for sure, but the same word. We might say, “I love my church friend,” and “I love my husband.” Those are two different kinds of love but the same word.
The Greek language is more descriptive in that it has different words for love where the English language has only one word. In this passage, understanding there are two different Greek words for the word, “love” changes the whole meaning of the passage. The meaning of the passage changed so much for me. I realized Jesus was not only asking Peter if he loves Him, Jesus is asking you and me personally if we love Him.
Jesus is asking us to be truthful about how much we love Him, so He can mightily use us for His glory.
Note: Two kinds of love are expressed in the passage: Agape’ and Phileo
- Agape’ love means strong, loyal unfailing love.
- Phileo love means warm affection such as a friend kind of love.
I ended up inserting these Greek words in my Bible, so I would remember.
With these two Greek words for the word, “love” in mind, let us read the passage again.
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agape) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” John 21:15
“He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agape) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”John 21:16
“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (phileo) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (phileo) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”John 21:17
Peter had boasted before the cross how he would not be like the others and he would never deny Jesus… and he would die for Him. Remember how Peter denied Him three times and the cock crowed three times as Jesus foretold?
Interesting, how Jesus now asks Peter exactly three times if Peter loves Him. Peter is grieved. Peter remembers his denial of Jesus. Peter now realizes his own frailty and his own pride. Peter also realizes Jesus knows everything, including Peter’s heart, no matter what Peter says. In the Rembrandt painting, Peter is denying Jesus while Jesus is being taken away, but Jesus looks back at Peter.
“But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.” Mark 14:29-31
When Jesus asks Peter if he “agape” loves Him, Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love me with a strong loyal, unfailing love? If Peter said that he had strong, loyal unfailing love for Jesus Christ, Peter would be bragging again, and God cannot use boastful, prideful people. Broken Peter is now humbly honest before Jesus, “I love you with a warm affection as a friend.” Peter is truthfully telling Jesus that his love for Jesus is not as strong as agape’ love. He is saying, “I just have phileo love, ‘friend love’ for you, Jesus.”
Finally, Jesus acknowledges that the honesty and brokenness of Peter’s answer was cause enough to use Peter mightily for the Lord. Peter is no longer bragging
and boasting with pride at his unfailing love for Jesus like he did before the cross. Peter is now crushed, humbled and usable.
Am I honest before the Lord from being crushed and humbled? When I am broken, I am usable. Jesus was asking Peter the same question three times, because Jesus was in the process of rededicating Peter for service.
God uses brokenness. The grain must be broken to give bread. Bread gives us strength. Jesus said, “I am that bread of life.” John 6:48
My prayer, “Lord, whatever it takes, break me and make me usable unto Thee. More love to Thee, O Lord, more love to Thee.”