John 21:15 – When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." (NIV)
Sometimes, when I playfully ask hubby if he loves me, he reams off his "proof list". It generally includes things like cutting the lawn, folding laundry, and loving me just the way I am! The English language includes only one word for love. Lucky for him!
Have you ever read the verses following today's Scripture and wondered why Jesus asked Peter the same question three times? The Greek language has three words for love: agape, phileo, and eros.
Jesus kept repeating the question because he was ever hopeful that Peter's answer would match His question. Jesus was asking for agape, an all-out kind of devotion, but Peter could only muster up phileo, a brotherly type of love.
To reflect this difference, the Amplified Bible puts it this way:
John 21:15 – When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love Me more that these [others do — with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love you [that I have deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Feed My lambs. (AMP)
When Jesus asked, "Do you love Me with reasoning, intentional, and spiritual devotion?" if Peter had been truthful, he would have answered, "I do not" — just like he had done when he denied three times that he even knew Jesus.
Instead, he avoided the question and answered, "I love You like a close friend, Lord." Peter did not love Jesus the way He wanted to be loved.
Jesus repeated the question with the same results. Finally, Jesus met Peter right where he was. He changed His question to Peter's answer: "Peter, do you love Me like a close personal friend?"
Because Jesus loves us unconditionally, He changes the question until we can get the answer right! Eventually, Peter did love Jesus with that intense spiritual devotion. Until then, Jesus was willing to wait.
How much longer must Jesus wait for our answer to match His question?
Prayer: Lord, in so many ways, we are only friends of Yours. Give us the grace to yearn for the reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion that You offer. For Your sake and ours, we pray. Amen.