Simon said, “Yes, Lord. I love you.”
Jesus asked the same question two more times. At least, that’s how it looks in English. John 21:15-17, has Pete’s repeat story making us wonder – was Jesus distracted? Did He not hear the answer? Was there something in Simon Peter’s tone? Simon gave a solid response. What could the problem be? We find the great message in the original language. A little Greek goes a long way.
The Greeks had more than one word for love. What Jesus asked the first two times was “Do you agape me?” Agape is a God kind of love. It’s an all-in, sacrifice everything, sort of thing. Simon Peter’s answer wasn’t that.
Peter expressed his commitment to the Master, by saying, “Yes, Lord, I phileo, you.” The fisherman turned fisher-of-men was saying, “I have affection for you like a brother.” Not really trying to sacrifice everything here.
Phileo is affection – a feeling. Agape is commitment – a behavior.
The third time, Jesus brought it down a notch – “Do you phileo me?” Finally, they were on the same page. But the love-lesson isn’t found in the question. It isn’t even found in the answer.
The take-away for Simon Peter, and for us, is in the divine directive that followed – care for others. Jesus said, “Feed My sheep.” “Feed My lambs.” “Take care of My sheep.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG) puts it this way – “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Love like that.
I dare you.