Sunday, June 22, 2014

John 21:15-19

John 21:15-19
Therefore when they ate breakfast, Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Simon of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, you have known that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He again said to him a second time, “Simon of John, do you love me?”  He said to Him, “Yes Lord, you have known that I love you.”  He said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.”  He says to him a third time, “Simon of John, do you love me?”  Peter was being distressed because He said to him a third time, “Do you love me?”  And he said to Him, “Lord, you have known all things.  You know that I love you.”  Jesus says to him, “Feed my sheep.  Amen, amen.  I say to you that when you were younger you were dressing yourself and you were walking wherever you were desiring.  But when you should grow old, you will extend your hands and another will dress you and will carry you where you do not desire.”  And this was said while clearly indicating with what kind of death he will glorify God.  And after saying this He says to him, “Follow me.”

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

Notice the verb tense in each of Peter’s replies.  These are perfect verbs.  “You have known.”  Peter is making the claim that his love for Jesus has never been in doubt.  Remember that Peter has been with Jesus from the beginning.  There has never been any doubt where Peter’s loyalty resided.  What this means is that Peter’s denial of His Lord during His arrest was not a theological claim of abandonment, just a bad choice.  He was having a very difficult few days and made some bad choices.  They weren’t moments in which a crisis of faith was happening.  They were moments where his circumstances led him into sin.  But it wasn’t formal abandonment; just sinful, self-centered thinking that can be repented and forgiven.

Have you had moments where you sin?  Do those moments necessarily mean that you stopped believing in God?  How does this teaching affect your life?

Second Thought:

Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  There are three possible interpretations for this question:
  1. Jesus could be saying to Peter, “Do you love me more than you love the rest of my disciples?”  I doubt this is correct, as nowhere in the Gospels is doubt ever cast upon the disciples’ submission to Christ first and foremost.
  2. Jesus could be saying to Peter, “Do you love me more than the rest of the disciples love me?”  I doubt this is correct, either.  Most of Jesus’ disciples give up their life for Jesus.  How could Peter know if his love was greater than anyone else’s love for Christ?
  3. The third possibility is that Jesus isn’t talking about people when He says, “these.”  I believe this is the most likely understanding.  Remember that it was Peter who encouraged everyone else to go fishing at the beginning of this chapter.  Thus, Jesus looks to Peter and says, “Peter, do you love me more than these boats, nets, and the identity of being a fisherman?”  Jesus is asking a question of identity.  It is a question that we must all face.

What do you love more than Jesus?  What gets in your way of loving Jesus?  What do you often choose above Jesus?

Third Thought:

I love how this passage ends.  “Follow me.”  So much has been said about Peter denying Jesus three times and then he is given the opportunity to declare his love three times.  But what I think is neat is what actually comes after that.  Once the slate has been wiped clean, Jesus goes to Peter and once more says, “Follow me.”  Yes, Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter.  However, neither does Jesus ‘graduate’ Peter.  Jesus doesn’t say, “You’re on your own now, fully and completely mature.”  No, Jesus tells Peter that even though the slate is clean he is still a follower.  That’s all there is to it.  If you want to be in Christ, assume the role of disciple.  There is neither a simpler message nor a more complex message than that in the whole of the Bible.  Follow Jesus, it’s that simple.  Become like Him and do as He desires.  It’s that hard.

Why is discipleship such a difficult task sometimes?  Why is discipleship such a simple concept in principle?

Fourth Thought

There has been much made about the fact that the first two times that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He uses the word “agape” (γάπη).  But in the third question Jesus switches to “philia” (φιλία).  Agape is an unconditional divine love.  Philia is a brotherly – or family – love.  We should not make a big deal of this.  Both of these words are good words.  Both are used to express God’s love.  In John 3:35 the word used to describe God’s love for the Son is agape.  Yet in John 5:20 the word used to describe God’s love for the Son is philia.  In John 13:34 Christians are told to love one another and the word there is agape.  But in John 16:27 we are told about God’s love for us and our love for God and both of those words are philia.  The reality is that in the Gospel of John these words are both positive and nearly interchangeable.

Why does it make sense for us to think of true love as divine and unconditional?  Why does it also make sense for us to frame love in terms of family – even spiritual family?  What might we be missing when we try to make one of these better than the other?

Passage for Tomorrow: John 21:20-25
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