February 9, 2020 – Do You Love Me More Than These
Do You Love Me More Than These?
In the final chapter of John, we read of the third time Jesus appears to his disciples. They have spent a night fishing and have not done so well. And then someone from shore calls out to them, asking about their success, and guides them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. At that point, their nets become full … and something very familiar strikes them. This is just like an incident that happened three years earlier, and one of the disciples realizes that the man on shore is Jesus, the risen Christ.
Peter immediately forgets about fishing, dives into the water, and swims for shore, leaving his buddies to struggle with bringing in the catch. They all finally get to shore, have some breakfast, and then Jesus begins a conversation with Peter.
He asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” He actually asks him three times. One can’t help but see the symmetry between these three questions, and the three times Peter denied knowing Jesus on the night of Jesus’ trial.
Jesus is not trying to hurt Peter by condemning him. He is restoring their relationship by allowing Peter to go through the pain of his denial, and yet, at the same time, realize that the restoration comes from the invitation to love.
Jesus asks Peter twice, “Do you Agape me?”, which means – “Do you love me with an unconditional, sacrificial love?”, and Peter responds with “I Phileo you.”, which means – “I love you with the love of a good friend.”
Peter knows that his love for Jesus is not all that he desires it to be, but he does desire Jesus above all. Why else did he dive into the water and head for shore? This is the Peter who walked on water, went up the Mount of Transfiguration, declared Jesus to be the Christ, asked Jesus to wash all of him during the last supper, …. and so on.
When Jesus asks a third time, he asks Peter if he does Phileo him, and Peter, humbled, answers yes.
Jesus is willing to receive the love of Peter as it is, knowing that a Spirit filled Peter, will continue to love Jesus, and in so doing, fulfill the command to ‘Tend His sheep’, for Phileo will indeed grow into Agape love.
“Do you love me more than these?”, is an invitation to all of us to open our hearts to Christ, and trust that His love, and the leading of Holy Spirit, will certainly restore us from our failings, but will also empower us to grow in our love of God, which will in turn embolden and empower us to love our neighbours, and ‘Feed His lambs.’