Three Times

This time it will pay you to look deeper than the surface.  Gold awaits you.

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John 21:15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? . . . . .  He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? . . . . .  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  . . . . .

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I have always found this passage of Scripture intriguing.  After His 40-day fast, Jesus was tempted in three ways by Satan, overcoming in each case with “It is written…..”  Peter had denied Jesus three times in the early morning hours before His crucifixion.  And in our Text for Today, in what is almost a rapid-fire sequence, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?”  But in these three questions, Jesus demonstrates His love to a failed disciple, just as He does to you and me throughout our lives.  But you must look deeper than the surface to see this awesome demonstration. 

In the first two asking of the question, “Do you love Me?”, Jesus used the word AGAPE as the verb for love.  In the final, or third question, He used the word PHILEO.  Both words are translated as “love” in English, but they have different meanings.  AGAPE is the God-kind of love, and it is a love based purely on the character of the lover.  And since God is the originator of AGAPE, this love is based purely on the character of God Almighty.  It has NOTHING to do with feelings, with the value or worth of the object or person being loved, or with the development of relationship over time.  It is based purely on the character of the lover; it is God.  It is what it is, fixed, eternal, and unchanging.  It is the love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts, and is most easily expressed through simple obedience to the commandments of the Lord. 

PHILEO is a human love based on relationship.  It is the human love of spouses to one another (having nothing to do with physical intimacy), of parents to children, of children to parents, of siblings to one another, of true friends who have developed a relationship.  It is a high-quality love, and grows stronger over time as a relationship builds.  For instance, I love my wife more now than when we married; I love my sons more now than when they were born; I have friends whom I love more now than after our friendships were first established.  PHILEO is a strong love, a binding love, a keeping love, and a worthy love, but it does change. 

Interestingly, in answer to all three questions, Peter answered with the word PHILEO.  It seems he did not have a grasp of the meaning or significance of AGAPE at that moment.  But look at the great AGAPE of Jesus.  When Peter could not seem to answer in the AGAPE language, Jesus came down to Peter’s level and used the PHILEO language.  He does the same for us, and He is still waiting for us to grow up into AGAPE. 

Manna for Today John 21:15-19; John 14:15-17; 1 John 5:3

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