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How much is your love for me ?

by Zigfred Diaz

Those words could be said by lovers in this month of hearts. However such words were not said by one lover to another, rather they were uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ as written in John chapter 21 verses 15 to 17.

Most Christians know about this story. Regrettably only a few really understand the meaning of what Christ said because of their failure to look closely at the words that Jesus Christ used.

The story starts with Jesus and Peter having dinner. During the mealtime, Peter was asked by Jesus if he loved him. Peter replied “Yes.” He was then told “feed my lambs.”

Afterwards Jesus again asked Peter the same question to which he replied in the affirmative and then Jesus told him again to “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus again asked Peter the same question the third time. But instead of replying in the affirmative, the verse says that “Peter was grieved” He then told the Lord “thou knowest.” Jesus then replies “Feed my sheep.”

Several people believe that Peter was grieved because Jesus repeatedly asked if he loved him. But I believe there is another reason why Peter was grieved.

The key to understand the passage is to take a close look at the word “Love” as used by Jesus.

When Jesus asked Peter the first time if he loved him, the word used here is the koine greek word “agapao.” This word describes the intensity or weight of the love that Jesus was asking from Peter. This is a pure or ideal kind of love. This is a love that is willing to die for another person. Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him so much that he is willing to sacrifice his life for Jesus.

Peter answered him “Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” The word used here by Simon Peter is the greek word “Phileo” which only refers to a love with a lesser degree than agapao. Phileo is the word used for “brotherly love.” Christ asked Peter if he loved him to the extent that he is willing to die for him, but Peter replied in the negative by offering only “brotherly love.”

Jesus Christ asked Peter again the second time, using the word “Agapao.” Peter still answered him using “Phileo.”

Suprisingly, the third time Jesus Christ asked Peter if he loves him, instead of using the word “Agapao” the word “Phileo” was used. In other words Jesus Christ appeared to be questioning even the brotherly love that Peter has for him. In effect, Jesus Christ was asking Peter if he was even sure that he loved him as a brother.

So now we now why Peter was grieved. It is quite obvious that Peter was not grieved because he was asked three times by our Lord if he loved him. The cause of his grief is because even the “brotherly” love that he offered was questioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter then humbly replied that Jesus knows everything so there is no need to ask.

Everytime Jesus ask Peter for his commitment of love, Jesus tells him to do something. Feed my lambs once and feed my sheep twice. In effect, He was telling him that love must be demonstrated by action, not just words.

The lesson that we can learn here is that we need to ask ourselves, do we truly love Christ. Do we love him to the extent that we are willing to give up our lives for him? We might not be able to fully understand this because we live in a free country and we are free to worship God. But what if we are tortured for Christ? Are we willing to die for His name ?

Thanks be to God that we do not have to be tortured for our faith to prove our love for him. All He ask of us is that we be good examples to other Christians, to disciple them and help them grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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