This is a part of a quirky “what happened to…” series
- What happened to Josiah?
- What happened to Goliath’s kids?
- What happened to Zacchaeus?
- What happened to Moses?
- What happened to the Sons of Sceva?
- What happened to Peter?
- What happened to Jehu?
And now for the main attraction…
Peter was a passionate guy. He tried to live idealistically. He wanted to operate above where He was able to.
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” – Matt 26:33-35
Clearly Peter didn’t think that would happen. He had passion. He had faith. He had belief. He had determination. He would NEVER fall.
He didn’t know himself. He tried to punch above his weight, above what his character could carry… so he would inevitably fall. We know he then disowned Jesus.
Now after Jesus is resurrected, Peter sees Him on the beach and jumps overboard and swims to the shore. Jesus talks to Peter:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapas) me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (philo) you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapas) me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (philo) you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (philo) me?”
Peter was hurt (grieved) because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love (philo) me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love (philo) you.” – John 21:15-17
This is a very interesting conversation I think. First let’s check out the official and esteemed stance on this biblical text.
From Easton’s Concordance:
This word (love) seems to require explanation only in the case of its use by our Lord in his interview with “Simon, the son of Jonas,” after his resurrection. When our Lord says, “Lovest thou me?” he uses the Greek word agapas; and when Simon answers, he uses the Greek word philo, i.e., “I love.”
This is the usage in the first and second questions put by our Lord; but in the third our Lord uses Simon’s word.
The distinction between these two Greek words is thus fitfully described by Trench:
“Agapan has more of judgment and deliberate choice; philein has more of attachment and peculiar personal affection.
Thus the ‘Lovest thou’ (Gr. agapas) on the lips of the Lord seems to Peter at this moment too cold a word, as though his Lord were keeping him at a distance, or at least not inviting him to draw near, as in the passionate yearning of his heart he desired now to do.
Therefore he puts by the word and substitutes his own stronger ‘I love’ (Gr. philo) in its room. A second time he does the same. And now he has conquered; for when the Lord demands a third time whether he loves him, he does it in the word which alone will satisfy Peter (‘Lovest thou,’ Gr. phileis), which alone claims from him that personal attachment and affection with which indeed he knows that his heart is full.”
This weekend at church I heard a message that said that Jesus was looking for Agapan type of love – the kind that would stick to his decisions and not waver. But Peter had learned that even if he had strength and determination, in fact he couldn’t be unwavering. He had fallen. Peter therefore realized that what he had was phileis love. Not judgment and deliberate choice.
In other words, he now knew his limitation, he knew what he (Peter) had to offer: a personal affection. So perhaps in modern day language the conversation would go like this:
Jesus: So do you STILL think you can do it?
Peter: No, but I think that I want to.
Jesus: You sure you can’t push through and do it the RIGHT way (supposedly)?
Peter: Yeah. I’m sure.
Jesus: So you want to love me eh?
Peter: Yup. I’m sorry if I’ve let you down. I just…
Jesus: Hey, listen… I’m going to use you and you’re going to do things. Stick with me. Just keep wanting me to use you.
I think that the church quite often teaches that we must have a hard and uncompromising faith which doesn’t falter. Like Peter wanted to have.
But instead, having fallen and fallen and fallen so many times, I know now that I do not have that agapan love, I have the phileis love – I want to love, I choose to be affectionate… but like Peter, if I am left to myself, nothing will come of it and I will continue falling and falling.
Was Jesus disappointed? Jesus then prophesied that Peter would be used mightily… perhaps because Peter now knew of his limitations (how easily he would continue to fall, if left to himself).
Peter knew all he could do was WANT to be used. God would have to do the rest. I find myself in this boat exactly. And you?