June 8, 2022

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love (John 15:9-10).

In John 14:15,21,23,24,28,31, Jesus spoke of love 10 times. In John 15:9,10,12,13,17 He spoke of love 9 times. He spoke of the Father’s love for Him and His love for the Father, His love for the disciples and their love for Him, for the Father, and for each other.

The word agape/agapao means ‘to esteem’ or ‘love’, indicating a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone. It differs from philo, which means ‘to love’, indicating feelings, warm affection, the kind of love expressed by a kiss (philema). Agape/Agapao love is a superior form of love than philo. It is always spoken of the Father’s love for us, Jesus’ love for us, and the love between the Father and Jesus. Philo love is almost always spoken of a person’s love for another person. It is translated ‘friendship’ or ‘kinship’ affection. The difference is best seen in Jesus’ post-resurrection encounter with Peter in John 21:15-17.

In His 1st question, Jesus asked, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? The ‘these’ refers to things other than Jesus Himself - “Peter, do you love Me more than the disciples, fish, boats, nets, etc.?” The question could also mean, “Peter, do you love Me more than the disciples love Me?” Either way, Jesus asked Peter if his love (agape) for Jesus was superior to all other things and superior to all other’s love for Him. Peter answered, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. The word ‘know’ is oida: to know intuitively, perceptively, instinctively. The word ‘love’ that Peter used was philo. Literally, Peter said, “Lord, You sense that I am Your friend.”

In His 2nd question, Jesus asked, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? Here Jesus became more personal with Peter - there is no comparative qualification to the question, it is a ‘matter of fact’ question, “Do you love (agape) Me?”  Even though Peter answered, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You (philo), Jesus knew that Peter was not always His devoted friend, but struggled to demonstrate true devoted friendship to Jesus. He knew Peter had not accepted His will to go to the cross. He had heard for Himself, in the courtyard of the High Priest, Peter’s emphatic denial that he even knew Jesus. 

In His 3rd question, Jesus asked, Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me? The question is different. Jesus used the word philo instead of agape. Literally He asked, “Peter, are you My friend?” Peter was broken-hearted, not because Jesus questioned Peter’s love 3 times, and not because it was an allusion to Peter denying Jesus 3 times. He was broken-hearted because he understood the deeper meaning of the question. Peter answered, Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. Literally, Peter said, “Lord, You know intuitively (oida) all things, You know from experience (ginosko) that I am (now) Your friend (philo).” We cannot rise to the level of God’s love until first of all He condescends to us in order to lift us up to His love. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). Amen.

G. Martin

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