“Jesus saith… lovest thou me…?”

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 unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

As I read these verses in scripture, 3 main questions came to mind. I wondered why Jesus asked Peter 3 times “lovest thou me”, why did Jesus follow each of Peter’s responses with, “Feed my lambs”, “Feed my sheep”, “Feed my sheep”, and why when asked by Jesus a third time: “lovest thou me” did Peter become grieved?

Well, first of all, there are 2 primary Greek words for love. The first agapao which means “to love dearly, to be well pleased”. This is the stronger of the two words. Then the weaker term phileo refers to a fondness or friendship.

So as I began my study to find the deeper meaning behind these verses, the two Greek words for love became very significant in helping me to better understand what God was saying. You see, when Jesus asked Peter both the first and second time, “lovest thou me”, He used the stronger of the two words; agapao. However when Peter responded, “yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee”, he used the weaker term; phileo. Let’s go back to the beginning of verse 15… When Jesus asked the original question, He wanted to know: “lovest [agapao] thou me more than these? Jesus wanted to know of Peter had competing affections that he loved more than Him. So now when we look at verse 17, we find out Peter was grieved after Jesus again said, “lovest thou me”. When Jesus asked Peter this time, the word He used was Phileo, the weaker term. Peter then realized Jesus knew that he didn’t love Him as he should. “…And he (Peter) said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee…” hence Peter being grieved. This explains why Jesus asked Peter 3 times, “lovest thou me”, and why Peter was grieved the third time.

As I continued my study, I learned that in the New Testament, the Greek word agape, is translated “charity” 27 times. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us the definition of Charity, and we learn that no matter what we do, it means nothing without charity. John 3:16 says: “For God so lovedthe world, that he gave his only begotten son…”.Thus, we cannot have charity without giving. This explains why Jesus said, “feed my lambs”, “feed my sheep”, “feed my sheep”.

This past year, the Lord has brought my family through many trials, as He desired to work in us greater faith, godly character, and patience (which are only a few among the many valuable lessons He instilled in us). Each time of trial brought challenges yes, but abundant blessing which far outweigh each trial, such as a deeper love for Almighty God! Just as Jesus then told Peter of the suffering he would face; with the purpose of deepening and perfecting Peter’s love for Him.

I have been so blessed by this study, and the knowledge/wisdom God has blessed me with in doing so! It has daily made me ask myself: “Do I love God with an agape love or phileo love? It has been a great question in beginning an examination of my heart before God, and making sure that I have no competing affections in my life. I pray you too may be blessed in reading this, as you desire to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30)

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