In our last visit we concluded by alluding to the experience recorded in John 21. Remember, Peter and a couple of other disciples spent the night fishing. They didn’t catch any fish. Early in the morning Jesus was on the shore and called out to them asking if they had caught anything. When they said “No,” He said they should throw out their nets on the other side of the boat. When they did they got a net full of fish. When they got to shore, there was Jesus with a fire to warm them and some fish roasting. They added a few fish and enjoyed breakfast together.
When breakfast was done Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do you truly love me more than these?” It’s not clear if He was referring to the other disciples or the adventure of fishing. Peter knew that what Jesus was really after was an answer to the question, “Do you truly love me?”
Peter knew he had denied his Lord three times. He had boasted about his total commitment before and then failed. Hesitantly, he answered Jesus, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus asked him, “Do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
“Take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Notice, Jesus changed His question from “truly love” to just “love.” In the original “love” refers to phileo, or fond affection. “Truly love” refers to agape, or divine, self-sacrificing love.
This third question where Jesus asked him, “Do you have a fond affection for me,” must have hurt Peter deeply, but Jesus was asking for authenticity.