“Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.'” John 21:16
Jesus asked a second time,
“Do you truly love (agape) me?”
Again Simon Peter replied,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.”
I love my husband.
I love pizza.
English has only one word to describe feelings of affection, which can make things confusing. I don’t love my husband and pizza in the same way, but the language doesn’t provide me with different ways to express my emotion. When it comes to love, the Greek language has four words to our one.
- Eros = Romantic love
- Storge = Family love
- Philia = Brotherly love
- Agape = Divine love
Agape is the highest form of love. It is completely unselfish, sacrificial and unconditional. God is really good at agape love. People — not so much.
Peter must have carried a lot of shame from his public denial of Jesus. That harrowing night probably played over and over in his mind.
The rooster crowing.
Locking eyes with Jesus.
(“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Luke 22:61)
Running away into the night.
He had a lowly view of himself and his ability to love with that God-like, perfect love. So Peter chose a different word to describe his love for Jesus — brotherly love. It was the best he could do at the moment.
Years later, Peter would write,
“Love each other deeply,
love covers over
a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8)
This time he used “agape”.
He had a multitude of sins, but Jesus’ love covered them all.