John 21:15-17 (Peter, learn to show Agapeo)

I would like to post a simple study of a well known passage highlighting the fact that brotherly love (Phileo) while good and positive is not a substitute for selfless sacrificial love (Agapeo).

John 21:15-17 [NASB ]
15- So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.
16- He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.
17- He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Here, as is often pointed out, our Lord repeatedly asked Peter if he Loved our Lord, using Agapeo, or, divine sacrificial Love. Peter, who had recently denied our Lord out of fear for himself (John 18: 15-19 and 25-29), knew that his love really did not measure up replied using Phileo, or brotherly love.

Our Lord was challenging Peter, spurring him to grow into the Leader Jesus needed. Peter was grieved, not because Christ kept asking the question, but because He knew the answer was too obvious, and he just did not measure up.

I would like to point out a couple of things:

First, regarding the denial: Although Peter did deny knowing our Lord, he and another unnamed disciple was following Jesus to the court of the high priest. He was keeping watch out of concern for Jesus at the hands of the High Priest. I think he was caught off-guard by the slave unexpectedly girl asking whether he was a disciple (John 18:15-19). Once he had made that statement, he felt he had to continue to deny being a disciple, even when confronted by a witness from the arrest, who might hold a grudge (John 18:25-29).

Peter was caught in what he thought was a quick denial and it spiraled out of his control when confronted by the the relative of the person whose ear Peter had cut off and who recognized Peter from the arrest. Not a proud moment for Peter, but I don't really think he was cringing in fear.

Second, Jesus was challenging Peter, not 'rubbing Peters nose' in his short comings. Each time Peter, by his choice of words, candidly admitted his inadequate commitment, Jesus responded with a command to tend His sheep (meaning minister to the community of believers).

Peter had not yet developed the kind of love for others that would be needed in the time to come. But he did have the seeds of that love within him. Jesus gave him a task that would require that he develop God's love for others. On the job training makes lessons become part of the student in the shortest period of time.

I have noticed similar things in my spiritual life. When I fail, or the Lord shows me that I need to correct my path, He often provides me with the opportunities (and many times the necessities) of changing the way I do or think about things.

Correction is not always easy. In fact, it can be inwardly painful as I relinquish control over some area of my life to our Lord.