This saying graces the top of my desk. I can see it when I study God’s Word and when I write:
“If you stay on the surface, you’ll never find treasure.”
It reminds me that I need to dig deep into scripture and find all God’s treasures. I love a good “aha” Bible story – one that tells the story and also mines the depths of God’s Word. These stories bring richer meaning to a passage. It says and means that? Aha! Now I understand better.
Yep, I love those kinds of stories. Unless I can’t confirm their truth.
On our recent visit to the Holy Land, we saw the church that commemorates the restoration of Peter. Here, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked Peter “Do you love Me?”1
When Jesus spoke the word “love” He was using (in the original Greek) the word agape, meaning “To esteem, love, indicating a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone.”2
Peter answered “Yes, I love You,” with the word phileo, which means “friend. To love a person or to have affection for someone.”3 It is a love that means friendship.
Our guide told this story of Peter’s restoration:
Twice Jesus asked Peter “Do you agape” Me?” Twice Peter answered “Yes, Lord, I phileo You!” When Jesus asked the third time, He used the word phileo for love, and Peter answered with “Yes, Lord, I agape You!”
The guide suggested Peter still felt great shame and grief over his denial of Christ. He didn’t feel worthy of Christ’s agape love, so he answered with “phileo” love. When Jesus questions him for the third time, Peter realizes he is being welcomed back into fellowship. He answered with a resounding “Yes! I agape You!” Peter felt great shame at what he had done, but now he wanted ALL of Jesus. All the forgiveness, love, restoration, everything. He wanted Jesus!
What a beautiful story. I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself! At home, I immediately started digging for treasure. Only, I didn’t find it quite the way our guide told it. Here is what I found:
The first two times Jesus asked and Peter answered as listed above. But the third time the conversation went this way:
“Peter, do you phileo Me?”
“Yes Lord, You know all things. You know that I phileo You!”
Huh? Not quite how the guide explained it. My research found that these two words are interchangeable. Synonyms, if you will. There was no great difference in Peter’s use of words.
But, what if…
What if the change was not in Peter’s verbiage, but in his heart? Jesus, who knows all things (John 21:17), saw the change. Jesus knew Peter had repented, and Jesus had forgiven him (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). Peter denied Christ in public, now he had to acknowledge Christ in public.
That day, Jesus gave Peter a full, public restoration. Divine restoration can mean being restored to a much better version of the original (I’m still digging for treasure on this, but it does ring true). Think of the restored life of Job. God blessed Job in his latter days more than in the beginning (Job 42:12).
I often think of my own life: accepting Jesus as my Savior when I was a child, but as a teen and young adult, living like He did not exist. He has restored me to Himself, and blessed me beyond measure. Because I repented and returned to Him, there is no condemnation, only love.
Think of Peter. Impetuous. Hot-headed. Oh, and yes, he denied His Savior not once, but three times. THREE! And Jesus, who loves him with an unconditional, agape love, opened His arms and welcomed Peter home.
What about you? Is there something in your life that separates you from fellowship with Jesus? Shame? Doubt? Love of this world?
Turn from it, and say “Yes, Lord, I agape You!”
Let your heart be all in, not following the things of this earth, but only following Jesus.
1 John 21:15-17
2 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000)
3 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).