Upon the resurrection, and after dinner, Jesus began the process of restoring Peter. The shame of denial hung heavy, and yet, mercy had its way. Jesus asked a very similar question three times to Peter: “Lovest thou me?” Some assume this to be the pathway to reconcile Peter’s three denials, though it seems unlikely that Jesus would press the issue in this fashion. The response was the same, but the questions were different. Our English language does not offer the appropriate insight.

The first two questions include the word “love” which comes from the agapao, ag-ap-ah’-o; which means devoted in intimacy. It entails a bond of purity where self-sacrifice is offered. The last question Jesus asked used the word “love” translated phileo, fil-eh’-o; from G5384; to be a friend.

Phileo is not intimate, but more surface oriented. Jesus wanted agape love, but the best Peter could give was phileo. In time, and through the coming years, Peter will find a deeper level of communion with Christ. His self-titled books found at the end of the New Testament display a more mature Peter, weathered by conflict and loss; tempered by trials and imprisonment. Prior to the Lord’s questions, Peter’s only real trial came in the form of a young girl’s accusation. However, time would lend him the privilege of suffering.

We can all say we love Jesus. Those words are so easy to say. Regardless, I wonder if our level of interest is simply friendship? Real love is held in the bonds of devotion when life is not pleasant and relationship comes at a cost. Agape love is being intimate with Jesus; sitting at His feet, speaking with Him and waiting on Him.

Modern American church affords us the privilege of worship, but rarely includes sacrifice. Our version of worship is a 20 minute song set, led by worship leaders. Our enjoyment is often sought. Yet the Lord is looking for something deeper than phileo. He is asking if we agape Him? Will our love for Jesus stand in the face of trouble, trial, loss, persecution, bewilderment, anxiety, depletion, and pain? Do we love Him when we are blessed financially, but find Him suspect when our resources run dry?

This challenge is not between you and me. This is about you and Jesus and He knows the reality of where you stand. I can only encourage you to fall in love with Jesus. This will take your time and your keen attention because He is looking for a lifetime commitment. Agape!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole