Jesus once had a Pharisee ask Him which was the greatest commandment under the law. He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). We are commanded to love the Lord, but what kind of love we have for the Lord also matters.
In John 21, we read about Peter in a state of remorse and shame. A few days prior, he had denied Jesus just before His crucifixion. Although Peter had promised to follow the Lord even to die with Him, he had denied the Lord three times, meaning his love for the Lord had not yet been perfected.
Let’s read Jesus’ conversation with Peter after His resurrection in John 21:15-19:
“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’
“He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, 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, ‘Feed My sheep.'
‘Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’
“This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”
Peter was upset with himself for denying Jesus. However, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, giving him three new chances to confirm rather than to deny his love.
Peter was a fisherman before leaving to follow Jesus and returned to fishing after Jesus died. In John 21, the risen Jesus invited some of the disciples to eat bread and fish with Him. Jesus was likely referring to the fish when He asked, “Do you love Me more than these?” Peter was doing what he had done before following Jesus, so Jesus was basically asking, “Do you love Me more than your old life?”
Lifestyles like being fishermen are not sinful, but when our lifestyles represent our lives before we responded to the call of God, they can be wrong. The enemy wants us to turn back when the pressures of life become too difficult. The Lord is calling all of us to grow in our love for Him, so we can withstand these pressures.
After John 21, we never read of Peter fishing again. For him, it was a line of demarcation between self-loathing and selflessly loving Jesus Christ. Whether you’re a new believer or have been living for the Lord a long time, God is calling all of us to a higher place. He wants us to be made perfect in our love for Him.
In John 21, Jesus was contrasting two types of love. There are two Greek words in the New Testament often translated to “love” in English: agape and phileo. Agape is love in a social or moral sense. It is the highest form of love. Agape is the God kind of love, while phileo is a human, friendly, or brotherly kind of love.
The first two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He basically asked, “Do you agape Me?” Peter responded, “Yes, I phileo you.” They were speaking two different love languages. Jesus was asking if Peter loved Him with the God kind of love, the highest form of love. The third time Jesus questioned Peter, He used the word phileo. Jesus met Peter at his place of spiritual maturity, which at the time went no higher than phileo, or brotherly love.
When Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord your God” (see Matthew 22:37), He used the word agape. Peter was not there yet, but after the day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, agape love replaced the phileo love Peter had for Jesus. Peter’s love for Jesus was perfected with the help of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5).
We have no more important priority or mandate than to love the Lord by praying, waiting upon Him, reading His Word, and worshiping Him. We are called to be perfected in our love, so we can fulfill the greatest commandment—to love the Lord with His help.
NEW OIL IS LIMITED