By: Bro. Mark
One of the most inspiring stories that can be found in the New Testament is when Jesus appears to the 12 apostles on the beach that one morning after His resurrection. Jesus had made a fire on the beach and was cooking His brothers some breakfast. The apostles had been out fishing. When they arrived back on the shore they noticed it was Christ Jesus himself and were so happy to see Him again. They sat down around the fire and ate with Him. How kind of a gesture this was. How inviting and comforting. How “homey”. Not one of the apostles questioned if it was truly Jesus that was in front of them. They knew in their hearts it was the Son of God. The Risen Christ was in their midst once again, proving to them that He has conquered death once and for all. There is no need to concern ourselves anymore about life after death, Christ Jesus will be there for us with arms wide open when we depart from this world.
But what I really want to share with you is how the English translation misses a very important aspect to this New Testament story. When Jesus asked Peter, who was consecrated by Christ to be the first leader of His Church, if he loved Him, Jesus asks him three different times. In the original Greek, the language of the first New Testament, Jesus uses two different words for “love”. Jesus first asks Peter if he loves Him αγαπας. Agape The definition of this word means an unconditional love with no limitations. Pure love, the true love everyone seeks in life. A love we strive for but hardly ever achieve for it is a love so pure it is reserved for the one who created us. Peter answers Jesus, I can only love you with a φιλώ filial love This is a brotherly love. Peter is not yet ready to give Christ Jesus unconditional love. A love so on fire that he would die for Jesus if it came down to it. Eventually, Peter would be martyred, giving to Christ the ultimate sacrifice, but at this time Peter was not ready to give up his life for Christ. Peter had a mission, to lead and guide His Church. Why did Jesus ask Peter three separate times if he loved Him? Peter was asked three times to undo the three separate times he denied Him the night Christ was arrested on the Mount of Olives. Peter needed to be forgiven for denying Him.
The second time Jesus asked Peter, Peter do you love me αγαπας. Agape. Unconditionally. Peter answers Jesus I love you with a “brotherly love”. φιλώ filial once again. The third time Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me αγαπας agape unconditionally”? Peter once again answers Jesus with the word φιλώ filial. With a “brotherly” love. Peter was not yet ready to love Jesus with an unconditional love. Peter was only ready to give to Jesus a “brotherly” love. The beauty of this story that unfolds in the original text is how Christ accepted where Peter was in his life. Christ accepted Peters journey and had no intention to pressure him to love Him more at that time. Have you ever experienced this in your life? Especially, when you were young and deeply in love with another? You wanted so badly for the other to be as madly in love with you as you were with them. And when they said to you, “I just want to be friends.” That was a moment of pure heartbreak for you. You felt you had no more meaning in life anymore. You experienced in your heart a depth of love that curled your toes. How would you go on when the other did not reciprocate. The opportunity of finding pure, unconditional love had now vanished, instantly, with those six simple words, “I just want to be friends”. The gift of unconditional love would have to wait another day. You would have to begin now to learn to accept the naked truth that pure love would not yet be yours to cherish. So you went on with your life with that door of your heart open hoping one day you would be able to experience it with another. Christ Jesus knew that He would have to wait as well. But Christ Jesus is “agape” itself. He understands how to wait for Peter’s heart to grow into His. If Christ Jesus would do this for Peter, He would wait patiently for our heart as well to grow into αγαπας agape, unconditional love. This depth of love can be reached. Christ does patiently wait for us to grow more deeply in love with Him, but for now Christ accepts us at φιλώ filial brotherly love. Christ does not force us to love Him. He invites us into communion with Him. This is God’s greatest gift to us. The love of the most blessed Trinity in the second Person of this Blessed Trinity, Christ Jesus himself. Will we accept this invitation to enter αγαπας, agape, unconditional love, from the very One who created us? This is our ultimate journey. Will you say yes.?