Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. Before He ascended into heaven, He showed Himself to his disciples at various times. One day, Peter and some of the other disciples decided to go fishing. Before they had been disciples of Jesus, many of them had been fishermen. Now that they were not spending all of their time with Jesus, perhaps Peter was wondering what he would do with his life. Maybe he would go back to fishing. The disciples got into the boat and fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize Him. He asked them if they had caught anything, which they had not. He told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and when they did, they caught 153 large fish. Realizing that a miracle had just happened, John told Peter that it was Jesus on the shore. When the disciples came to shore, Jesus had breakfast ready for them. John 21:15 “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.’”
In the original Greek text, there are two different words that are translated into our modern languages as the word love. When Jesus gave the question to Peter, He used the verb “agapaoo” which signifies to love affectionately, ardently, supremely, perfectly. When Peter replied, he used the verb “phileoo” which signifies to love, to like, to regard, to feel friendship for another. There is obviously a difference in what Jesus asked and how Peter responded. Jesus asked a second time. John 21:16 “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.’” Again, Jesus used the verb “apagaoo” and Peter responded with the verb “phileoo”. Jesus asked a third time. John 21:17-19 “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.’” The third time, Jesus uses the verb “phileoo”. It seems as if Jesus is saying “If you don’t have ardent love for me, do you even feel true friendship for me.” This may explain why Peter responds “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Peter uses the verb “phileoo” again. He seems to say “Lord you know that I feel friendship for you.”
If we go back a few days in time, Peter had proudly stated that he was willing to go to prison and to death with Jesus but instead, during Jesus’ trial, he denied three times that he knew Jesus. Now, Jesus asks three times if Peter loves him. What was Peter’s devotion to Jesus? Did he really believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God? When Jesus asked “Do you love Me more than these?” I believe he was referring to the fish that they had just caught. Did Peter love Jesus more than his occupation as a fisherman? Was he willing to give his life in service for Jesus?
Earlier, when asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus had said the following. Matthew 22:37-38 “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.’” How can anyone love something else more than God if he loves God with all of his heart, soul and mind? Jesus asked Peter “Do you love Me more than these?” Is there anything that you love more than Jesus or God? You demonstrate what you love the most by your actions and the priorities you set in life. If seeking to know God, obeying his commandments and giving yourself to Him aren’t your priority in life, it would seem to imply that you love other things more than you love God.
What about family? Do you love your family more than God? Are you more concerned about being with your family members; is pleasing them more important than pleasing God? Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-39 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Jesus teaches us that we should love Him more than family or anything else.
What about your possessions? What about your job? What about pleasures in life? What about the things in this world? 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Do not love the world or the things of the world. Seeking to do the will of God demonstrates your love for Him.
I encourage you to love Jesus and God more than anything else – more than family, more than your job, more than your possessions, and more than any of the things of the world.