Tuesday, June 16, 2009

reinstated with love

After reflecting yesterday a bit on Peter's denials of our Lord, and on our denials, as well, today we take a look at Peter's reinstatement by our Lord. It ends up being a matter of love.

Of course Jesus, while telling Peter he'd deny him, also told him that when he turns in repentance, he is to strengthen his brothers. Peter had to remember those words. Then after Jesus' resurrection, the angels tell the witnesses at the empty tomb to go and tell the disciples "and Peter." Peter is explicitly mentioned, so that Peter gets the message that he indeed is included.

We come to the account in John, on the sea shore, where our Lord tells the disciples where to get the fish, as he prepares for a good fish "fry" on the beach. That had to bring back a vivid memory, to Peter. After they eat our Lord speaks to Peter. "Do you love me?" Although both agape, and phileo are used, most scholars today see them as interchangeable, as indeed they are, it seems, when reflecting on the Greek New Testament. So Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. And Peter each time says, he does, appealing in the end to Jesus' knowledge of him.

So as Peter denied Jesus three times, so Jesus asks him three times if he loves him. This breaks Peter's heart. Jesus tells Peter in the midst of this, to feed and take care of his sheep. Then he tells Peter how Peter will die, to glorify God.

At the heart of God's work for us in Christ, and our receiving of that gift is love. A love that hits us powerfully, initially. A love that works with us, in spite of us. A love which won't let us go, even when we do go astray. And a love that brings us back into God's arms in Christ. And gives us work to do, a task to finish, and the reason to live.

I'm glad for this unrelenting love, in my own life.

What might you like to add to these thoughts?


Halfmom said...

A question - how can the words be interchangeable when they are different words all together? It seems to me that there must have bee a shift in meaning or a progression in meaning as the three questions were asked of Peter. I wish English had as many specific and lovely words as Greek - it is a richer language than our own, I think.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Halfmom, Susan,
Great question.

This is the consensus of Bible scholars today, and is borne out when studying the Greek New Testament where in passages they are used interchangeably- as I recall. And the Father is said to phileo the Son, something else I recall as well.

The progression is there, but in other ways, not in the words translated "love" in our translations (so that any possible distinction is lost in our translations). Actually classical Greek is probably more nuanced in the different words, whereas the Koine Greek of our New Testaments reflects a common, everyday usage which simply used them interchangeably.

The best answer I can give right now.

Anonymous said...

what God has for us is so beyond anything that we now understand and describe as Love.

seek to have that relationship with God, in Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit.

Love to deb.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think you have a good and interesting point. We do experience the genuine beginning of that now. But its full manifestation, and our capacity to take it in- is future. Though we begin in that now, and grow in it.

Like in C.S. Lewis, when the end which really is the beginning unfolds before us, we'll see that it makes sense, even though we couldn't have imagined in, before.