Yesterday I said I would look at the word ‘love’ in its different forms in the Bible! We’ll just look at the word agape and philo for times sake!
Read John 21:15-19 to get the context. I’ll just highlight the main verses in The New King James, The Greek and The Living Bible to get the contrasts!
The New King James Version. Verse 15 Jesus said, ‘Simon do you love me?’ ‘He said ‘yes Lord you know I love you’. Verse 16 Jesus said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, do you love me?’ He said ‘yes Lord you know that I love you’. Verse 17 Jesus said to him a third time, ‘Simon do you love me?’ He said’ Lord you know all things, you know that I love you’.
Now we’ll look at the Greek original, though in the English not literal Greek words!
The Original Greek Version. Verse 15 ‘Simon do you agape me?’ He said ‘yes Lord you know I philo you’. Verse 16. He said to him again secondly, ‘Simon, do you agape me?’ He said ‘yes Lord you know I philo you’. Verse 17 He said to him a third time ‘do you philo me?’ And he said to Him, ‘you know all things, you know that I philo you’.
The Living Bible Version. Verse 15 Jesus said, ‘Simon do you love me?’ ‘Yes he replied you know I am your friend’ Verse 16 ‘Simon do you really love me? ‘Yes Lord’ he said, ‘you know I am your friend’. Verse 17. Once more He said ‘Simon are you even my friend?’ ‘Lord you know my heart; you know I am’ he said.
So, we see here that the King James makes a literal translation from Greek to English but only using our word ‘love!’ There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t give us the true feel of what was going on between Jesus and Peter! The Greek does but how many of us are really Greek scholars? I certainly am not! Now the Living Bible rightly translates the whole ethos of the encounter and brings out the colours and different shades of meaning from the Greek original! It helps me at least to get the whole feeling of this encounter, how grieved Jesus must’ve been and now how awful Peter felt for letting Jesus down and especially being asked 3 times; the same amount Peter denied his Master! But look how Jesus responds! Twice He asks Peter if he loves Him with a deep sacrificial agape love, and Peter can only reply that he loves Jesus with a philo love! It’s friendship, but Peter can’t commit at this time to a higher love! But look at how wonderful Jesus is! The 3rd time Jesus say’s; ‘do you even love me with philo love, with affection, affinity or even just brotherly love?’ Do you really love me even as a friend?’
Jesus here wasn’t condescending to Peter, he was seeking to get Peter to realise that you can’t just blurt out ‘I would even die for you Lord’, [John 13:37] without really understanding the implications of that statement! However, it’s best not to just stop there! Read verse 18,19 of John 21 and you soon realise that Jesus knew that one day soon, Peter would learn to love Jesus with an agape love, by not denying his Lord in the face of death but by dying for Jesus also on a cross like his Master!
PRAYER Heavenly Father God, there is so much to grapple with here! How many times have I foolishly blurted out that I would do anything and go anywhere for you in the height of some big conference or meeting when emotions are running high, only to realise it was just bluffing, wind and blagging, because the reality is that I wasn’t willing at that time to give up things and make real sacrifices and commitments for you. And how about now, do I love you with an agape love or just a philo love? Are you just my friend or more than that? One thing’s for sure Lord and I know this well, you love me with an agape love and a philo love. You loved me enough to die for me, and you still call me friend. Thank you Jesus, I truly love you Lord. Amen