April 26, 2019

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John 21:15-17

Jesus was not finished with Peter. Some interpreters assert Jesus restored Peter three times—once for every time Peter denied Jesus on the night of his trial (John 18:25-27). Whatever the case, Jesus forgave Peter and urged him to carry on in his commitment to be a fisher of men.

Much has been made of the words translated “love” in this passage. Jesus used agape in his first two questions but switched to phileo in his third question. Peter employed phileo in all three of his answers. Agape refers to love and commitment in the highest sense, whereas phileo refers to brotherly affection. Though no hard and fast distinction is made between these two words elsewhere in the New Testament, the variations here seem too deliberate to be explained away. If Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with agape love and Peter demurred in his answer, then in Jesus’ third question, he was asking Peter to at least begin where he was and move forward. The subsequent actions of Peter show this is what he did. He grew in his faith after Easter.

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