Friday, July 18, 2008

Going against the grain

I should have posted this much sooner, but just haven't had the time. So I'm gonna post it now. And there's nothing any of you can do about it...
So there!

Recently JT and I had a conversation about one of P.Dave's sermons. Actually, it was more like one of our group discussions during one of our Tuesday Night Family Dinners at church. And we had the opportunity to rehash that conversation with one of our sisters-in-the-faith earlier this week (after our Tuesday Night Family Dinner).
P.Dave's sermon was based on John 21:15-19. For those of you who're not familiar with the passage, this is the one where Jesus asks Peter "Do you love me?" three times. Now, I'm sure most of you have heard the story, and maybe even heard a message preached on it. And I'm almost certain that most of you have been told the warm, fuzzy message that Jesus was giving Peter the chance to make up for denying Him three times by asking Peter "Do you love me?" three times.
Wrong !!!
You see, something that nobody likes to talk about with this passage is the greek text in which it was written. According to the earliest manuscripts when Jesus asks Peter "Do you love me?", Jesus is using the word "agapae" - which means unconditional love. Peter answers "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." but Peter uses the word "phileo" - which means brotherly love. So Jesus is asking a question that Peter is refusing to answer. Peter is telling Jesus that he loves Him like a brother, not unconditionally. Jesus asks Peter this question a second time, and Peter answers it the same way. So finally, Jesus asks Peter for the third time and this time Jesus uses the word "phileo" and after Peter answers again, the same as before, Jesus pretty much tells Peter that he will die for His faith.

Knowing this about the text leaves JT and I wondering how anyone, especially anyone who knows the greek text (and any pastor ought to know the greek text), can you put together that tired, old message of Jesus giving Peter the chance to make up for his denials. It's not possible. Peter isn't answering the question. He's avoiding it. And if Jesus were satisfied with Peter's answers, enough to say that it made up for the denials, then why would Jesus tell Peter 'Oh, by the way, you're gonna be crucified for me when you've finished the job I'm giving you.'

This is mine and JT's conclusion to the passage;
Jesus wants to give Peter the chance to make up for the denials, but He also wants to know just how much Peter loves Him. Would Peter be willing to die for Him? So Jesus asks Peter the first two times, and when Peter replies with his weak-willed, brotherly love remark, Jesus gives Peter his assignment to take care of the sheep. And then on the last one Jesus was stern with Peter telling him "when you are old, you will stretch out your hand, and another will dress you and take you where you don't want to go." Basically, Jesus is telling Peter "OK, I gave you three chances to say it. You aren't willing to say you'll die for Me, but you'll die for me anyways." And that's about it.
And this story is typical of Peter to me. Anyone who reads the gospels has to be able to identify Peter as the brash, unthinking, loud-mouth of the bunch. Jesus is constantly correcting him. Think about it, even beyond the whole denial thing. Who wanted to walk on the water with Jesus? When the temple guards came to arrest Jesus in the garden, who cut off the servant's ear? Even later on in the New Testament, Paul has to correct Peter for not acting properly towards gentile believers. The only time when Peter's personality worked out for him was when Jesus asked "Who do men say I am?" then "Who do you say I am?". Peter nailed it for once. He blurted out the answer, and whaddya know, Peter was right! But that's about the only time.
Now, please don't think I'm being critical of Peter. I like him as a character, not because of who he was, but because of who he became in spite of who he was. Anytime I have a discussion about Peter I remind everyone of these faults that he had. But I also always come back to the man he became in the Book of Acts.
When you look at the beginning of the Book of Acts we find the disciples hiding out in a little room above someone's house. After Pentecost, they're out in the streets boldly preaching to everyone. And Peter is the one who takes charge. He even confronts the Sanhedrin, knowing full well that these are the same men who had Jesus executed. That is a true testimony to the transformative power of God's Holy Spirit.

So, what message do JT and I get from this little exchange between Jesus and Peter?

Well, that's the question that Jesus is asking all of us, isn't it? Do you love me, with an unconditional love? Do you love me with a love that says I'm willing to live and die for you? Are you willing to do the job I have for you without regard for the cost?
I ask myself these questions everyday. And I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I answer like Peter did. But I also know that the more I submit myself to God's will in my life, the more I'm willing to be obedient to the Spirit, the more satisfied I am with where He is leading me. And that makes it much easier to answer with a "Yes" the next time.

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Blogger Jeff A said...

Interesting post M. I don't know about all that agapae and phileo though, it's all Greek to me!

Sorry, I couldn't resist that.

12:56 AM  
Blogger M+ said...

I wouldn't have it any other way...

9:45 PM  

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