[Dec 17]--Show and Tell

            The last two verses in chapter 20 make it sound like John's ending his story there, but for whatever reason he (under the Spirit’s inspiration) decided to add sort of an addendum. There are quite a few lessons we can glean from this chapter, but we'll wrap up the Gospel with tomorrow’s reading.
            Chapter 21 is taken up with one of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples, one which (as typical) is recorded in none of the other Gospels. The disciples, for whatever reason, decided to go fishing. I’ve heard preachers and others rail against this decision of theirs, as if this choice was somehow indicative of an abandonment of their following Christ. With all due respect, I don’t buy it. I’d agree that if they went back to their old lifestyle and livelihood, that would be a lack of faithfulness on their part, but there’s no sign that this was their intention. Jesus certainly didn’t condemn them for it or even mention it in any recorded conversation either that morning or afterwards.
            Jesus appeared to them on the shore, and once again you see A) The unique spiritual insight of John and B) The impetuousness of Peter.
            What I’d really like to focus on, however, is the conversation between Peter and Jesus on the shore. We know from Luke that at one point Jesus had a one-on-one meeting with Peter, but I don't think that this is what Luke was referring to. That was a private meeting, while this seems to be the official and public reinstatement of Peter as the leader of the disciples.
            Another area of slight disagreement I have with some interpreters is in the area of translating the word “love.” A lot of teachers and others place a lot of importance on the different ways in which Jesus and Peter use the word “love” in their conversation. The first time Jesus asks him “Do you love me?” he uses agape, which--as you might've heard--is a term for a selfless self-sacrificing decision to choose someone's well-being over your own. Peter responds with phileo, which is more of a strong affection. Jesus asks him again, “Do you agape me?” Peter again responds with “Yes Lord, I phileo you.” Finally, Jesus asks him “Do you phileo me?” and Peter says once again that he phileo his Lord.
            Now before we jump into reading all sorts of things into that, let’s please keep this in mind: Jesus and Peter were speaking in Aramaic. And now John is translating their conversation into Greek for us. Now, we know that John’s writings are just as inspired as Jesus’ own words. But John in his Gospel uses agape and phileo pretty much interchangeably in his Gospel, so it’s very possible that we’re reading waaaaaay too much into this.
            Another question we'll briefly consider is Jesus’ meaning when he asks Peter “Do you love me more than these?” There are at least three different ways to interpret that question. He could have meant A) “Do you love me more than these other disciples do?” or B) “Do you love me more than these things [i.e. the fishing career and old lifestyle]?” or C) “Do you love me more than you love these men?” I actually lean more towards the first one, since Peter had claimed unique devotion to his Lord. In any case, Peter didn’t ask for a clarification, and Jesus didn’t volunteer one.
            However, let's not lose sight of the main point of this conversation. Jesus three times asked if Peter loved him, one time for each denial, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. And each time when Peter reaffirmed his love (as best he could), Jesus then told him to feed his sheep. That was going to be one of the primary ways in which he'd show his love for his Master—by feeding his Master’s sheep.
            And Peter eventually got his chance to show his love for his Master in one final demonstration. One day someone would “dress” (prepare) him and take him to his death, and by this death he would get his greatest wish: To glorify his Lord. Church tradition, in case you didn’t know, says that he was crucified upside-down because he didn’t feel worthy of dying like his Master.
            It’s one thing to express all sorts of verbal declarations of devotion and love and commitment. It’s quite another to lay down your life. I hope that if it ever comes to that, I’ll be able to show, not not just tell, the same type of love for my Savior.
            Now here's "Stranger On The Shore" by Michael Card

Lord Jesus, my love for you, unlike your love for me, is weak and cold and faithless at times. By the work of your blessed Spirit, please change that. Please change me.

No comments:

Post a Comment