Most of us long for miracles. And Jesus’ perfect life, death on sinners’ behalf as the fulfillment of Passover, and His physical resurrection prove that He is willing and able to meet our greatest needs: complete forgiveness and a new heart to follow Him as our living King. But even in the Bible, most of the journey with Jesus is lived in the moments between miracles. In this 50-day series, we’ll consider some of those moments leading up to the next great miracle in the New Testament: the fulfillment of Pentecost and the incredible growth of the Church.
As many of you probably know, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, a language with vocabulary that is often more specific that the English words into which it is translated in our Bibles. As a side note, the Old Testament’s original Hebrew, on the other hand, often conveys much broader concepts than any one English word can easily capture.
You may also know that Greek has many different words for love. For example, agapao (ἀγαπάω) is a longing, committed love or a love of reason, and phileo (φιλέω) is a term of friendly affection. The Lord and Peter use both of these in John 21:17-19.
In the Greek, Jesus twice asked Peter if his committed love for Jesus was greater than for others. And twice Peter affirmed his friendship with the Lord. The third time, however, the Lord asked if Peter loved Him as a friend. Again, Peter answered, “Yes, I φιλέω You.” And Scripture says Peter was hurt by the third question.
Was he hurt because Jesus asked Peter about his love three times? Was it because the three times reminded Pete of his three denials? Or was it because the last time Jesus asked about Peter’s friendship? I suspect it was all of the above but mostly the last one.
This was a very intimate setting. The Lord could have appeared to Peter anytime or anywhere, but He came after the disciples had an exhausting night of fruitless fishing. Then Jesus encouraged them with yet another miracle to prove His power and love. And they had just finished eating a breakfast that the risen Lord had prepared and served to them.
Nay until then did He ask, “Are you My friend?”
I’ve heard many say that agape is the greatest expression of love: a selfless sacrifice for another’s good. Maybe. But I’m not sure that even God’s Word says that. Think about it. Even the daily news speaks of gang members laying down their lives for fellow gang members.
Jesus wants to know if we’re His friends.
Yes, He is our risen Lord, the Son of God. But listen to how Jesus describes His followers three times in John 15:13-15.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
I hope today’s thought and others in this series will be helpful to you as you journey with Jesus in the moments between miracles.
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