Today I read John 21 again and saw something else I have never seen. Don’t you just love it when the Spirit opens the eyes of your heart? It’s after Jesus’ resurrection and the disciples went fishing and caught nothing. They spotted Jesus on land; He told them to cast their nets out on the other side and the nets were filled with a multitude of fish.
Later they came to land and Jesus had prepared fish and bread for them. Around that fire they sat and the Savior had a little talk with Peter. “Peter do you love me more than the others?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed My sheep.” He asked this same question three times and each time Peter gave the same answer.
This is such a significant conversation for us to understand. When Jesus asked, “Do you love Me?” the word love here is “agape”, which is God’s love ~ unconditional, forever, deep, unimaginable love. Peter’s answered each time was, “Lord, you know I love you.”, but the word for love here is “phileo” which is “like, friendship”. Amazingly, Jesus told Peter to “feed My sheep” and it seems He meant in essence “even though you don’t agape Me it’s okay. If you just ‘like’ Me, I’ll still use you, love you, and be with you.” It’s pretty clear that Peter wasn’t being put up on a shelf because he didn’t love the Lord the same way Jesus loved him. It’s like that for us, too.
I struggled for years with my love for Him. I felt it was inadequate and never enough. I was ashamed at my lack of love for the One who died for me. It was only when I began to understand that it is His love in me that gives me the ability to love (agape) Him that I had peace in this. Because His grace is mine forever, even when I don’t agape Him, He still wants to use me for His glory.
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’” John 21:18-19
It is said Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Savior. In this way Peter would glorify God. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I believe Peter found his way to agape love for Jesus through the Lord’s work in his life. I believe I will, too. Even if I don’t take it to the place Peter went, I think if I follow Him He will be glorified through my life as well.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6