This was His third appearance to them, and it is recorded in the last chapter of the Gospel of John (21:14-17).
Jesus asked Peter three times, "Lovest thou Me?", and after Peter answers, "Yes, Lord," He instructs him to "feed My sheep."
There are a number of different Greek words for love. Two of them are used in this passage:
- Agape - the love of God.
- Phileo - familial love, affection, fondness.
In today's lingo, Peter's answer would have conveyed, "Yes, Lord, You know that I like You."
Jesus answered, "Feed My sheep." Then He asked Peter again, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love (agape) Me?" Peter answered again, "Yes, Lord, You know that I like (phileo) You."
Jesus repeated, "Feed My sheep."
However, the third time Jesus shifted gears. He did not use agape, but instead replaced it with phileo, which Peter had been using. Perhaps you have heard it taught or preached that Jesus' repetition is what finally irritated Peter. Not quite! What upset Peter was when Jesus lowered the definition of "love" from agape to phileo, Peter understood the warranted patronage: "Simon, son of Jonas, do you even like (phileo) Me?"
What word for "love" do you think Peter used in his final response to Jesus? Peter stayed true to form and answered within his means, "Lord, You know all things. You know that I like (phileo) You."
Until His disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, they did not use the word agape. Once the Holy Ghost was poured out on the Day of Pentecost in the 2nd chapter of Acts, the apostles appreciated and used agape freely. Paul summed it up well when he said, "the love (agape) of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." (Rom 5:5) Having God's Spirit in us opens a realm of love that can never otherwise be known.
And yet, I still find myself both wanting to love Him, be like Him and to truly like (phileo) Him, i.e., to really like what Jesus is all about and stands for, to set my affections, my fondness, my liking and my pattern on His ways.
Friendship with (liking) this world is enmity with (a sure sign that you don't like) God.
I want to love Him and like Him.