and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will
|The Love of Jesus
By Edgar Jones
We begin with this utterance of the Lord, which are Words of God:
9 Just as the father agape-loved me, I also agape-loved you. Abide in my agape-love. 10 If you give heed to my commandments, be abiding2 in my agape-love, just as I have given heed to my father's commandments and I abide in his agape-love. 11 This have I spoken to you in order that my joy be in you and you joy be made full. 12 This is my commandment, that you be agape-loving one another, just as I agape-loved you. 13 Greater agape-love no one has than this, that he dedicate3 his soul4 in his philia-beloveds' behalf. 14 You are my philia-beloved, if you be doing what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, because the slave does not know what his lord does; but I have called you philia-beloved, because everything which I heard beside my father I made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you, and dedicated5 you in order that you be going and be bearing fruit and your fruit be abiding, in order that whatever you request the father in my name he give you. 17 These things I command you, in order that you be agape-loving one another.
Observe the subtle switch between agape to philia, and back again at the very end. This occurs in our Lord's teaching because each expression of love has its own emphasis and special significance, and the differences are manifest in this brief passage. Agape is the love that one chooses to exercise, for whatever reason. It may be a choice to obey a commandment to agape-love, and so a choice to love. It depends solely on the will; it does not depend on attraction or affection.
You observe the reference to commandments. The First and Great Commandment of the Father (and of Jesus) is behind the statement of v. 10:
We learned in the previous paper, "The Law of Jesus" that the proof of our love for him is in keeping his commandments. So here we see, in v. 10 above, that his love for the Father is proven by his obedience to this commandment. Jesus loves the Father in all his heart, soul, and mind.
You will agape-love the Lord your God in all your heart and in all your soul and in all your mind.
More than this, Jesus has realized in himself that the Father has chosen to reach out from heaven and to agape-love him because he is keeping the Father's commandments. Again, this is a love of choice, agape. Next, (v.12), he reveals that he has chosen to love his disciples (agape, therefore a chosen love) and he then commands them to choose to agape one another just as he has agape for them! Then he switches to Philia:
13 Greater agape-love no one has than this, that he dedicate3 his soul4 in his philia-beloveds' behalf. 14 You are my philia-beloved, if you be doing what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, because the slave does not know what his lord does; but I have called you philia-beloved, because everything which I heard beside my father I made known to you.
Why this switch? He has chosen to agape-love them, but if they be doing what he has commanded them, this puts them in a different category, and they are no more, like slaves, just someone that can only be loved by choice if at all. They have become friends, and have achieved an intimacy that has converted agape to philia. The first, agape, a love of choice, that he applies even to his enemies by choosing to love them against all their hatred is converted to the intimate love of one dear and close friend for another. This is not a love of choice across barriers of incompatibility. It is real and personal affection that exists between compatible and like minds, hearts, and natures. It is true brotherly love, which is illustrated by the names of certain cities, Philadelphia -- the modern one in Pennsylvania and the ancient one in Asia Minor.
It follows, when his disciples do what he commands, that we become like him and compatible with him in heart, mind, and soul so that the love by which he loved us when we were enemies and strangers, agape becomes philia. So he explains that he considers the disciples to be no longer slaves or just plain servants, but friends with whom he has sweet converse and expresses the affection that philia alone expresses. They are no more the strangers whom he chose to reach out with agape, no, they are close friends who have now, by their obedience to him, entered into his personal affection.
Now, if we carefully observe, we see how this switch from agape to philia occurred between the Father and Jesus. In John 15:9 above, we read this:
9 Just as the father agape-loved me, I also agape-loved you. Abide in my agape-love.
There must have been a time when the Father loved Jesus of Nazareth, the man, not because of personal affection, but because he chose to love him, even as he chose to love the world. Thus Jesus expressed the love of the Father for him as agape-love. But look:
Truly truly I say to you, the son is not able to be doing anything from himself, except what he sees the father doing. For what that one does, these things the son also likewise does. 20 For the father philia-loves the son and reveals everything in3 him which he does, and greater works than these he reveals in4 him, in order that you marvel.
This indicates that a close and intimate relationship has developed between the Father and the Son, so that the Father's love becomes real affection, it is philia-love. This can only result from the fact that the righteousness of the Father is become the righteousness of the Son; they are of a kind, the same genre, and therefore there has arisen a genuine affection between them. But this same affection that exists between beloved and compatible persons also comes to exist between the disciples of Jesus and the Father himself, because in Jesus, they have developed a great affection for him, and through him, for the Father, and it becomes as Jesus revealed to them:
27 For the father himself philia-loves you, because you have philia-loved me and have believed that I have come out from beside the father.
Do you observe how the switch from agape to philia comes by the conversion of the sinner from one whom the Father can only choose to love, to agape-love, because the sinner is in rebellion against God and loving his life in this word, the very thing the Father hates? Then when we sinners have drawn close to the Son, have listened to him and believed his Word and have begun to be obedient to his commandments, the result is that he calls us "my friends." His love for us, and the Father's also, becomes the genuine affection of an elder brother for his young siblings and of a divine loving Father for his children who, through the Logos, have come to know and to love him as Father, that is, to philia-love him! Then the Father not only chooses to love them across a great divide and from a long distance, but he becomes, through the Spirit, most intimate with them, his children, and his love for them becomes philia, even as their love for Him becomes philia!
In summary, agape-love is that which issues from a decision of the will and is therefore possible to apply to any person or persons, be they friend or foe, of good character or bound to wickedness, of compatible or contrary character. One decides to do it, as God loved the world though it lay in the bonds of evil and darkness. Philia-love is the affection that exists between like persons, alike in character and disposition, heart and soul. It arises and grows between two or more persons without conscious intent -- it just is. Hence brothers or sisters in a human family generally find that they love each other, even though there was never any conscious decision to love -- it simply happens. Philia is sometimes defined as brotherly love. Both agape and philia are defined as love because the essence of both is a good will and benevolent and self giving attitude. Jesus agape-loves the wicked world and laid down his life for us sinners; a brother philia-loves his sibling and gives his life to save his brothers life. No one can philia-love the hateful enemy that seeks to harm him and his philia-beloved ones -- but he can choose to agape-love the enemy, as Jesus chose to love those who crucified him, a fact demonstrated by his prayer in their behalf even as he hung dying on the cross.
The two loves may exist separately or together. God in heaven reached out and agapa-loved the world, even though the world knew him not, and God hated the things humans were doing and being, there being nothing lovable in them as they were bound in rebellion against his will. But when anyone, through the power of the Word of Jesus, comes to know God and to obey him, even God the Father adds philia-love to his agape-love, and they exist together in him, as they may exist together in a human being who at one point choose to agape-love another persons that later changes in character so as to become philia-lovable. It is a magnificent thing to be philia-loved by God, as a child being loved intimately by a Father.
Whatever change occurs in the love object, agape-love need never cease. This is not true for philia, because if one who was once philia-beloved chooses to put on a contrary and hateful character, philia-love for that one may be destroyed. It is impossible to philia-love one who has become hateful. Agape-love of the Father, the decisive, determined disposition of His will, never ceases because it depends wholly upon the will of the lover, and not on the character of the beloved.
THE GRILLING OF PETER
We are now able to understand the strange transaction between Jesus and Simon Peter when Jesus persistently questioned Peter as to his love for him immediately prior to the Ascension. It is necessary to first set the circumstances of the relationship that had grown between the two by examining how Peter's devotion, always aggressively asserted by Peter, was nevertheless suspect, being very doubtful in critical moments. We need to see how Peter, although carefully instructed by the Lord, continued to misunderstand the Lord right up to the very end of Jesus' earthly sojourn. So as not to make this paper too long, we will only outline critical moments in their relationship. It began as follows:
With this, Peter entered into his initial commitment and became a disciple, and "followed him."
18 So walking by the sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon the one called Peter and Andrew his brother, throwing a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he says to them: Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And immediately having left their nets, they followed him.
27 Then Peter answering said to him: Behold we have forsaken all and have followed you, what then will be to us?
Not for nothing was Peter's forsaking! He wanted to know what was in it for him! He was bold and outspoken, the first to acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah.
16 And Simon Peter answering said: You are the Christ the son of the living God.
This bold utterance earned Peter a blessing from the Lord; but look at what immediately followed:
21 From then on Jesus Christ began to explain to the disciples that he must depart into Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and rise on the third day. 22 And Peter taking him aside began to be rebuking him saying: God forbid6, Lord, this will not be for you. 23 But Jesus turning said to Peter: Withdraw behind me, Satan. You tempt me because you do not think on the things of God but of men.
Peter still thought that, as the Messiah, Jesus was to restore the throne of David to Jerusalem; he had no perception whatever of the Great Principle by which Jesus was operating to bring the kingdom to earth. His objection to Jesus' being killed was a temptation from Satan, who sought to move Jesus to save his life by using the influence of this disciple! Peter, the just blessed one, had become the willing agent of Satan. But the message still did not get through to his stubborn heart and mind, for he aimed to prevent the very thing that Jesus aimed to accomplish.
10 Simon Peter therefore having a sword drew it out and struck the chief-priest's slave and cut off his right ear. Now the slave's name was Malchus. 11 Jesus therefore said to Peter: Put the sword in the sheath. The cup which the father has given me, will I not drink it?
Seeking to defend his Lord and do the heroic thing, only to be rebuked! He was even then yet bound in utter incomprehension of the Lord and what he was doing. Is it any wonder that he proceeded to deny the Lord three times?
37 Peter says to him: Lord, why am I not able to follow you now? I will give my soul4 in your behalf. 38 Jesus answered: You will appoint your soul5 (life) in my behalf? Truly truly I say to you, the cock will not cry until you deny me thrice.
16 Now Peter stood facing the door outside. The other disciple the one known to the chief priest went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought in Peter. 17 Therefore the maid doorkeeper says to Peter: Aren't you also one of the disciples of this man? 18 That one says: I am not.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him: Aren't you also one of his disciples? That one denied and said: I am not.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him: Aren't you also one of his disciples? That one denied and said: I am not.
2 There were together Simon Peter and Thomas the one being called Didimus and Nathanael the one from Cana of Galilee and the sons of Zebedee and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter says to them:
I go to be fishing. They say to him: We also come with you. They went out and embarked into the boat, and in that night they caught nothing.
The story behind the story is clear. Peter had left the boat and the fishing and followed Jesus in hope of a share in the kingdom of God. But nothing panned out as he expected, and Jesus was dead and gone. There is only one thing to do -- return to what he knew -- to his boat and his fishing! He had never, for one moment, understood what the Lord was doing, so strongly attached was he to the conception of the messianic kingdom on earth -- to the belief that a son of David would come and sit on his throne in Jerusalem.
"Back to the fish, boys, it's all over. We have been deceived."
But they caught nothing, though they toiled all night! What's going on here? This just does not happen with these experienced fishermen in a lake full of fish! Then dawn breaks across the sea and they are able, dimly, to see a figure on the nearby shore, which calls out to them:
5 Children, don't you have any fish? They answered him: No. 6 So he said to them: Throw the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find. They therefore threw, and were not strong enough to draw it from the multitude of fish. 7 The disciple whom Jesus agape-loved therefore says to Peter: It is the Lord. Simon Peter therefore having heard that it is the Lord, put on his outer garment, for he was naked, and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from the land but were about two hundred cubits1, dragging the net of fish. 9 As therefore they came to the land, they see a coal fire laying, and fish laying upon it and bread. 10 Jesus says to them: Bring from the fish which you now caught. 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net full of more than three hundred and fifty fish. And being so much it didn't tear the net. 12 Jesus says to them: Come eat breakfast. None of the disciples dared to ask him, Who are you, knowing that it is the Lord. 13 Jesus comes and takes the bread and gives it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This already Jesus thrice to the disciples revealed himself having arisen from the dead.
Their Lord had already appeared to them twice since rising from the dead -- but even that was not sufficient to prevent their returning to their former occupations -- to their boat and their fish. So here is the miracle of the great catch, after a night of nothing! Something took place in Peter that was new, something that caused him to repent of his failures and to make a new commitment. So eager was he that he could not wait for the boat of reach the shore, but had to jump out and swim to his Lord! Let us remember how Peter had denied his Lord three times, and continue the story:
15 When therefore they ate breakfast, Jesus says 2 to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, do you agape-love me more than these? He says to them: Yes, Lord, you know that I philia-love you. He says to him: Be feeding my lambs. 16 He says to him again a second time: Simon son of John, do you agape-love me? He says to him: Yes Lord, you know that I philia-love you. He says to him: Be shepherding my sheep. 17 He says to him the third time: Simon Peter, do you philia-love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time: Do you philia-love me? And he said to him: You know everything, you know that I philia-love you. Jesus says to him: Be feeding my sheep. 18 Truly truly I say to you, when you were young, you were girding yourself and were walking about where you were wishing. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and other will gird you and will lead you where you do not wish. 19 Now he said this indicating by what sort of death he will glorify God. And having said this he says to them: Be following me.
Note first three things: the Lord pointedly refers to Peter as Simon son of John. This is not simply an identification, for it was not his usual practice to attach the phrase Simon son of John when addressing Peter. Here was a disciple who had acted as the spokesman of Satan, who had denied the Lord three times in fear for his life; here was a disciple who was even yet not a son of God; here was Simon son of John.
The second thing to note is that he refers to him by his name of Simon, the name given him by John, and not by the name of Peter (Cephus), that Jesus had given to Peter as a disciple who was to become a son of the Father.
40 Andrew the brother of Simon Peter was one of the two who heard from John and followed him. 41 This one finds first his own brother Simon and says to him: We have found the Messiah, which is being translated: Christ. 42 He brought him to Jesus. Having looked upon him, Jesus said: You are Simon the son of John, you shall be called Cephas5, which is translated: Rock6.
But on this day he is not Cephas (Peter), son of the Father; he is Simon son of John.
The third thing to note is in the phrase from v. 15:
More than what?
more than these
The fish! They had dragged in a great catch of fish. The great catch yet lies confined in plain view in the net, confined against the shore. Does Simon son of John love Jesus more than the fish? If so, why did he return to the fish, from which Jesus had called him to make him a fisher of men? It was a question that probed his deepest devotion, one that went straight to his heart. And he asked it three times, countering each of his recent denials.
Now to focus on the questions. Neither the evangelist, writing of the event, nor Peter understood them, for the significance of the questions hinged on the critical distinction of agape and philia in the vocabulary of Jesus. The first question is:
But the answer is:
Simon son of John, do you agape-love me more than these?
Yes, Lord, you know that I philia-love you.
This is not what Jesus wants to hear, so he asks yet again:
But back comes the same response:
Simon son of John, do you agape-love me?
Yes Lord, you know that I philia-love you.
Do you understand what is taking place in this questioning, this grilling of Peter? The Lord doesn't want to hear about philia-love; he wants to hear Simon, son of John say that he agape-loves him, but it is an answer he failed to get. The Lord doesn't want to know if Simon has developed a natural affection for him; he doesn't care that he loves him as a brother at this point. What the Lord wants from Peter is a clear decision to agape-love him, whatever comes, and a confession of the same. If Peter will choose to do this, his love will be secure because agape-love overcomes all things, whereas philia-love is fickle. It is the fisherman's love for a great catch of fish, of what pleases and appeals. To this point Jesus hasn't taught Simon a thing that appeals to him, for as Jesus said to him earlier,
You tempt me because you do not think on the things of God but of men.
Simon, son of John, is yet catering to the things of men -- of fishermen; he hates what Jesus stands for, but can only assert a love for him as for a friend. But Jesus knows that, in his heart, Peter does not even philia-love him, because he yet has not learned to love the Truth that his Lord personifies. Then Jesus descends to his level and asks, yet a third time,
Simon Peter, do you philia-love me?
Not, "do you agape-love me, as before, but Simon Peter, do you philia-love me? Peter responds as before, but now he is grieved. Is the Lord refusing to accept his philia-love? Having already confessed this twice, Peter understands that the Lord is asking him, in spite of his repeated assertions, if he really even philia-loves him. Has he not made assertion before that he failed to honor when things became tough?
But take note of one thing that is a sign of hope for the status of Simon Peter, for this third time, Jesus does not address him as Simon son of John but as Simon Peter! The Lord sees in Peter not a cause for encouragement and refers to him by his given name as a child of the Father, as Peter (Cephas). Yet again, this Peter can only respond with his philia-love:
It is enough for the occasion. With every question, Jesus has commanded his disciple to Be feeding my sheep. It is Peter's task to take the Word that Jesus has delivered to him from heaven, then to seek out the sheep of the Lord from the world and to feed them the bread of life. As Peter (the Rock), he will do it; he will not fail. And though for the present Peter can only profess a filial love for his Lord, Jesus sees that he will indeed come to make the choice of agape-love, for he will follow his Lord to where he does not want to go and experience what he does not want to experience, because his love for the Lord Jesus has risen above what he wants, above philia-love, to what he determines of his will to do as a faithful disciple. His Lord's prophecy of him is a confirmation of his discipleship:
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time: Do you philia-love me? And he said to him: You know everything, you know that I philia-love you.
Truly truly I say to you, when you were young, you were girding yourself and were walking about where you were wishing. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and other will gird you and will lead you where you do not wish. Be following me.
With Jesus, to agape was added philia, when the man he had chosen to love, even though he catered to the things of men, chose to obey his Lord's commandments and learn from him. With Peter, to philia was added agape, when he chose -- according to his will -- to obey his Lord and follow him where he did not wish to go!
We know this because this is the disciple who later wrote:
I Peter 4
8 And before everything, be having earnest agape-love among yourselves, because agape-love covers a multitude of sins.
II Peter 1
5 And beside this, having applied all diligence, provide to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge self control, and in your self control endurance, and in your endurance piety, 7 and in your piety brotherly-philia-love, and in your brotherly-philia-love agape-love.
He ought to know! So it was that Peter's love became the Love of Jesus, for filia-love is fickle but agape-love endures, whatever comes to pass.