Jesus might have been less redundant if he spoke Greek…

Something that I find very obnoxious is redundancy. Often times I am convinced that it wastes time and makes me feel like incompatantcy is either suggested or found in one or the other party. So you can imagine my annoyance with this little story in John 21:15-18.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Why the heck is Jesus so repetitive and redundant?!

He asks Peter (Simon) whether or not he loves him three times. And he tells him to feed or take care of his sheep the same amount of times.

Why?

“Well today I was gifted with a little insight into this mystery and I would love to humbly share it with you, if you don’t mind”, she said, sipping her Starbucks iced coffee daintily. (See what I did there? For Thirsty Thursday?)!

First of all, in the Greek translation, “love” has different words and meanings. I will give you a brief run down, but I would probably check out C.S. Lewis and his book The Four Loves if you’re interested.

  • Agápe means love in a “spiritual” sense. It often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true unconditional love” which is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. (The love of God).
  • Éros is “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Romantic, pure emotion without the balance of logic. “Love at first sight”. Eros does not have to be sexual in nature, but describing love you have for someone more than just a friend.
  • Philia  “mental” love. It means affectionate regard or friendship in both ancient and modern Greek. This type of love has give and take. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.
  • Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. In fact, it is almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.

In the Greek translation, here’s how this conversation with Jesus would go down:

JC: Peter, do you AGAPE me more than these?

Pete: Lord, you know that I PHILIA you.

JC: Peter, do you AGAPE me?”

Pete: Yes, Lord, you know that I PHILIA you.

JC: Peter, do you PHILIA me?

Pete: (a little annoyed and grieved at being asked a third time) Lord, you know all things; you know that I PHILIA you!

JC: Then feed my sheep.

Now, Peter and Jesus didn’t speak Greek, so they wouldn’t have had this quibble over words, but what we have to ask ourselves is why did the writer, John, use the distinction between the two loves?

I believe all scripture is God-breathed and profitable, and I sure hope you do too. So, there is some reason as to why these two words are used in the Greek translation, and I believe is is to get us to understand a little more about who Jesus Christ is.

Jesus, after using one word for love, changed his words in order to meet Peter where he was at that time. Peter was clearly not at the level of Agape love (perhaps because he had just denied Jesus earlier), and so Jesus made the adjustment, came down to Peter’s level with Philia love while at the same time still making it clear that Agape love was the goal for his disciples.

Now, isn’t that beautiful? And isn’t that the way God always works?

love youHe points out the facts of what we should do. He will do that forever, and I sure am glad because I would really be lost with our clear direction! He shows us the kind of love He has for us and wants us to experience the deepest level of for His glory and for our own precious experience of Him.

…and yet… if for some reason we’re not there yet, if for some reason we just can’t get to that deep level in our spiritual walk, God does not just brush us aside and roll his eyes at how immature and stupid we are (even if we truly are immature and stupid). No! God comes down to our level and gives us a hand, gives us direction to get further, and loves us with all of Himself so that we might get to that deeper level.

Sometimes we are like Peter. We love God, we really do, but there is sin in our lives that is keeping us from really truly experiencing God as fully as He wants us to. But instead of sin creating an unbridgeable gap between us and God, Jesus bridges the gap for us. 

I mean, isn’t that why Jesus was sent down in the first place? To not only come down to our human level of experience, but to rectify our sin?

Peter sinned against God three huge times by denying Him in His final hour. This sin put a block up around Peter so he was not able to love God in the Agape sense. If Jesus, who truly deserves the full, selfless, godly Agape love, did not come down and adjust to accept his Philia love, I don’t think Peter would have gone on to do all of God’s incredible work as shown in the book of Acts. He would have no hope of even understanding how to get to Agape love unless Jesus gave him instructions on how to do so (“feed my sheep”).

Now, if God will do this for us, come down and meet us where we’re at, how much more should we do this for others?

Are you struggling with another believer who “just isn’t getting it”? Are you frustrated with your loved one who is stuck in sin or guilt or confusion?

Do what Jesus did. Get on their level. Accept where they are in their walk. Help them in their journey, not by pointing out direction from above, but by coming alongside them and showing them the way.

Perhaps you are the one who needs to be met at your level. Know and trust that Jesus is with you. His Holy Spirit is on you and will guide you to the next step further in your faith. You do not have to work your way up to God. In fact, you will fail miserably if you try! God will meet you where you are and take you higher, just as He did for Peter, Paul, the woman at the well, and countless others!

Today, for Thirsty Thursday, get thirsty for God’s love. His Agape love!

 

“Get behind me Satan!”

… and I’m not just talking about the White Stripes album.

Today I was reading Matthew (if you haven’t already noticed, I’ve been reading through this book for a while now), and I was startled by the words “Get behind me Satan!” coming from Jesus’ mouth. The surprising part wasn’t so much that he said them, but rather who he said them to:

“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering, be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it Lord! this must never happen to you!’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things’. “ Matthew 16:21-23

Yep, he says those startling words to Peter.

The weird part about all of this is in this same chapter, Peter (at the time he was ‘called’ Simon) totally impresses Jesus with his faith and understanding in his divinity that Jesus renames him to “Peter”.

At this point, Jesus has been getting all kinds of annoyed at his disciples because they just aren’t getting it!

They freak out when they don’t have enough bread even though Jesus turned five loaves and two fish into food for over five thousand men (not including the women and children). Then, when Jesus is trying to warn them not to listen to the Pharisees, they misunderstand him entirely and get paranoid that Jesus is mad at them because they didn’t pack any food (which is silly because Jesus actually tells them not to bring anything with them when traveling).

But Peter is the one who passes the test.

Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they say, “Some say John the Baptist, but other Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus says toe them, “But who do you say that I am?” And it’s Simon/Peter who answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Paraphrased from Matthew 16:13-16)

Jesus is elated– someone finally gets it! Quite honestly, I don’t think most of his disciples really understood this fact about Jesus’ divinity up until after his death. They knew he was special, but why would Jesus respond so enthusiastically to Peter if all his followers were also aware that he was divine?

“Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'” Matthew 16:17-19

This description has a lot of heavy language in it. I mean look at it! Peter, first of all, gets his new name, then he’s got Jesus telling him that God himself revealed important information to him, that he’s the rock that the church will be built on, that the Devil will not prevail against said church, and that he’s going to be giving Peter the kingdom of heaven!

Talk about some heavy stuff!

So how does Jesus go from praising the heck out of Peter to then calling him “Satan” and a “stumbling block” that stands in his way?

The truth of the matter is that we all are just like Peter.

Sometimes we totally impress and excite our God…. and other times we annoy him to no end. He still has patience with us, just like Jesus does with Peter even after this last encounter (and then later when he denies him three more times), but we do have the tendency to, as Jesus puts it, “set our minds not on divine things, but on human things.”

This human vs. divine thing is kind of clutch.

Jesus tells Peter that whatever he gains and looses here on earth, he also will gain and loose in heaven. But then he also tells Peter that his mind is not focused on heaven; which is a big problem!

Paradoxically, Jesus is the perfect blending of both of these things; he is fully divine, but also fully human.

So what does all this mean?

Well, it may not be so easy to say. However, I believe this verse’s purpose is to put the fear of God back into our hearts and to get us focusing on heaven rather than earth.

Sometimes people like to paint this pretty picture of Jesus as this meek, mild, accepting person, but just from the initial passage– (the “Get behind me Satan!” passage)– you can clearly see that his man is nowhere near meek!

Jesus has a mission, and it’s a tough one, the toughest one that any man has ever faced: to take on the wrath of God and die for the world’s sins.

Jesus knows he must do this, and yeah, it looks crazy (as many times Jesus’ missions do), but he’s got to do it, and any person who says otherwise is clearly not supporting the mission of God. If you’re not for him, your against him.

We are evil. And God hates evil. And it sucks, because we have Satan working to turn us into stumbling blocks to God’s mission 24/7 and the rest of the world is not helping us out in the least.

Jesus told Peter that he came about his wisdom not by the world, but by God– divine intervention, if you will. And the same is true for us; any understanding we may have of Christ, any truly selfless act or piece of truth we receive or give comes from God.

Like Peter, we are capable of incredible good, but we also are capable and highly susceptible to disdainful evil. Even our closest, dearest friends.

If God is calling us to his mission, then anyone or anything that tempts us to stray from that divine path is a stumbling block to Jesus.

What would it be like if we reacted the way Jesus does in these situations? ….

“hey man, I know you trying to quit smoking and like, take care of your body or whatever, but you want to step out and share a smoke with me?”

“GET BEHIND ME SATAN!!!”

“…Woah, chill out dude…”

Okay, so maybe that’s a little extreme. But maybe we’re called to see things this way. Maybe we’re called to see ourselves this way.

Have you ever felt Satan at work in your life?

What are stumbling blocks in Jesus’ mission for you, and how can you recognize them when they may simply look like Peter, a concerned and protective friend?

What do you think is the balance between focusing on divine things and earthly things?