For a Sunday gathering of our intentional community, I did some study and then presentation on the lectionary Gospel of the day John 21:including vs. 15-17.
Jesus was having a “discussion of love” with Peter. I had been disturbed for some time by the footnote in the New American Bible on John 21: vs. 15-17. “In these three verses there is a remarkable variety of synonyms: two different Greek verbs for love; two verbs for feed/tend; two or three nouns for sheep; two verbs for know. Apparently there is no difference of meaning. The First Vatican Council cited this verse in defining that the risen Jesus gave Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock.”
My favorite commentary on John’s Gospel is Becoming Children of God by Wes Howard Brook. My disturbance with the footnote was relieved in this commentary. There is a significant difference in John’s Gospel with the two different Greek verbs for love. Jesus’ first two questions have the Greek word agapas for the love question and the response of Peter has the Greek word philo as the love response. In the third question Jesus uses the phileis and Peter responds with his same response philo. On page 477 Wes states: “The powerful invitation to lay down their lives for one another that is intended as the heart of the Johannine commitment is reduced by Peter to the commitment of an ordinary fraternity.”
Peter’s first three Greek words for know is oidas. But in his third response Peter changes the word for know to ginoskeis. There is a significant difference in these two Greek words used by Peter, Wes comments: “…Peter states his belief in Jesus’ knowledge of all things, but there is an element of anger that wants to reduce Jesus from knowledge that is intimacy to knowledge that is intellectual…In other words, finding Peter incapable at this moment of agape, Jesus settles for phileo.”
The two different words for love occur in John’s Gospel previously especially in chapter 13. Here is the kicker from Wes’ commentary: p. 302,303 “We tend to hear the word “know” in our modern scientific sense of empirical evidence, facts, data. To “know” something or someone is to have information about them. But in the ancient world, especially in the Hebraic mind-set, knowledge equaled intimacy. As “to know ” someone is a famous biblical metaphor from Genesis for sexual intercourse, knowledge means the deep awareness of a person that comes from being close, vulnerable, open. Jesus “knowledge” of his Father has been described in the fourth gospel many times not as awareness of theological concepts about the Trinity or similar propositional or intellectual awareness, but as the “oneness” that comes from constant watching and listening to the other.”
EASTER 3 C
From the down of denial to an affirmed love of Jesus.
Peter responds to the death of Jesus by returning to his familiar home and task, fishing in Galilee. He was overwhelmed by all that had happened to Jesus and how it had all affected him. He obsessed about his own protests, his denials, his flight, his going out and weeping bitterly. It was all too much for him. He was overwhelmed by the darkness of his own powerful emotions. He was in a fog.
So when Jesus comes to the Lake of Galilee again and is standing on the shore. The “disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” So Jesus questions them: “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” He tells them to cast the net on the other side. They do so. The catch is abundant. The disciple whom Jesus loved recognized the Master first and said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Ah impetuous Peter, “…he tucked in his garment…and jumped into the Sea.” The Gospel of John doesn’t tell us whether this was a deja vu experience for Peter or not. He simply makes it to the shore. Peter is the one who drags the net ashore. “None of them dared to ask, ‘who are you?’”
Jesus talks to Peter and questions him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds, “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” But it would seem that perhaps Peter’s heart wasn’t in it. Maybe he was still dealing with the fact that he had denied Jesus. A second time Jesus questions him: “Simon son of John do you love?” Peter’s response was the same a second time. Now he probably was preoccupied with the fact that he had denied knowing Jesus not once but three times. A third times Jesus questions Peter, and this time the emotional Peter come to life and jumps out. The Gospel writer tells us: “Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love?’ and he said to him, “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.” Now that Peter was engaged with his emotions, Jesus could tell him more. Peter would have to surrender. “…when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus uses images, symbols in dealing with Peter, feeder of lambs and sheep, bound for the Lord.
In Peter’s surrender Jesus could say to Simon (notice the name change, now Peter again) “Follow me!”