What Were They Thinking?
What do you suppose the Pharisees and scribes thought when Jesus dished out His woes? Did they see Him as a hen gathering her chicks, or a rooster spurring his competition? Was Nicodemus in the crowd? Perhaps he thought, “You know, we ought to pay attention to what He has to say.” Jesus is the Lover of our souls, but it is possible to miss out on everything if we don’t let Him love us.
In the last chapter of John’s gospel we find what many have called Peter’s reinstatement. Peter denied Jesus after fair warning, and no one would have blamed the Lord had He kicked him out of His band of disciples. It would have been easy for Jesus to have said, “Peter, I’ll see you someday in heaven, but I really just can’t trust you to lead my church.” Instead, He asked, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15). Three times Jesus asked and three times Peter answered “yes.”
There is a small detail within Jesus’ dialogue with Peter that is worth noting. Jesus’ first two requests employed the word “agape” which refers to a sacrificial kind of love. All three times, Peter answered with the word “phileo”, meaning a deep friendship. In his third request Jesus changed his word to “phileo”. Many people suggest Jesus was disappointed Peter’s love wasn’t as deep as His, and that he changed His approach after failing twice to stir the kind of response He was hoping for. This could be the case, yet we should not necessarily see “phileo” as an inferior love; only a different kind of love. It is possible Peter just wasn’t thinking. Or maybe he was thinking! After all, he had denied His Lord. How could he possibly claim to have a sacrificial love for someone he let down in an hour of need?
My desire here is not to necessarily analyze Peter’s heart, or even try to get inside the heads of the Pharisees and scribes. I merely believe we should put some serious thought into what it means for Jesus to love us. We toss the word “love” around very loosely in our culture and sometimes fail to define it with action and anecdote. Jesus loves us, this is true. What more could He do to show His love than He has already done? But do we treat Him like a Lover? Do we want to know everything about Him? Are we willing to consider spending more time with Him? Is He even worthy of our spare time? Or do we simply say, “He loves me so, I know” and move on to our next activity in life?
What are we thinking when we say Jesus loves us? If He really is our Savior, then He not only deserve more of our thoughts, but He also our utmost attention when we come to worship Him. This is the way it is when people love those who love them first.