By Submitted Article on November 2, 2019.
Great conversations between God and man
Last of six parts
Jacob M. Van Zyl
Simon Peter had many conversations with Jesus during his three-year discipleship. Several short exchanges were recorded.
Jesus’ interactions with the fisherman started and ended with a miraculous catch of fish. They were already acquainted when Jesus preached from Peter’s boat (Luke 5:1-11). After a frustrated night of hard work and no results, Peter was not enthusiastic when Jesus asked him to set sail for deep water. He complied reluctantly.
Suddenly, his net was filled with fish to breaking point. Overwhelmed, he fell on his knees and asked that Jesus leave him, a sinful man. Jesus promoted him to fisher of people.
On two occasions, Jesus put a vital question to his disciples, and Peter voiced the hidden faith of the group.
After the feeding of the 5,000, the crowd wanted to crown Jesus as king. He refused their political kingdom, inviting them to his heavenly one (John 6). Many lost interest in Jesus, and dispersed.
Jesus asked his disciples if they, too, wanted to leave him. Peter spoke for the group with a powerful affirmation of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69).
On another occasion, Jesus asked the disciples what they thought about him. Peter again affirmed their belief that he was the Messiah (Matt. 16:13-20).
However, the disciples’ ideas about the Messiah were wrought with inaccurate Jewish expectations about a political ruler. When Jesus predicted his death on several occasions, Peter tried to persuade him to prevent such a tragedy.
When Jesus was arrested in Jerusalem, their dreams came crushing down. Fearing arrest himself, Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus. The cock’s daybreak crow opened his eyes, as Jesus had foretold.
After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter was unsure how to proceed. He decided to return to Galilee and his boat. History repeated itself with a night’s fruitless work, followed by a miraculous catch. They had breakfast with Jesus on the shore of the lake. Nobody could find the words to communicate with their friend and master, back from the dead.
Jesus asked Peter if he loved him (agapas me) more than others. Peter affirmed with “I like you” (philo se).
Jesus repeated: “Do you love me?” (agapas me). Again, Peter responded with, “I like you” (philo se).
Peter broke down when Jesus asked the third time, “Do you like me?” (phileis me). He now used Peter’s word for love, philo, friendship love.
In view of his denials at Jesus’ trial, Peter could not use agape, sacrificial love. Jesus accepted Peter’s modest love and restored him as disciple and leader.
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.