There are four words for love in Greek.
Agápe: Unconditional love.
Éros: Sexual desire.
Philia: brotherly love.
At the end of John’s gospel, Jesus uses two of them when he asks Peter (actually when he asks Simon, Son of John) “Do you love me?”. The first two times he asks, Jesus uses the word agape. Both times Simon answers Philia. Do you love me unconditionally Simon? Yes, I have brotherly love for you, Lord.
Then tend my sheep.
The third time, Jesus, pulls back his expectations. Do you love me, Simon? This time, Philia. Simon answers the same. That’s all he had. Peter. The rock. But that is enough.
“Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
I cannot get this out of my head. I had never heard this story before, and it is, in my mind, one of the most powerful passages I have ever read. The calling to Simon, not Peter. The inability of Simon to surrender his heart. The pure honesty of his response. Phila. Jesus’ understanding and acceptance. And Jesus’ call for him to follow. Where he is. To tend his sheep. To forgive and go forward with what he has.
The next passage is equally as amazing. In a literary sense, it is an extraordinarily strange way to end the gospel of John. Especially after the resurrection. But on a human level, it is brilliant. Peter, embarrassed, ashamed and afraid looks to justify his weakness by comparing himself to his others. His jealous is so real and so sad. Sad, because we have all be there. Searching the weaknesses of others to feel better about ourselves.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” 23 So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 20:21-23
What’s it to you?! BAM.
It’s not about what others do. It’s about your response to me. Stick to your knitting. Follow me. Tend my sheep. Love me with whatever you got. I will be waiting on the shore.