So said the Apostle Peter when asked for the third time by the Lord Jesus in John 21:17, "lovest thou me?" Have you ever doubted your experience? I have. That is not to say that I have ever doubted the Lord Jesus' love for me because I haven't. There have been times though that I have not felt that I was a very good Christian. It makes me think of a song from long ago. It goes something like this:
I don't tell it enough, I don't pray enough
I don't love my neighbor as I should enough.
When I stop to think what He's done for me;
How can I not love the Lord.
I am not sure of the wording of the song but sometimes I wonder if I love the Lord Jesus enough. In the Gospel of John 21:15-18, the Bible says, "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me." Perhaps the most telling words of the Lord Jesus to Peter that day were, "Follow Me."
The Lord asked the Apostle Peter in verse 15, "lovest thou me more than these?" They had just eaten and of course Peter's reply was "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." As Peter was a fisherman by trade it would seem that the Lord was referring to the abundance of fish He had provided. A similar question was asked by the Lord a second time in verse 16. It is interesting to me that the the word used by the Lord in verses 15-16 for "lovest" was "ἀγαπάω," pronounced "ag-ap-ah'-o," (according to Strong's Greek Dictionary). That is the same word used in 1st Corinthians 13 for "charity" and is thought to be the highest form of love. The word Peter used in his reply for "love," was "φιλέω," which is pronounced, "fil-eh'-o." Again, according to Dr. Strong, the meaning is "to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object])." Peter was stating that he was a friend, and perhaps fond of the Lord. But Jesus was asking a probing question, did Peter love the Lord enough to eventually lay down his life because of his love for the Lord Jesus?
The third time the Lord asked the question of Peter, "lovest thou me," the Bible says that "Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." In this third instance the Lord used the same Greek word Peter had used in his reply. Jesus asked Peter, "are you my friend, are you fond of me?" Maybe that is what the Lord meant when He said to Peter in Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." When Peter is converted? Peter had spent the greater part of three and one-half years following the Lord. He had, presumably, given up his profession, family and friends, etc., to follow the Lord and he was not yet converted? In Luke 22:33-34, Peter made the bold declaration, "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me." (See also John 13:37-38; through John 14:1-3) I think that when Peter was converted, he came to love the Lord Jesus with the agapaō type of love that the Lord Jesus first referred to.