Reading: John 21:15-17, 1 Samuel 18:1-4, Romans 12:1-2
The gospel of John could be divided in this way: Life (first section), Light (second), Love (third).
Story of a Roman Catholic priest, in Bolivia, who was saved at an early age. He met Eric Smith in Bolivia, and asked to study John 21 together. They reflected on the difference between the two Greek words concerning love: “agape” and “phileo.”
- “agape” – love (the most profound form of the love of God) and used in a broader general sense
- “phileo” – have affection for (denoting personal, more intimate, and dear attachment)*; Eric Smith explains that Peter uses this possibly here as just the “love of the head.” It is obvious that the Lord is dealing with the root problem in Peter, and in doing so, He restores him to communion with Himself and further prepares him for ministry.
*NOTE: J. A. Trench, in his treatise on Greek Synonyms, has this to say: “Peter, though in a way restored after his failure, had need to be restored to communion with the Lord. Not a word had passed as to it during the meal; but now, probably in allusion to Peter’s boastful confidence in himself, that had been the root of his fall, “Jesus saith, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agapao) thou me more than do these?” … The third time, [He says], “Simon, son of Jonas” — but now in grace adopts Peter’s word as appropriate — “art thou attached (phileo) to me?” “And he saith unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I am attached (phileo) to thee.”
II. “Lovest thou Me…more than all this?”
- Story of Mr. Borden who went to Tibet.
- Story of E. Smith’s own brother.
Do we value something else in this world which would hold back our affection for Christ?
If we do not know what to do, we can read Romans 12:1-2:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God (or the tender mercies of God), to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God”
III. David exceeded (1 Samuel 20:16-17; 41-43)
1 Samuel 18:1-4:
Saul is a type of the carnal man.
David and Jonathan made a covenant. Jonathan stripped himself of his princely robe, and he gave it to David. Have you stripped yourself, dear Christian?
Jonathan was a real friend to David. They wept together at the end of chapter 20, but David exceeded. There is no love like Christ’s, which David typifies here. Christ’s love has exceeded! “For the love of the Christ constrains us…” (2 Cor. 5:14).
Jonathan arose and went back into the city, and did not take his place with David in his rejection. It was a retrograde step! The history of Jonathan ends in lament.
IV. David’s Lament (2 Samuel 1:17-27)
War breaks out, and the carnal man is slain. Jonathan is found dead on the battlefield. Jonathan symbolizes those believers who have not put Christ first – and are found dead on the battlefield of life. It is a lament!
283 L.M. When we survey the wondrous cross On which the Lord of glory died, Our richest gain we count but loss, And pour contempt on all our pride. Forbid it Lord, that we should boast, Save in the death of Christ, our God; All the vain things that charm us most, We'd sacrifice them to His blood. There from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flowed mingled down; Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature ours, That were an offering far too small; Love that transcends our highest powers, Demands our soul, our life, our all.
This message is timely for us today when the Laodicean spirit (Rev. 3) predominates all around. Recall that in Laodicea, Christ is shut outside the door. What a testimony of the Church’s affection to Christ that it has Christ on the outside! Laodicea is also proud and lacks spiritual discernment. Below is a helpful quote from William Kelly on John 21, that shows how God’s grace necessarily shuts out all ground for pride “in great matters and small to which [Christ] attaches His name.”
“See how grace shuts out all ground for boasting while it secures honour beyond what we in our most sanguine desires ever anticipated. Is not this worthy of God and suited to His saints? When Peter went forward according to his own words, he came to worse than nothing; he a most favoured servant, denying the Holy and Righteous One, his own most gracious Master. It was the deepest humiliation, yet was he a true saint and a loving disciple; but so it was because he entered into temptation at his own charges, instead of enduring it, when tried by it, according to God. Thus his fall was inevitable; for none can endure save in faith and self-judgment. To be a believer and fervently to love the Lord will not preserve in the least under such circumstances, however strange this may sound to many, who little think how often and deeply they deny the Lord practically, in great matters and small to which He attaches His name. We must be put to shame in whatever thing we are proud.”Notes on John, by William Kelly