The word ‘love’ is a regular part of our everyday language, and I find the over usage of it so very frustrating. How many times have you said, or have heard others say, "I love you!" or "I love it!" I always remind myself that I love people and like things. However, in the English language the word 'love' is used when expressing our relationship with people or our joy over an object.
I also want you to consider the encounter between Jesus and Peter as they shared an early morning breakfast after Christ’s Resurrection (read it in John 21). Their Q & A dialogue is one that has caused us to try to dig deeper to determine what the word 'love' means. .Just exactly what was Jesus trying to uncover in the heart of Peter when He asked, "[Peter] Do you love me?"
On my recent trip to Israel, this passage in the 21st chapter of John became the topic of conversation while we visited the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha. As we shared with the tour guide the various ideas that have been considered about Jesus' conversation with Peter, she shared with us the Jewish perspective of what it could mean. She said, "Both Jesus and Peter were Jews. Therefore the first prayer they were taught at a very young age was Shema Yisrael: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6: 5-6).
The guide then held up her fingers as she said: "One: love the Lord with all your heart; Two: love the Lord with all your soul; Three: love the Lord with all your strength. Love, love, love!" Many readers would agree that the dialogue between Jesus and Peter was about restoration By denying Jesus three times, could it be that Peter had broken the Shema Yisrael and in doing so had denied the God of the Jewish people three times? And could it be that the three times Jesus asked Peter about love, Jesus was helping Peter to recall the One God and the commitment to love the One God with all his heart, soul and strength?
My one great desire in life is to have the understanding of the Old Testament that a Jewish person does. Yes, I am envious of them! That moment of learning in Tabgha was a great moment for me to hear this Jewish perspective on the conversation between Jesus and Peter. It was a reinforcement of the knowledge that when we get things wrong, we serve a God of second chances (and third, fourth...). To restore us, God speaks into our life and asks, "Do you love me?" My response is: "Yes! Yes! Yes!" Love, love, love!
Patsy Rowe, Major