In my last post, we examined when Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 2. In this post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 3.
We pick up the story as the fishermen are eating the breakfast that Yeshua had prepared for them.
15 After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim’on Kefa, “Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, do you love (agapaô) me more than these?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
After breakfast, Yeshua talked with Shim’on Kefa. He asked him, Shim’on Bar-Yochanan, do you love (agapaô) me more than these? Why would Yeshua ask this? Because when he had predicted that the emissaries would fall away, Kefa had vowed, “I will never lose faith in you,” Kefa answered, “even if everyone else does.” Matthew 26:33 (CJB). Kefa had wanted Yeshua to know that though the devotion of the other emissaries might waver, he could count on Kefa remaining steadfast. He would be the one talmid that Yeshua could trust. But here, after Kefa had shamefully denied Yeshua three times, Yeshua basically asked Kefa, “Are you still the most committed talmid?”
I really like how Stern translates Kefa’s response as I’m your friend. Most other English translations have him say, “You know that I love (phileō) You.” Previously, Kefa had claimed that his love for and commitment to Yeshua was superior to that of the others. But after his failure and denial, he wasn’t willing to proudly say that he loved Yeshua with a sacrificial love. In light of this humble response, Yeshua told him, Feed my lambs. In other words, “Since you’re not thinking so highly of yourself anymore, I can use you to lead and care for my people.”
16 A second time he said to him, “Shim’on Bar-Yochanan, do you love (agapaô) me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend.” He said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Shim’on Bar-Yochanan, are you, my friend?” Shim’on was hurt that he questioned him a third time: “Are you, my friend?” So he replied, “Lord, you know everything! You know, I’m your friend!” Yeshua said to him, “Feed my sheep!
Two Greek verbs with related meanings are used in this passage. Greek agapaô is selfless, self-giving love, the kind of love God has for his human creations; phileô is the love friends or brothers have for each other. Scholars are divided on the degree to which the use of these two different words for “love” affects the sense of this exchange between Yeshua and Kefa.
The exchange goes like this: “Do you agapaô me?”“I phileô you.”“Feed my lambs. Do you agapaô me?” “I phileô you.” “Shepherd my sheep. Do you phileô me?” “You know I phileô you.” “Feed my sheep.”
I believe that Bible translators do us a great disservice by not keeping the original Greek and providing the English definition in a footnote. I’ve often said that love in the English language is just too “squishy” of a word.
So, seeing Kefa humbled, Yeshua came down to Kefa’s level and met him where he was. Shim‘on was hurt. A question Yeshua had now matched his three denials of Yeshua repeated three times: “Do you love me?” It broke Kefa’s heart. All he could do was say, “Lord, you know everything! You know, I’m your friend!” When Kefa was proudly self-assured about his ability to stand fast at a critical moment, Yeshua knew that he would crack under pressure. He knew Kefa’s heart better than Kefa did. The grieving talmid understood that now. And since Yeshua knew all things, Kefa was convinced that Yeshua also knew that Kefa loved him despite his prior failure.
Again, Yeshua told him, Feed my sheep. Thus, Yeshua was restoring his humbled talmid to ministry. Kefa’s repentance allowed for restoration. Though Kefa had previously thought highly of himself, he had come to adopt Yeshua’s view of leadership in ministry. Kefa understood that being a leader of God’s people is not about arrogantly exercising power. Therefore, he could later write to other church leaders, “Shepherd God’s flock among you . . . not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3). Kefa had taken to heart Yeshua’s command, “Shepherd my sheep.” Sometimes God lets His people fail to develop them spiritually and prepare them for greater usefulness (see Luke 22:31-32).
The books of Acts, 1 Kefa, and 2 Kefa demonstrate that Kefa more than rose to the occasion and fulfilled Yeshua’s calling.
18 Yes, indeed! I tell you, when you were younger, you put on your clothes and went where you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 He said this to indicate the kind of death by which Kefa would bring glory to God. Then Yeshua said to him, “Follow me!”
Stretch out your hands refers to crucifixion, where a person’s hands and arms are spread out and nailed to the crossbeam. Tradition says Kefa chose to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the same manner as Yeshua. He is believed to have died in Rome in the mid-60’s CE.
Despite what was to come, Yeshua urged Kefa, Follow me! The Brit Hadashah shows that Kefa did indeed humbly follow his Lord and devote himself to gospel ministry. Are you prepared to follow Yeshua in good times and bad, at whatever the cost?
In my next post, we continue with Kefa Goes Fishing One More Time ~ Part 4.