Penning Vineyard Days has been to this wellspring’s heart what writer’s block is to an author’s novel.
I hit a wall.
For four weeks I have been focused on writing other pieces and getting a Fall video series underway with fourteen students in the class. It was also four weeks ago that I posted Part 2 of our Shulamite’s three confessions of love. Scribing her third confession sits on the other side of that wall.
While I wait, welcome to Selah III. I have learned from past experience that hurrying through or trying to force something is not the wisest approach. If Vineyard Days strikes you as a long, drawn-out saga, just think how long Shepherd Lover has been waiting for His Bride to be made ready to be united with Him.
Often when I think I am waiting on Him, I ultimately discover – like Peter – He has been waiting for me.
If you’ve been following along, it’s not hard to figure out that after Eros and Phileo comes Agape love.
The wall I hit was finding myself still on a lower plane of love than my heart desires. I want to be full of agape love, but there remains plenty of phileo in me. The past four weeks have provided me lots of ‘opportunities’ for proving to the Lord and others that I’m not just all mouth. I have been caught in the tension of ascending my own spiritual stairway via the dance of two steps forward, three steps back.
Peter knew this dance too. He had given a bold confession of commitment to the death, only to fear for his life when confronted as one who had been with Jesus. Denial sprang to his lips, failing the test. Blessedly, it was not the end of his story; the rest of which began with a revelation of true Agape love.
In John 21:15-18 we read the well-known account of Peter’s restoration after denying Jesus before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:35a). To fully appreciate the exchange that took place, we need to look to the Greek as it renders a quite different expression than English. The word “love” in the following passage takes on greater distinction and indication of Jesus’ heart when the Greek is inserted, as noted in parentheses:
When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love (“agape” – love to the point of death) Me more than these [others do–with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love (“phileo” – am fond of) You [that I have deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Feed My lambs.
Again He said to him the second time, Simon, son of John, do you love (“agape” – love to the point of death) Me [with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love (“phileo” – am fond of) You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Shepherd (tend) My sheep.
He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love (“phileo” – are fond of) Me [with a deep, instinctive, personal affection for Me, as for a close friend]? Peter was grieved (was sorrowful and distressed) that He should ask him the third time, Do you love (“phileo” – are fond of) Me?
And he said to Him, Lord, You know everything; You know that I love (“phileo”) You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep. (John 21:15-17 AMP – Greek notations added in parentheses)
What just happened? Jesus stepped right into Peter’s story by coming down to his level. In those moments – and before, while warming himself at the fire – Peter knew he had failed miserably. So when Jesus – this One he had sworn his life loyalty to – questioned him, his response was one of grief. Oh, that it should be our response too.
When our testimony of love and commitment to the Lord is put to the test, we find out in a hurry where our heart resides and in what areas we are not all that we think ourselves to be.
Peter had denied Jesus before the Resurrection, and now post-Resurrection, Jesus is pressing the issue. Peter could not deny that his experience did not match his confession. He could only reply from the level that Jesus’ questioning had made apparent.
And yet, just as Peter experienced in the Lord’s presence, Jesus does not condemn us for where we are. Instead, as He did with Peter, He comes down to our level, meets us in that place and solicits a truthful confession. He already knows where we are; He wants to assure that we know where we are too.
Jesus’ probing reality check and Peter’s answering grief melted his resistance, shame, and pride. I believe that was key to his restoration. To linger in any one of those would have kept Peter from being lifted by Jesus to a new level of faith and love, Agape love.
From the second “Follow Me!” forward (vs. 19), Peter went on to become Peter, the rock that Jesus declared His church would be built upon which the gates of Hell would be unable to overpower…
Shammahs Field LLC/Shammah Ministries is the biblical counseling, life coaching, and spiritual growth ministry entrusted to Wayne & Nancy Bentz. You can learn more about the resources they have to offer at www.shammahsfield.com.