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Do You Agape Me?



To agape someone is to love them unconditionally. Blue Letter Bible defines agape “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” When we agape someone, it is more than a deep friendship and more than an affectionate or kind showing of love.


Every time someone starts to tell the story of Peter and Jesus in John 21: 15-19 I anticipate that they will discuss the definitions of love that are illustrated through the story. These verses include two different Greek words for love: agape and phileo. The Greek word phileo is defined: to love, to approve of; to like, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, befriend, or to show signs of love.


Below I will include versions of the text from four translations. For this illustration, I will use Holman Christian Standard Bible substituting the Greek word used each time Jesus or Peter says “love.”

Jesus asked Simon Peter, “… do you agape Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I phileo you.”
“Feed my lambs.,” He told him.
A second time He asked him, “… do you agape me?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I phileo You.”
“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you phileo Me?”
Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you phileo Me?”
He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I phileo You.”
“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

Twice Jesus asked Peter “do you agape Me?” Both times Peter replied “I phileo you.” Finally, Jesus asks Peter, “do you phileo Me?” After Peter grieves being asked three times, Peter says again “I phileo you.”


When The Lord asks us, “do you agape Me?” How do we respond? Do we replace agape with phileo like Peter? Or do we declare our love for Him? How many times does The Lord have to ask us?



New International Version

Jesus Reinstates Peter
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible

Jesus’ Threefold Restoration of Peter
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him.
16 A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

King James Version

15 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.
16 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.
17 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.

New American Bible (Revised Edition)

Jesus and Peter.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

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