John 21: 1-25 (Living Bible) (John is speaking…)
After this (i.e. Jesus appearing to the disciples when Thomas was present), Jesus again showed Himself to His followers at the Lake of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee). It happened like this: 2 Simon Peter and Thomas who was called the Twin and Nathanael from the town of Cana in the country of Galilee and the sons of Zebedee and two other followers were all together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” The others said, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into a boat. That night they caught no fish.
4 Early in the morning Jesus stood on the shore of the lake. The followers did not know it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children (friends/lads), do you have any fish?” They said, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Put your net over the right side of the boat. Then you will catch some fish.” They put out the net. They were not able to pull it in because it was so full of fish.
7 Then the follower whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Peter heard it was the Lord, he put on his fisherman’s coat. (He had taken it off.) Then he jumped into the water. 8 The other followers came in the boat. They were pulling the net with the fish. They were not far from land, only a little way out.
9 When they came to land they saw fish and bread on a fire. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 Simon Peter went out and pulled the net to land. There were 153 big fish. The net was not broken even with so many.
12 Jesus said to them: “Come and eat.” Not one of the followers would ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took bread and fish and gave it to them. 14 This was the third time Jesus had shown Himself to His followers after He had risen from the dead.
15 When they were finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter answered Jesus, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 Jesus said to Peter the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He answered Jesus, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of My sheep.”
17 Jesus said to Peter the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt bad (upset) because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He answered Jesus, “Lord, You know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 For sure, I tell you, when you were young, you put on your belt and went wherever you wanted to go. When you get old, you will put out your hands and someone else will put on your belt and take you away where you do not want to go.” 19 He said this to tell Peter what kind of death he would die to honour God. After Jesus said this, He said to Peter, “Follow me.”
20 Peter turned around. He saw the follower whom Jesus loved, following. This one had been beside Jesus at the supper. This is the one who had asked Jesus, “Lord, who will hand you over?” 21 Peter saw him and said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this one?” 22 Jesus said, “If I want this one to wait until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.” 23 So the news spread among the followers that this follower would not die. But Jesus did not say to him that he would not die. He said, “If I want him to wait until I come, what is that to you?”
24 This is the follower who is telling of these things and who has written them. We know that his word is true. 25 There are many other things that Jesus did also. If they were all written down, I do not think the world itself could hold the books that would be written.
- We all look back on experiences that have shaped us…
- Sometimes, the experience is literally life transforming…
- It may have occurred long ago or more recently… but it is powerfully embedded in our hearts and minds
Perhaps you look back with some regret…
- “How can I have been so stupid!”
- “I was so naïve!”
- “What on earth possessed me to behave as I did?”
Or perhaps you feel a degree of satisfaction…
- “I feel so blessed to have had that opportunity”
- “What a challenging but wonderful time… I learned so much about myself, about God, about life and about other people”
Peter was no exception… his life was one of ups and downs, especially after he encountered the person of Jesus!
Peter sometimes has a bad press… rather like Mary, mother of Jesus, and Thomas (the doubter, so-called!)
- Partly because Jesus spoke about Peter as “the rock” on which the church would be built… and its extreme interpretation by the RC Church… apostolic succession and Popes, etc.
- Partly because he was a headstrong and slightly unsettling character
- Partly because of his threefold denial of knowing Jesus
Yet Peter played a key role in establishing the early church and promoting the Gospel
- He had been a fisherman before he was called by Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth: “Follow me”
- When Jesus first called Peter and told him to fish in deep water (Luke 5)… the boat almost capsized with the weight of the fish! Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and cried: ”Go away (depart) from me Lord, for I am a sinful man”
- Peter had seen first-hand all that Jesus did…heard what he said… witnessed the transforming power and authority of the God-man
- He was one of the “inner circle” of disciples with James and John.
- Peter showed that he was a leader of men… yet was sometimes impetuous, confused, headstrong…
- He confessed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”
- Peter was present with James and John when the persons of Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain with Jesus
- He refused to let Jesus wash his feet until Jesus told him that it was an essential part of being a disciple… then Peter told Jesus to wash him all over!
- He claimed that even if everyone else forsook Jesus, he would never let Him down… that he was willing to die for Him
- Peter used his sword when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus
- He denied knowing Jesus on three occasions in the Temple courtyard
- He was the first disciple to enter the empty tomb
- He was there in the upper room when Jesus came and stood among them.
And now here he is, fishing with some of the disciples when the resurrected Jesus stands on the shore of the Lake and calls to them through the early morning mist… (Did other people see and hear Jesus?)
- So Peter is there with Jesus on the shore, having left the other disciples to bring in the catch!
- Then Jesus asks Peter that piercing question…
Do you love me more than these?
- Not “Do you love me?” or “How much do you love me?”
- But rather, “Do you love me more than these?” (v 15)
More than these… what?
- Well, for Peter it was probably a reference to the comment he made before he denied Jesus three times that even if all the others deserted Him, he (Peter) would be willing to die for Him
- And now Jesus is probing the reality and depth of this claim… making Peter confront his own failings and the truth about his tendency to rely on his own strength rather than on God …
But as far as we’re concerned, “more than these” can refer to anything in our lives
Where does Jesus come in your priorities and in mine?
- What matters most to you and to me?
- Where are your affections and desires situated?
- What drives you and motivates you?
- When are the occasions that we put first our own needs at the expense of seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness?
These are challenging questions, not least because most of us tend to blow hot and cold…
- One minute, we’re singing praises to God and delighting in His goodness
- The next minute, we’re caught up in our own petty affairs with little thought of Jesus and His glory…
- He becomes a peripheral figure, rather than central to our thoughts, behaviour and decisions
Crucially, obedience lies at the heart of our relationship with God… indeed, obedience is better than sacrifice
- I may be working terribly hard and faithfully in what I consider to be the Lord’s work… others may applaud my dedication and determination…
- But unless I’m doing what God calls me to do, much of my effort will be water poured out on sand
- So prayer and waiting on God should always precede service and be our constant companion during our service, so that we are clear about our calling and not acting on a whim or out of duty or to gain status.
There is a danger, of course, that I may use “I don’t feel called” as an excuse for sitting on the sidelines!
- In addition, Paul writes that even when I am following my calling, I must first “put on love, which binds all other virtues together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3: 14)
- Obedience without compassion and selflessness will be ‘heavy’ and dreary and ultimately barren
- Peter had to learn that true service for Christ involves humility and dying to self.
So why did Jesus choose to reveal Himself to the group of disciples on that particular occasion by the Lake… and in that particular way?
- First, remember that in the upper room, Jesus had breathed on them to receive the Holy Spirit… so it wasn’t for that purpose that He came to the lakeside
NOTE that receiving the Holy Spirit does not mean that we behave faultlessly thereafter!
- Second, Jesus did not rebuke them for fishing or send them off with a flea in their ear! So it wasn’t to rebuke them.
- Third, Jesus did not tell them a parable … so it wasn’t to reveal general principles about life and conduct …
In fact, in addition to the miracle, Jesus principally did two things: (a) He shared a meal with them; (b) He spoke to Peter at length about Peter’s attitude and motives.
- The meal was a reminder that at the heart of the Gospel message is fellowship (relationship)… with God and with one another.
- Speaking to Peter was to ensure that he was truly humbled and fully committed to Christ before being launched into a new sphere of ministry…
Peter was to be given a unique and challenging task in being an ambassador for the Gospel
- Jesus had to make certain that any trace of pride and self-serving was eradicated in Peter.
NOTE THE FOLLOWING…
- Peter was restored not forgiven by Jesus… there was nothing to forgive! Forgiveness came at Calvary…
Indeed, it might be fair to say that Peter had already been restored… now he had to be commissioned for service
- Jesus wasn’t interrogating Peter to learn the truth from him by asking the question… Jesus already knows our hearts and desires… The questions were for Peter’s benefit (and ours)
- The outcome wasn’t a cringing confession from Peter… or a doctrinal exposition from Jesus or a moralising lecture… it was a simple command: “Feed my lambs and sheep… and follow me”
This was not Jesus’ first personal encounter with Peter… see Luke 24:34… but it was a public demonstration that Jesus had serious work for him to do and needed him to be spiritually attuned!
Peter was a leader of men and, as with every leader, prone to make mistakes and the tendency to believe that it was him, Peter, who was the focal point… when it has to be Christ at the centre
- Whether or not you are a leader in the church, the same principle applies… How submitted are you (am I) to Christ?
- If we want to grow, we must accept that God will test us before He trusts us with greater responsibility and spiritual authority.
So… number of years spent as a follower of Christ is not, in itself, sufficient to guarantee greater spiritual maturity
Knowing your Bible is not sufficient of itself…
Prayer of itself is not enough… (Indeed, prayer is pretty meaningless unless it involves greater intimacy with God)
Holding a position in the church is not sufficient…
The only way to grow and prosper and be effective is to answer honestly and regularly the question that Jesus put to Peter…
“Do you love me more than these?”
It was only when Peter was brought low and humbled himself before the Lord that Jesus could trust him with the great responsibility of being a witness to the transforming work of the Gospel.
And so it is for you and me. The next step is yours!