Peninsula Community Church
May 5, 2019
John 21:15-17 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.” He 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.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the 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.”
After the resurrection Jesus had a number of encounters in order to show that He was alive and that the promise of His resurrected life was a reality. We looked at one these encounters last week but we will investigate one more this week. The encounter of Jesus with Peter deserves our consideration because there is much that we can learn from this interaction.
If you remember the night leading up to the crucifixion and for that matter during the crucifixion itself Peter could not be found. Peter, the strong willed one, had emphatically stated that he would never deny or reject Christ. He made a promise, but that promise was quickly forgotten. Peter’s heart quickly turned and he fell into the trap of denying Christ, not once but three times. When he denied Jesus the last time, the memory of the words spoken by Jesus came flooding in. “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”
The Scripture says that when the reality of what he had done hit him that he went out and wept bitterly. That is probably one of the saddest verses in the whole Bible. Of all the tears you can cry, bitter tears are the worst. With tears of grief, they at least carry within them the love you have for the person you have lost. But bitter tears? Bitter tears carry shame, humiliation, and deep regret that stings and it stings deep within one’s spirit. I wonder if, for the rest of his life, every time Peter heard a rooster crow it brought him back to that night and he was reminded of how he rejected Christ.
In response to this Peter reverts back to what is common and safe. He goes back to what was comfortable. He goes back to what is familiar. He went back to fishing. He went back to work, because he thought his days as a disciple of Christ were over. You see it is not an unusual thing to revert back to what was rather than what is. I have found that to be true at different times in my life. When we transitioned from the ministry in New York to Virginia, my first inclination was to seek a secular job, or a job where I did not have to be a pastor. I was tired. I was weary. The truth is I was burned out because I had given 100% plus to the ministry. That was and is the way that I operate. I give everything I have to the things that I am involved with. So I thought it would be nice to do something different, but Jesus and I had an encounter, and He would not allow me to to do that. He had a different plan.
While Peter is out doing what is familiar, as the morning dawned, they had not caught any fish. I wonder if Peter, who already felt the failure of denying Christ, is now feeling that he cannot even do a good job at what he was most equipped to do. I question if at this point he was feeling that everything around him was falling a part. When we run away, things usually do not get better they often get worse. Peter was reaching the end of his rope.
It was here that Jesus showed up in the chaos of Peter’s life. Sadly, as with the men on the road to Emmaus, Peter nor the other disciples recognized Him. Even though they did not know Him, He instructs the disciples to put their nets out on the other side. Think about how amazing this is. How could this be? Only a few feet marked the difference. It was the difference between a harvest and an empty net. What made the difference? The difference was that Jesus told them to do it. They were obedient to his command even though they still did not recognize Him as the Christ. When they listened to Him, they hauled in a bunch of fish, 153 to be exact. It was only at this moment that John looked and recognized the Christ who was alive.
The question for us is how many times do we try to do things in our own strength? We are working hard, but little is accomplished. Maybe there is little honoring of God, but there is a lot of striving by our own hand to accomplish things that only God can do. One reason Jesus did this was so to remind the disciples that they were powerless to accomplish much without Him. Even when we do not recognize Jesus in our circumstances, He still moves on our behalf.
And then we find that Jesus does the most amazing thing. When the disciples land on the shore Jesus prepares the disciples breakfast. He has a fire going and he has made some bread and fish. He invites them to eat. Recorded here are perhaps the most important words in all of Biblical history. “Come and have breakfast.” The significance of this cannot be overlooked or over estimated. They are a bunch of scared, broken, rejected men, and Jesus does the unimaginable. He invites them to have breakfast with Him.
The last time they were together for a meal was the Last Supper and it was there that so much had happened. It was there that Peter had emphatically promised that he would never reject Jesus, and yet he did. It is important to notice what is not in the story. The risen Christ does not remind the disciples about their betrayal, their desertion, their denial, or their doubt. Jesus does not ask them to confess their failures. There is no recrimination, no anger, and no resentment. There is only, “Come and have breakfast.” There is only mercy, only nourishment, and an open invitation to a new life. How amazing is that?
There are times where Jesus scolds the disciples, and challenges them in their walk of faith, but this is not one of those times. You see Jesus knew their heart, and He knew the struggle in them was very real. They did not need condemnation, they needed love. They did not need to be reminded of their past, but a reminder of their future. They knew their past, He knew their future. They needed a vision of what could be and not what was. You see Jesus is all about restoration. He knew if Peter was to play the crucial role in the early church, he would need to be restored. Peter needed to understand that although he had forsaken Christ, Christ had not forsaken him.
Notice in verses 12-13 that after the breakfast Jesus asks Peter a direct question. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” What things was Jesus referring to? He was referring to that which Peter fell back on: fishing, his career, his friends, anything else in his life that became a substitute for following Christ.
It is noteworthy and helpful for us to see the word play that is taking place in this passage. Jesus uses the word AGAPE for love. This is the highest love of the will, love that implies total commitment. Peter who was painfully aware of his disobedience and failure, felt too guilty to claim that type of love. His brash pronouncements were now a thing of the past. He was broken and humbled and fully aware that his actions had precluded him from making such a claim to the highest love. Peter answered by using the word PHILEO, a less lofty term that signifies affection. He also appealed to Jesus’ omniscience, reminding Him, “You know that I love You.” How does Jesus respond to Peter? His response is simply a command to feed His lambs.
It is noteworthy that three times Jesus asks Paul this poignant question. “Do you love me?” The first two times Jesus uses the word AGAPE. The last time He asks, Jesus uses the word PHILEO. Jesus understands that within Peter there is a brokenness and hesitancy to commit beyond what he can do at this time. Here is the truth for us. Jesus will meet you where you are. He would rather we be honest than make a commitment that we cannot keep. He would rather that we speak truth than have false worship or a false commitment where we will fail and fall short.
As Andreas Köstenberger (Professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) notes, Perhaps at long last Peter has learned that he cannot follow Jesus in his own strength and has realized the hollowness of affirming his own loyalty in a way that relies more on his own power of will than on Jesus’ enablement.… Likewise, we should soundly distrust self-serving pledges of loyalty today that betray self-reliance rather than a humble awareness of one’s own limitations in acting on one’s best intentions.
So what does all of this mean to us? What is the application to be made in our lives here today? First, there is no failure too big that God cannot redeem. No matter how broken or how much we believe we might have failed, God can and will redeem us. Notice that Jesus went to them and they responded to Jesus’ invitation.
Second, we can run and hide but we cannot escape the calling of God. No matter where you run, He will find you. It is easy for us to fall back on what is easy and comfortable. Jesus never calls us to be comfortable. He calls us to be obedient and to be responsive to His will.
Third, God loves us and will meet us where we are. He wants to have breakfast with you. He wants you to pull a chair up to His table and have a meal with Him. This is because He wants to have a relationship with you more than anything else. He does not want you floundering and trying to survive in your power. He wants you to succeed. He is the God of the second chance.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom