I’m sure we’d all agree that right now, a vaccine for COVID19 would change everything. In an instant. There’d be no need to self-isolate. We’d have freedom to meet again, to hug each other, to hang out with your friends, your extended family, your boyfriend or your girlfriend and to go on holiday. There’d be no more fear whenever we left the house, fear of being infected and there’d be no panic buying.
I’m a routine guy, I like a bit of structure, a bit of order. And so for me, it sounds weird, but the thing I’ve missed most has been my routine. My rhythm, my rhythm of exercise, my rhythm of a lunch date with Teresa on my day off, my rhythm of seeing you in the flesh on Sunday!
Now yes, a vaccine for COVID19 would change everything. But what about the resurrection of Jesus? Does that change anything?
We’re in John 21. If you’re watching today, and you’re checking us out, so good to have you with us! Our custom here at MBM is to look at the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, because that’s the way God’s revealed it.
John 20 finished with John telling us why he’s gone to the trouble of writing 20 majestic chapters. Why?
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ~John 20:31 (NIV)
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, John could have ended it there. He’s given us the entire biography of Jesus, from beginning to end. And now he’s saying, over to you. Believe!
But he doesn’t end it, John’s going to put pen to paper for one more chapter. Why? Because John doesn’t want to just download a set of facts. A set of propositions about Jesus. He wants to make it personal for you, he wants to show you and I exactly what it means to have life in his name. I, for one, am so thankful that he did that.
I reckon John 21, through the life of one person, Peter, teaches us two things.
1. Forgiveness is possible. So accept it
2. Following Jesus is essential. So keep at it.
John 21:15 begins with these words, “When they had finished eating”. This is the third appearance Jesus has made since he walked out that tomb. This time, he’s having fish and chips with his disciples. I love the fact that here, we have Jesus, the one who has endured the most bloody of deaths. In a new glorious body, the one with fresh wounds from the nails that went through his hands and the spear that went into his side.
That same Jesus, is now cooking a BBQ brekkie for his mates, at a beach next to the Sea of Galilee. You can see it on Google maps. This is not a made-up story. This really happened! It’s early in the morning and some, not all the disciples, they’ve been doing one of the few things you CAN still go out and do during coronavirus lockdown–fishing!
In some ways, life had gone back to normal for these guys. Before they’d met Jesus, they were fishermen. Now that Jesus had come and gone life had gone back to normal for these guys. Back on the boats, dropping the nets. Well that’s all about to change! Jesus turns up in verse 4.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NIV)
That’s understandable, it’s dark and the boat’s about 100 metres out in the water. Then comes some advice from the shore.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” ~John 21:6a (NIV)
Try the other side of your boat Jesus said! The result?
When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. ~John 21:6b (NIV)
Gee, I wish Jesus gave me fishing tips when I was teaching my son to fish a few years back. We were up at South West Rocks. Apparently one of the easiest places to catch fish. Not for us!
We’d gone out early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We tried this spot and that spot, this bait and that bait. Just as we were about to give up and end the holiday without any fish, we caught one! 1! That’s nothing compared to the 153 fish the disciples caught in an instant.
Well, with a truckload of fish, the guys who were in the boat were surely wondering: “Who’s standing on the shore giving us these fishing tips?”
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” ~John 21:7a (NIV)
I love this next bit
As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. ~John 21:7b (NIV)
No hesitation whatsoever, whereas we usually take off our clothes before jumping in the water. Peter puts on his clothes. And swims in to meet Jesus.
Now we’re about to eavesdrop in on the first recorded conversation between Peter and Jesus since Good Friday. You could say a lot has changed since then.
Now, in case you don’t know much about Peter, this is a guy who’s got a big heart. A big heart for Jesus. But that often leaves him with a truckload of regrets. It lands him in a lot of trouble, Peter likes to talk a big game but he often has difficulty backing it up. Like the time Peter, after Jesus revealed he was going to suffer and die. Peter tried to pull Jesus aside and rebuke him. Pete, you don’t tell the sinless son of God what to do.
And then there was the time when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus goes off to pray and says to Peter and a few others: watch out for me. What do they all do? They all nod off instead. They let Jesus down.
One more. Back in John 13. Jesus is sharing his last meal with his disciples. He told them he’s about to go to the cross. Peter boldly puts himself out there and says: “I will die for you Jesus” But sadly, instead of dying for Jesus, he denied Jesus. Not once. Not twice. But three times. I’m not with him. I don’t know him. I wasn’t there. Talk about overpromising and under-delivering. That was the story of Peter’s life. So with all that background info on Peter.
On how he’s let Jesus down again and again and again. We’re kind of holding our breath as we come to this first conversation between Peter and Jesus. But notice Jesus’ words: He could easily have said: “Pete, I told you so” “Pete, you let me down” But no, instead of rejection, instead of retaliation from Jesus. Instead of revenge, Jesus offers a welcome reception. He makes restoration by inviting Peter to share a meal with him.
“Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” ~John 21:10 (NIV)
“Come and have breakfast.” ~John 21:12 (NIV)
This is more than invitation to simply eat food, it’s an invitation to friendship. Meals are super significant, they’re super symbolic, today and back then, even more so. Whenever you see Jesus inviting people to share a meal with him. That’s a powerful declaration. A statement that says: “We’re at peace with each other” In a tangible and concrete way. Meals express that.
I’ve got say, that’s one of the good things about coronavirus. As a family, we’ve had time to slow down and have meals with each other. The conversations have been richer and we’ve been able to connect in a meaningful way. In fact, one those highlights was last Saturday, where in the Lee household, we had a formal dinner. All of us got dressed up. The boys donned ties. The girls put on dresses and makeup. We brought out the fancy plates. Dimmed the lighting. Then after dinner, wait for it, there was dancing too. It was a real treat!
Well, what a breakfast this was for Peter. In the space of 1 meal, he’s gone from being full of regret to being full of forgiveness. If Thomas, who we saw last week in John 20, speaks to the corner of doubt lurking in each of us. Then Peter’s story here in John 21 speaks to the truckloads of regret and failures that are in all of us.
What Jesus has done here for Peter. He’s also done it for you and I. Jesus says to you and I ‘Forgiveness is possible!’ If you’ve not yet tasted or not yet received this forgiveness Jesus is offering you, then look at Peter. Peter is the perfect example that no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you’ve become, no matter how many times you’ve mucked it up. That is not the end of the story. You. Can. Be. Forgiven.
Come and join the rest of us. We’re all in the same boat as Peter. We who have got our own quota of regrets, of failures and of stuff ups. That’s the great message of Christianity, that’s what we’ve just celebrated at Easter, what happened on that cross didn’t happen at a distance, it’s not ancient history. No - it affects you and I, here today, April 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic! Perhaps, this pandemic is God’s way of getting your attention.
As CS Lewis puts it: God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Whereas the message from our government has been, don’t hoard toilet paper! The message from Jesus is this: Don’t stockpile your sin! Let Jesus take that weight, that guilt, that shame off you.
Perhaps in this season of lockdown, you’re tuning in as someone who use to check out the things of God. Maybe you’ve drifted from Jesus. Well, let me assure you, today’s as good a day as any other to come home. Get in touch with us via our website. We’d love to help you take those next steps.
2. Following is essential.
Remember how we started at verse 15? Well, let’s get back to it! Jesus asks Peter straight up.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” ~John 21:15b (NIV)
Notice Jesus, he doesn’t call him Simon Peter, instead he calls him Simon, son of John. It’s the name before Jesus called him to follow him. Again, reminding us that Jesus has rewound the clock here, it’s a clean slate, a fresh start for Pete.
Jesus goes on to ask Peter two more times: Pete do you love me. Peter do you love me. It wasn’t that Peter had a hearing problem or a comprehension problem. No Jesus asks Peter three times for his own good. He wants to give a very powerful. A very public demonstration of just how rich in mercy he really is. To the disciples at that breakfast and to us reading today.
In fact, come the third time Peter’s a bit over it. He’s got nothing, no track record to appeal to. All he’s got is the character of Jesus.
Lord, you know all things. ~John 21:17 (NIV)
That is both a scary thought, that Jesus knows every single thing about you, the deep recesses of your heart. But it’s also a comforting thought, that Jesus came not to judge, but to show mercy.
And by the way, we’re talking about the same Jesus who knows when and how coronavirus is going to end. It’s this Jesus who is saying to you and I ‘Forgiveness is possible so, accept it.’ ‘Following is essential, so hang in there.’
Well, the Jesus who knows Peter, also knows your heart and He knows mine. He asks us the same questions:
Peter’s answer is the model answer in verses 15, 16 and 17.
“Yes” Peter says, “you know that I love you”.
Let’s face it friends. Now, perhaps more than ever in our life, Jesus question here is more important than ever. Our love for Jesus is being tested during this season of COVID19, because if there was a time to get away with godliness, to pretend, or to fake our love for Jesus. Now would be it! because we’re all locked up. We’re not in each others lives as much, not rubbing shoulders with the usual accountability structures. Porn is now that much easier to get away with. We’re on screens and on devices more than ever. Stealing time from our boss as we work from home is as easy as.
Loving Jesus, it’s not just some warm, fuzzy feeling you have towards Jesus. Jesus has already told us what loving him looks like.
“If you love me, keep my commands.” ~John 14:15 (NIV)
To love Jesus, is to obey what he says, to let him call the shots, to live under his rule, that’s how we show we love him!
After hearing Peter declare his love for Jesus, it’s now time for Jesus to respond. If this were Hollywood, what do you reckon the next words out of Jesus mouth would be? Hollywood would make Jesus say: “Aww. I love you too Pete. Give us a big hug”
But instead, what does Jesus say?
“Feed my sheep” ~John 21:17 (NIV)
The Good Shepherd now invites Peter to shepherd his sheep. To love them, to feed them, to protect them. It’s as if Jesus says: Pete, you’re back on the team. Welcome back. Now, it’s time to get to work because my sheep matter. I’m handing them over to you, I’m not abandoning them. But as I return to be with my Father, you’re to look after them here on earth. Jesus not only lays down his life for his sheep He’s committed to making sure they carry on as his sheep.
Now - whilst we’re in lockdown for who knows how long, I’ve got to admit I’ve had plenty of corona-goals. I’m trying to make the most of the “extra time”. I’ve started doing a bit of home re-organisation, a bit of decluttering. I’ve started baking my own sourdough bread! And I’ve picked up the ukulele again. I just turned 40 last week, hence these new glasses. At some point in this decade, I expect to be asking myself again and again: Is this my purpose in life? Is this what life’s about?
Well, John 21 helps me put all those things in perspective. It helps me keep the main thing, the main thing. Because Jesus says life is about two words.
Follow me! ~John 21:19 (NIV)
Following Jesus is the catch all phrase Jesus uses to describe everything we’ve seen so far. Following Jesus looks like loving him. Following Jesus looks like being committed to Jesus’ people and in verses 18 and 19, following Jesus looks like following him until death!
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. ~John 21:18-19 (NIV)
Jesus predicted Peter would deny for him. Now he’s predicting Peter would die for him! And where Peter’s denial shamed Jesus. Peter’s death will now glorify Jesus.
Friends, the coronavirus may be the way Jesus takes our lives, for many of us, it probably won’t, but one thing’s for sure, you be sure that this new season we find ourselves in, this is a test.
How prepared are you follow Jesus?
In not just the good times but also the bad. Not just when there’s plenty but when there’s less. Not just when it’s convenient but when you need to do some of the work yourself. Not just on Sundays but every day, in every aspect of life. The times when we’ll have less rather than more.
Jesus himself said: Following never was going to be easy. You didn’t sign up for a comfortable walk in the park when you signed up to follow me.
I began this talk by painting a picture of how everything would change if coronavirus ended tomorrow. Well, the truth is, everything has already changed. Because Jesus is risen.
John Piper puts it best:
What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us, graphically, painfully, that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus. This global pandemic takes away our freedom of movement, our business activity, and our face-to-face relations. It takes away our security and our comfort. And, in the end, it may take away our lives. But the reason God exposes us to such losses,
Piper concludes. Is this:
To rouse us to rely on Christ.
It’s this Christ who is alive, well and ruling the universe, even today. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the stories of people, months down the track, when we’re back in this building, I’m looking forward to hearing the stories that begin with these words: “During coronavirus, my love for Jesus grew”
How about we pray for that to happen?
You are a God who is compassionate. Rich in mercy. Slow to anger. You’re a forgiving God. We confess our many failings. Not only this day. This week. This season of coronavirus.
Thank you that our sin. Our shame. Our shortcomings are not the end of the story. That we are NOT cut off.
But you are a God who is RICH. Abundant in mercy. And we’ve seen that most clearly in Jesus.
Thanks so much that Jesus did what no one else can do.
Ask that during this time, we would love you more dearly. Follow you more wholeheartedly. And live for you unashamedly.