Sunday 26th April

Service Transcript & Video

Do any of you feel that you are eating way more since lockdown commenced… I feel that when I am not making a meal or eating a meal, then I am thinking about what I could make, or indeed, looking in the cupboards for some inspiration to create something that is a treat! In fact, it is quite fitting because today’s Bible reading brings us to food. It happens at breakfast time – I know some of you might be watching this is in your pyjamas and eating your cereal!

Today we are looking at one of my favourite Bible passages in the gospels. It is a message that shows us Jesus heart, its a message of hope, of forgiveness, of coming back, it conveys the gospel in a way that we all need to hear.

 

If you have your Bibles, we are looking at John 21.

 

It’s Peter and his relationship with Jesus that is the focus of this story and this story reminds us of why we love the gospel, why we love and need the good news of Jesus so much.

Let’s look at it.

Peter and 6 of the other disciples are in Galilee and it’s evening time, and Peter says that he is going out to fish. The others then say that they are going with him. So, off they head out in their boat. Why did they go? Were they hungry and McDonald’s wasn’t an option, so they went out to get some food… fishing being the obvious choice in the first century.

That may be the reason, but most people who read and study this passage seem to think that Peter chooses to go out fishing for a bigger reason than just hunger. He choose to go out on that boat because he felt that he had blown it with the whole following Jesus business and was going back to what he knew, he was going back to what he was familiar with, he was going back to what he was good at. He was returning to fishing.

 

Remember, three years prior to this, Peter had walked away from his fishing career and taken up the call of Jesus to follow him, and he proved to be a committed follower. He took risks and asked questions. He was headstrong, determined and ready to die for Jesus!

But then in a moment of fear and weakness, pressure, fear of what other people thought… Peter did the very thing that he thought he would never do. He turned his back on Jesus. He denied even knowing Jesus. When he should have stood up, proud to be a follower, he slinked away in fear. A little girls taunt led him to say that he didn’t know Jesus and had nothing to do with him. He hadn’t just said it once, but 3 times, he’d spoken it out, brash and harsh. Jesus had actually forewarned him that this would happen, but Peter didn’t ever imagine that he would do it. He had done the very thing that he didn’t think he was capable of. He had done the thing he thought others would have done, but not him.

And so, in light of this massive failure, Peter probably thought that any purpose that Jesus had for him, was gone, he’d blown it. His reputation as a follower was gone. And so, he went back to his old life, he went back to fishing.

 

And these guys, they fish all night and they catch nothing. A really unproductive night.

Isn’t it interesting that Peter decided to go back to his old way of life – he went back to the safety of his boat. But it was in this boat, in this old way of life, that Peter got the hard reality that it offered him nothing. He spent a night doing what he used to love, doing something that he used to be really good at, doing something that could give him significance and security, something that could meet his needs, but what did he get? Nothing. Him and the others with him, no doubt tried hard that night, but by morning they had nothing to show for it. I think for some of us, it can be like that. We maybe feel that we’ve failed in some way, we’ve found following Jesus too difficult or we feel we’ve let God down, we haven’t lived the way that we thought we should as a Christian, and so then our default is, we go back to habits, behaviours, ways of doing life, that we used to do – we go back to things that used to bring us satisfaction, used to make us feel significant, things that we used to get enjoyment in and were good at – but oftentimes, we find that they offer us nothing. It’s just a waste of our time and energy.

 

And for Peter here, going back, was a waste. It proved nothing. Provided nothing for him.

 

But everything changes when Jesus comes onto the scene.

Early in the morning, they’re headed back to shore with their empty nets and a stranger on the beach shouts out to them, “Hey Lads, did you not catch any fish?”

They have to admit that they have nothing.

The stranger then says to throw their nets on the right side of the boat and they would find some. I can imagine their response at such a request – these guys are experienced fishermen, they’ve been on the sea before, they’ve fished before, no doubt they’ve tried everything during the night just the catch something. What would your response be?

In this passage, we don’t actually know what their thoughts, feelings or response was, we just know that they did what the stranger had asked of them and when they did, they got such a huge number of fish – 153 large ones, in fact – that they couldn’t even lift in the nets!

Can you imagine the whooping and the cheering and joy – after a long tiring night, they’ve got what they were looking for, and then some! They got more than they bargained for.

When they take his instruction, they find that everything changes and they have an abundance. Incredible isn’t it!

And then, the penny drops of who this stranger is. John recognises that it’s not just a stranger offering them a piece of good advice – this is Jesus!

 

In the previous chapter, we read of Jesus followers not recognising him immediately after resurrection – Mary thought he was a gardener at first and it was only when he said her name that she recognised it was Jesus. For Thomas, he needed the evidence, he needed to see the wounds in Jesus hands and side – it was then he recognised Jesus – but for these guys out on the sea fishing, it was when the nets were suddenly full of fish after they’d obeyed an instruction, it was then that they knew it was Jesus.

And as John clues into the fact that the stranger on the shore, the stranger with the good advice, as he clues into the fact that this is Jesus – Peter pulls on his shirt and jumps into the water to swim to Jesus.

I often wonder why Peter felt the need to jump in and swim to shore. Did he think he would be faster, that he would get there first? Did he think it proved something or said something about his dedication? As he jumps out of the boat to swim to Jesus, he leaves his friends with the work of managing the boat and the fish. But they’ll arrive dry and he’ll arrive dripping wet – but it’s as though, that doesn’t matter – Peter just has to get there first.

 

But as Peter and the others arrive at shore, they see a fire burning, they smell some freshly baked bread and see Jesus cooking some fish – Jesus then tells them to bring some of the fish that they have just caught – he already has fish on the fire to cook but he wants them to bring what they have. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t take credit for the fish that they have caught, even though, they would have stood there empty handed if it wasn’t for him? It’s like he provides the fish but allows them to enjoy catching and sharing the fish as though it was theirs. 

By this time, none of them were in any doubt who this was – they knew it was Jesus. And Jesus lovingly says to them, come and have breakfast. Come and eat with me. Come and share this food with me. You’ve had a tough night out there, come and get replenished. And together they ate. They ate with their saviour. Breakfast on the beach. Amazing!

 

And this whole scene beautifully sets up a conversation that Jesus and Peter are about to have. This whole scene draws on Peters memory and his senses.

Think back to when Peter was first called… what did it look like? What happened?

Luke chapter 5 – fishermen in a boat, the sea of Galilee, fishing all night, catching nothing, and then when Jesus gives the instruction and then the same thing happens. Luke 5:5, Simon (Peter) answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. but because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

Then they receive an abundance of food, Jesus provides fish and bread – they’re reminders of their journey with Jesus – the big miracles, the feeding of 5000.

But not only the good memories as they stand there on the beach with Jesus, surely Peter stands looking at that charcoal fire and he is reminded of the last fire that he stood warming himself at. As he stands here, with a big catch of fish reminding him of when he first said ‘yes’ to Jesus, he is also reminded of a few days previously when he stood at a similar fire and had denied Jesus and said that he didn’t know him.

For Peter, brash and confident, always trying to prove himself to be the best, the most committed, the leader, the rock, the spokesman, it must have been humbling standing here, reliving those moments in his head, to be the leader of the gang, but to be the one who failed when he should have stood strong.

And yet, none of this is mentioned in these moments… this is purely a meal between friends, a meal provided by Jesus, an invitation to be present with the saviour.

It is only when the conversation begins between Jesus and Peter that we get a true sense of what is going on.

You’d imagine that this conversation would involve a bit of a guilt trip, “you’ve disappointed me and let me down” kind of talk, you’d maybe think Jesus would ask Peter for an apology and he’d get a bit of a telling off. But none of this happens.

Instead, its a series of questions, asking Peter if he really loves Jesus.

Verse 15, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

Do you love me more than the others love me? Do you truly love me more than the other guys do?

Turn to Mark 14 – verse 27, “You will fall away”, Jesus told them, … Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” … Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”

Even if all fall away, even if these other weak guys, these less committed guys fall away, I never will. I’m with you til the end. Peter was proud that he was committed to Jesus and had truly believed that he was incapable of getting it wrong, messing up, turning away. He thought he was better than the others. So, in a sense, Jesus first question to him is a reminder to Peter that he did the same as the others, he walked away too when the going got tough. He had no reason to be proud or self-confident. He has the ability to be weak, just like everyone else.

As Peter answers Jesus, this time, he doesn’t mention the others, he doesn’t answer Jesus by saying, Yes I love you way more than those guys. He simply says You know that I love you.

Jesus asked him again and again, Simon do you love me. Three times in total. By the third time, it says in verse 17, that Peter was hurt that Jesus had asked him again whether he loved him.

Imagine yourself in that situation, someone you love asks you whether you love them. Of course, you love them, you answer. They ask again, and you say, of course, you love them, they know that. By the third time, you’d be a bit hurt if they didn’t believe you. Didn’t your actions prove that you loved them… why were they doubting you?

But that’s the thing here isn’t it, Peter has said that he loves Jesus but his past action betrayed that love. Jesus had every right to punish him, push him away, but Jesus doesn’t, he actually asks these questions to draw Peter in, to draw Peter back. Its almost as though the 3 declarations of love were to cancel out the bitter memories of Peters 3 denials of Jesus.

Do you love me? Do you truly love me? Do you love me?

Yes, I do, I do, I do.

You know I do. I failed you. But I love you.

 

Jesus had plans for Peter and no matter what had happened, this moment on the beach with Jesus was a sign that even though Peter had failed, he hadn’t lived up to his calling, God wasn’t done with Him. The original purpose of God still stands. As Peter declares his love for Jesus, each time Jesus tasks him with a job of shepherding the flock, of taking care of the church – feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep. Look after the ones I have entrusted to you, teach them, care for them, from the youngest to the oldest, tell them and teach them all about following me.

 

Jesus again tells him in very 19, “Follow me!”

Peter turns and sees John and starts to enquire of his purpose, his destiny, again, but Jesus more or less tells him to mind his own business and again says, “You follow me!” Don’t look around, don’t compete, don’t compare… I have you on this journey, you and me, me and you, keep looking to me, follow my direction, my leading, and I will bring you exactly where I want you to be!

 

What a beautiful story.

I really hope and pray that this story has spoke to you this morning. This is the good news.

Jesus restores the broken, the fallen, He gives hope to the hopeless, unconditional love and forgiveness to those who walk with Him. The gospel tells us that we need Jesus.

Author and pastor, Scott Sauls, in writing about this says, “You are a mess, but the darkness in you can never out-run or out-compete the grace of God.

 

Its stories like Peter, stories of a guy who thought he had it all together, thought he was invincible, thought he could do anything and be the best, but when his world comes tumbling down, and in these moments, he gets to experience the loving grace and mercy of Jesus. He gets to see that he depends on Jesus to meet every need. That when his own self-dependency, self-confidence are shattered and he sees himself for what he is, in light of who Christ is, that’s when he encounters Jesus in the best way. He encounters forgiveness. But he also gets to see that his past mistakes don’t have to define him and they don’t disqualify him from all that God has for him.

 

You see, it’s not about us. It’s not about our performance. It’s not about how good we are, how strong we are, how dependable we are – it’s all about Jesus – all the time – He is the one who is good, truly good, the best. He is strong. He is dependable. He will not fail.

The gospel is realising that we don’t do anything for God, God does everything for us.

The gospel seems scandalous, it seems too good to be true, there must be a catch somewhere, we must have to do something… surely??

Tim Keller: “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

We need to preach this gospel to ourselves day after day – because sometimes even as Christians we can forget how much we truly need Jesus, how it is all about Him and what He does for us and in us – our acceptance and hope and love is not based on what we do, but on who He is.

And this gospel gives us hope because it tells us that when we mess up, when we get it wrong, when we fall and fail – Jesus is there and he is saying come, come and eat with me. Come and be with me. I can restore all that you thought was lost. It may look different, there may well be consequences, but you know what, God works with those consequences and he uses those.. in your life and to give hope to someone else along the way.

This message is scandalous. It’s risky. It is too good to be true and yet it is the most wonderful good news that anyone can ever experience. It is the news that changes our lives forever.

 

Let’s pray:

You are loved beyond measure. Nothing you do can make God love you any more than He already does. Nothing you do can make God love you any less. He knows what you are like – from the inside out. He knows and sees the things that no one else sees or knows about. And He is calling to you – come and be with me. Come and sit with me. Come and eat with me.

There are things in all of us that disappoint us about ourselves, that leave us feeling shameful or guilty – God wants to deal with those things. God wants to restore life to you. No matter what your past looks like, God is telling us that it doesn’t have to define us or determine our future, we can experience His forgiveness, We can say Yes to him again as he calls us to follow him.

 

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