There are two types of people I'd like to talk to this morning. To those of us with too much time on our hands and those of us with too little. I doubt there's anyone in the middle who's got it just right. But if there is it would be great to chat to you afterwards!
If you've got time on your hands let me tell you this morning what we should be doing as a Christian. And if you're wondering what to prioritise because you're busy or are having to make some decisions in life then let me help you this morning know what we should be focussing on in life.
When it comes to how to work I'm sure many of you know the acronym S.M.A.R.T – smart. We should do tasks which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed. Well this morning I'd like us to focus on the Relevant - that which is relevant. Are the things we're engaged in relevant? Are we doing what we should be doing?
This may be particularly timely to many of us who are finishing the summer and getting ready for a new term - perhaps as parents you're gearing up to see people again or as a student you're starting at university or going into a new school year group. As we begin this academic year what are our priorities going to be? What are you going to say 'Yes' to and say 'No to other things' for? What are you going to say 'Yes' to and say 'No to other things' for?
In our passage this morning as Jesus himself commissions his disciples we find what task is truly relevant.
So please do turn with me to p767 to John Ch21 in the blue Bibles. This summer our sermon series in the mornings has been based on some of the encounters with Jesus around the meal table. Today we're in John's Gospel ch21v1-25. Now we don't have time to preach on the whole chapter so we'll focus our attention mainly on the events around the meal. This time its breakfast.
Jesus had died on the cross and risen from the dead and appeared to lots of people and not yet given his Holy Spirit to empower his followers. And Jesus has told them to meet him in Galilee. So off the disciples go to Galilee by the Sea of Tiberius otherwise known as Lake or the Sea of Galilee. So there they are v2-3
"Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing."
These are capable fishermen who have come to fish at night; a good practice in their day. They've given up a night's sleep to catch fish. They expect to catch some.
These next few verses could well be an allusion to Mark 1 and Matt 4 when Jesus first called his disciples and told them that they will become fishers of men, fishers of people. That is their commission - that is what they were commissioned to do and as we read this chapter at the end of Jesus's ministry with them we'll see that the same commission is in view;
"Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish."
It's interesting isn't it that without Jesus they can do nothing. It's like Vine and the Branches parable Jesus told in John 15. And there's a lesson there for you and I. Without Christ we can do nothing. It's him who gives us strength. Are we trying to do things in our own strength? Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labour in vain. (Psalm 127) God is sovereignly in control of every molecule of this universe and here we see Jesus embodying that sovereign control, his lordship, his divinity standing there on the shore. We must call on him to bless our work but more importantly we must be doing his work that we want him to bless. So what is this work that he wants us to be doing? What should we be doing with our time? What should we prioritising? Well let's find out as we read on:
"Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" 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.
The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord.
Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish."
You can see Peter's impulsiveness can't you. He's eager to see Jesus again. Peter might not be the first to see that it's Jesus but when he does he's the first to act. He jumps in. He leaves the others and the fish. He loves Jesus. He wants to be with him again. And he's a strong man. He hauls the net to shore all by himself. He's the sort of man many of us would naturally follow. The sort of man whom the disciples had naturally followed. He'd been the one to say in v3 "I'm going fishing." and the others followed. But he had a problem; as well as being rash and impulsive...he was proud. He was arrogant. And that would not do as a leader of God's people!
Earlier on, as recorded in Matt 26, Peter had declared
"…Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
Peter said he was braver and more loyal, than any of the other disciples, which is why we're about to see Jesus asking Peter if he did love Jesus more than the other disciples did. Christian service and love for Jesus is not a competition. Peter had been brash and thought he was better than the other disciples, and when he had declared he would never fall away he said he'd follow Jesus to point of death – and yet in reality, in his own strength, he would chicken out. In John 13 we read Peter saying;
"… I will lay down my life for you."
Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times!"
And in John ch 18 Peter did deny Jesus three times. That's why three times Jesus asks him if he loves him. It's a way of reinstating Peter – recommissioning him – not reconciling –not making friends again. They'd already seen each other a few times since his denial.
Peter's been restless not knowing what to do with himself, and as we saw earlier, eager to be back with Jesus. This is about recommissioning Peter back into service. Like an unused boat being recommissioned – being brought back into service for the D-Day landings. Peter needed sending out by his Master again – he longed to be engaged in his Majesty's service. It's what he lived and breathed for. Jesus is who he wanted to serve. Look at the way he pulls the net in all by himself – he eagerly jumps to obey Jesus's command. And so v15 Jesus begins the necessary recommissioning process:
"When they had finished eating,
Jesus said to Simon Peter,
"Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
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."
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time. It brought back his three denials– it drew attention to his threefold sin. It was obvious what Jesus was doing and it was painful. Peter had three times denied his love for Jesus. He'd denied even knowing Jesus. Have you done that? Have you denied being a follower of Jesus? Have you denied being a servant of Jesus? Have you played down being a Christian? Have you prioritised other things above your loyalty to our Lord?
And I'm pretty sure, that even though they go from breakfast to walking, this reinstatement of Peter took place in front of those other disciples and it was humiliating. God humbles us and it's painful. But he does that before he lifts us up and it needs to happen. Humbling us is part of our recommissioning process.
Those of you who have played football with me know I'm one of the fastest on the pitch and perhaps the health problems I've had over the last couple of years have served to humble me. I've been unable to exercise normally and six months ago a consultant told me only to swim, sit on a ball and do pilates. That's hardly the stuff of competitiveness and glory - and to my mind fun! At my physio last week I was in tears, not just because of the pain but because of the humility I was learning. Lying on a mat on the floor, a previously fit and vibrant 42yr old was realising that he couldn't do even some of the simple things in life. I had taken for granted the stamina and energy God had given me and thought I could use it myself in my own strength perhaps like the disciples knowing where to fish. And it was humiliating. And It needs to happen. God doesn't want a shred of arrogance or pride in the leaders of his people. I can't lead a church in any of my own strength.
So what does Jesus want most? These three questions reveal it. What does he ask Peter? "Do you love me?" If we're wondering what we should be doing as Christians it's this; Jesus wants you to love him. Jesus wants you to love him.
Love Jesus. Love Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 16:22 Paul says
"If anyone does not love the Lord--a curse be on him. …"
In John 8.42 To some Jews who claimed to have God as their heavenly Father
"Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me,"
If you're a Christian you will love Jesus. Do you?
I remember at staff retreat not so long ago I think we were all there, Dim, Tom, Sarah, Lesley, me and Rod and I think we were studying Ephesians and it struck me afresh that each of us in the room loved Jesus. It was a remarkable feeling. Is that the same for you at home if you're bringing up Christian children? What about here at church? Well I know there are people here who come to church who don't love Jesus – Yet! It's great that you're here. Keep coming and keep finding out more about him. However sadly some of us may be feeling indifferent. Are you struggling to feel love for Jesus? Then meditate on what he's done for you – meditate on the cross! Do we not love our rescuer? Do we not love the one who has saved our lives –more than that- the one who has saved our souls forever! If you're not feeling love for Jesus then focus on what he's done for you – see how much he's forgiven you. As Jesus says in Luke 7 Those who have been forgiven a lot love a lot. Do you realise how much you've been forgiven? Have you come to Jesus with your sins before you and received his forgiveness, his grace, his undeserved kindness? Have you? Let's look at this passage here and consider what grace Jesus shows - Jesus picks up failures and they are useful. Brothers and sisters, I speak for myself, but we are such failures. How many times have we failed Jesus – denied him, disobeyed him. And yet he picks us up and we are made partners with him – us – useful! Wow. Often in our human circles if people make mistakes they're written off. Failures - we fail and God uses failures. Are you aware that there's nothing too bad that you've done that God can't restore you and use you? We are weak. We are all failures, me included, even peter – who failed Jesus big time. Will he be written off? Will he be demoted? He's supposed to be the Rock on which the Church will be built – Peter who's addressed here just as 'Simon' – his pre Jesus Name. Yes even he will be raised up and be useful. What Grace. What kindness. What love. Let's love Jesus because he first loved us.
So Jesus wants us to love him, but how?
Three times he says it. If you love me then show it. If you love me; feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep.
The test – the proof of whether you love Jesus is what you do for other people! The proof of whether you love Jesus is what you do for other people!
What is Peter commissioned to do? Feed Jesus's sheep. Feed his sheep. Take care of Jesus's most precious thing! His sheep - the Church - you sitting here! How does Jesus want us to love him? – He wants you to be loved. Can you see how other person centred Jesus is? "If you love me I want you to show it by loving them." He wants your love for him to be channelled to other people. Can you see how kind that is? Can you see how much Jesus loves you?! Jesus cares for you so much. He cares enough, like a loving parent, to even grieve Peter to teach him something. He cares enough to have breakfast ready for his disciples when they're hungry and have caught nothing.
Jesus feeds his disciples and he wants his disciples to feed other disciples. This is vitally important to take note of in Jesus instruction – how is Peter to 'take care' of Christ's people? He is to 'feed' them. And by feed them he means feed them with God's word which is about Jesus.
We saw in Psalm 23 that the Shepherd is to lead the disciple to green pastures. That's what a pastor is – someone who leads you to pasture – a shepherd. Someone who leads you to the green pastures of God's word about Jesus.
We have come to use the term 'Pastoral' to mean 'caring'. Folks if we're not caring for people by opening the Bible with them then guess what – we're not being pastoral. 'Pastoral' work is 'word' work. 'Pastoral' work is 'word' work.
Here Jesus is talking to Peter, and yes some are gifted for teaching roles more than others, but we all should be feeding each other with the word; caring for each other with the Bible.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."
Each one of us is supposed to feed each other. We are to Love Jesus by Feeding others. Love Jesus by Feeding others
In these three questions and answers we see Jesus is talking about caring for his flock – those who are his – Christians. But from the first half of our chapter we shouldn't miss the allusion to the disciples being fishers of men – with not one being lost – such a huge catch – and results which are driven only by Jesus. Each one of us is supposed to evangelise – to tell those who don't know about Jesus.
There's so much more that we could glean from this passage but we must finish now. We began with an acronym. Let me end with a motto. It's from the 1950s and it sums up what a Christian should be doing and I love it; 'Win, Build, Send' - Win people for Christ, Build people in their faith for Christ and Send them out in service for Christ.
Love Jesus by Feeding others