Bible Passage: John 21: 15-25
Big Idea: All of us need to run our own Race in service of Jesus
Intro: Morning friends, visitors and those listening online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are concluding John’s gospel as part of our Easter series. The final chapter of John’s gospel, kind of focuses on the apostle Peter and it shows us both – A) how we shouldn’t respond to Jesus and B) how we should respond to Jesus.
Well do you love Jesus enough to do whatever he asks? Or is your love of Jesus conditional on getting what you want? If you stopped getting what you want in life would you still love Jesus for dying for you? I ask this question – because in the last 30 years a most disgusting form of Christianity has emerged that is not even remotely Christian.
It has been called A) the Prosperity Gospel and/or B) the word of faith movement. They are very similar in their appeal to the sinful nature. The basic message is that if you believe in Jesus; you can be healthy, wealthy and wise and have a perfect life now. Or simply state whatever you want – believe that God will give it to you and you can have it now. In their arrogance these preachers claim that the only reason ordinary Christians do not have – is because they do not have enough faith. Sadly, I am not permitted to say the words that these preachers deserve. They are evil and they are carnal. They are not spiritual.
Yet, on the Easter just gone – I have no doubt that in churches across the world people have been told that if they say a sinners prayer Jesus will give them everything they ever wanted. There is no clear call to repent of sin and obey Jesus. No! It is just tack Jesus on the side of your worldliness and it will make your worldly life even better. But the end of John’s gospel poops all over this heresy
And yes, I say the prosperity gospel and word of faith movement is a heresy. What Joel Osteen is pedalling in America and Joseph Prince is pushing in Singapore is a false gospel. If you cannot see that your soul is in serious danger. They are appealing to your flesh.
Christians do not come to Jesus in order to gain the world, Christians come to Jesus in order to gain Jesus. And after Jesus’ death and resurrection Peter is forced to make a choice. A) Is Peter just going to give LIP service to Jesus or B) HEART service to Jesus? Peter needs to make a decision (Slide 2) Is it A) Jesus for Jesus’ sake OR is it B) Jesus for Peter’s sake? One is truth. One is error.
Change Peter’s name to your own name and answer whether your version of Christianity is A or B. Is it Jesus for Jesus’ sake and Jesus’ glory or is it Jesus for your sake and your glory?
Point 1: Peter has to decide whether he really loves Jesus (or not)
Show: Jn 21:15-17 (READ)
Explain: Friends, we need to remember Jesus questions Peter in the context of GRACE. Peter has failed. Yet, nonetheless Jesus has weclomed Peter to breakfast. Jesus has extended, yet again, the right hand of friendship despite Peter’s failure. This is all grace.
This is the gospel message. (GOSPEL) THE TRUTH is we are all like Peter. God made every single one of us. God gave us all life. Yet, like Peter we have denied KNOWING God and denied NEEDING God. We have pursued the things of the world, without pursuing the God who made the world. THE CONSEQUENCE of rejecting Creator God is death (and hell). This is what we deserve. But nonetheless, God graciously sent Jesus into this world to save us. Instead of us taking the punishment for our sin, Jesus took the punishment for us – as he died on the cross. JESUS LOVED us enough to take the penalty for our sin. So if we recognizewho Jesus is and what he has done for us (and repent of our sin) God now forgives us and comes into our life. This is all grace. But this raises the question do we love Jesus and do we love God, for loving us so unconditionally and sacrificially.
Jesus asks Peter in a fairly solemn way – “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” By using Peter’s full name like this it has the sense of being under oath. By asking Peter this THREEFOLD question it is kind of a reversal of Peter’s THREEFOLD denial. For each time Peter denied Jesus, Peter now has to profess his love. So, in a way, Peter is being forced to eat HUMBLE PIE. Peter needs to realize that he needs God’s grace and forgiveness too. He needs to realize his whole relationship with Jesus is based on grace. This is true of us all. We have all failed God in different ways. But in His love for us Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins. In his grace – Jesus has brought us back into a relationship with God (even though we don’t deserve it). SO THE QUESTION is do we love Jesus for so graciously loving us
Jesus says to Peter; “do you love me more than these?” WHAT is the “more than these” (in verse 15). The first option is that the “these” means the other disciples. Does Peter really love Jesus more than these “other disciples?” PETER SAID, “Even if all the other disciples betray Jesus, he would not.” But Peters recent actions show that his love for Jesus is no greater than the other disciples. He beytrayed Jesus as quick as the rest of them. But this creates a problem in the dialogue. If the other disciples are the referent when Jesus says “more than these”, Peter should respond “NO!” Peter should say, “No, Lord. I no longer claim to love you more than the other disciples.” The problem is, Peter responds “yes, Lord, you know that I love you” ie more than these other disciples. But it is profoundly unlikely that Peter would claim to love Jesus more than the other disciples given recent events.
So the second option – is that when Jesus asks; “Do you love me more than these”, the THESE could mean the fishing boat, and the fishing nets and everything associated with Peter’s old way of life. Peter, do you love me more than these things in your old way of life? This is really the big question of Christianity. THE QUESTION is not whether I love Jesus more or less than any other disciple. No! THE QUESTION IS – do I love Jesus more than everything the world offers me. This is a question that the Bible is concerned about. (Slide 3: 1Jn.2:15; Jam.4:4; Matt.6:24). The problem is – we are told we can have our cake and eat it too. The Christian church has even come up with a prosperity gospel message that says you can serve God and serve yourself at the same time?! Have your cake and eat it too…
Apply: But Jesus tells Peter choose. What does he love more – Jesus or the world? Jesus is not asking Peter whether he loves him more than the other disciples, for that is irrelevant. Jesus is asking Peter whether he loves him enough to give up the world (for that is THE MARK of a true Christian disciple). It is a real question? Do you love Jesus – MORE than the money, fame, comfort, power, sex, drugs, career, pleasures, glory that the world is offering you?
(BE ASSURED Jesus is not promising you any of these things). Jesus is primarily offering you 1) a relationship with himself and 2) a relationship with God that will ultimately lead to ETERNAL LIFE. So Peter looks at his boat, his nets and the fish and he says “yes, Jesus you know that I love you more than all this other stuff” and Jesus responds “Well then, feed my lambs.”
This is Jesus’ new way of life for Peter. He can’t be a fisherman and a spiritual shepherd in the church. He has to make a choice. It’s not both-and. It’s one or the other? Peter has to decide. Now truth be told Jesus has a version of “FEED MY SHEEP” for all of us. Feed my sheep means Peter has to be a shepherd and pastor of Jesus church, not a fisherman. But Jesus has things for all of us to do to bring glory to God. For some of us – it may be Christian ministry instead of accounting. For others it might be giving our wealth to God’s kingdom instead of having a big superannuation; and for others it may simply be a form of faithfulness to Jesus’ word – that hinders our careers. Doing what Jesus wants us to do will always mean letting go to some extent of what we want to do.
Point 2: Peter surrenders his life to God’s Will
Show: John 21:18-19 (READ)
Explain: Well, Jesus now begins to warn Peter that loving him and feeding sheep is going to be costly. The words “I TELL YOU TRUTH” are literally amen, amen I say to you. It is a strong lingusitic marker that we are meant to pay close attention to what Jesus is about to say. It’s like PAY ATTENTION, PAY ATTENTION. Jesus then says that when Peter was younger he was in control of his life. He dressed himself in whatever he wanted to wear and he went wherever he wanted to go. But now as a real Christian following Jesus Peter is not going to be control of his life. Others will dress him and others will lead him where he does not want to go. He is no longer going to be A SERVANT OF SELF (which is the normal human way). RATHER Peter is going to be a servant of God and a servant of others. He is going to be called by Jesus to do things he doesn’t want to do. He is going to be called by Jesus to go to places he doesn’t want to go. Indeed, he is going to be called by Jesus to lay down even his life in service of God. His love is going to be tested.
And these words were fulfilled in Peter’s life. From this point forward Peter gave up fishing. Not because he didn’t love it anymore, but because it wasn’t conducive to making disciples. Indeed, Peter gave up Galilee, not because he didn’t love it anymore. But because staying Galilee was not conducive to making disciples of all nations. Indeed, over time Peter even gave up some of his Jewish identity markers, not because he was ashamed of these things. But because Peter came to see that if he held on to all his Jewish cultural markers too strongly it would not be conducive to the truly multicultural church that Jesus was building. Peter gave up the things he loved, for something he loved more – Jesus…
Illustrate: All this came to a climax in 64AD. After Rome was burned to the ground NERO blamed the Christians. And in this blame, the apostle Peter was rounded up and subsequently crucified on Vatican Hill. Several early church fathers tell us – that Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. So, Peter was crucified upside down. Yes, following Jesus meant going where Peter did not want to go. Let me say that again. Following the Lord Jesus Christ meant going where Peter did not want to go. Yet, he did it – because he did love Jesus more than the things of this world…
Apply: Friends this is a tough call and A) today’s sermon MUST be held in conjunction with last weeks sermon. When we fail to love Jesus as we ought – he is quick to forgive. But these days the ever-growing synagogue of Satan is telling people come to Jesus and you can have everything you want. But it is pure lies from the mouth of Satan. Jesus does not promise us the world. Rather he calls us to give up the world (and the things of the world) in the service of God and the service of others. He calls us to follow him – who gave up everything that we might be saved. So Jesus tells Peter you’ve got to make a CHOICE. It’s me or the world, its not both. And Peter, if you choose me truly – its going to cost you – everything, even your life. BUT KNOW THIS – in losing your life, you will find life. In giving up your own glory, you will bring the God who loved you and saved you – true glory.
Friends, do we love Jesus enough to lay down our wants, our comforts, our careers and our money for him. Jesus promises that if we follow him truly – allowing God to take us where He wants (not where we want) – then we will enjoy a living relationship with God, we will do something meaningful with our life and we will ultimately reap eternal life when we die. But in love we MUST truly follow Jesus and this is costly. Now I believe it is worth it and becoming like Jesus in the process is truly good. But in his immaturity Peter tries to dodge this calling, by asking what about John. But what about John…
Point 3: Peter has to Run his own Race in love of Jesus
Show: Jn.21:20-23 (READ)
Explain: It is so sad – that we always COMPARE ourselves to others. Peter is told that following Jesus is going to be costly and all of a sudden he wants to know what about John. Does John have to lay down his life in the service of Jesus too? (PAUSE) But what about John? The only thing that matters is “Does Peter love Jesus?” Nothing else is important. Does Peter love Jesus enough to do what Jesus says AND go where Jesus says to go – even if it is costly?
Show: PREVIOUSLY, Jesus said to Peter in the last supper; (SLIDE 3; Jn 14:15; 15:10; 15:14). The way we show our love for Jesus is obeying Jesus. Yet, there are lots of so-called Christians today who do not follow the Bible’s SEXUAL ETHIC. There are lots of so-called Christians today who LOVE MONEY and do not give to the Christian church at all – despite Jesus clear teaching. Jesus says; “do good to all people”, yet there are stacks of so-called Christians doing nothing good except feathering their own nests. THIS IS NOT CHRISTIAN. This is NOT following Jesus. And this will NOT save you – no matter how much you celebrate Easter. (If you don’t believe me – read the book of James).
CHRISTIANS (true Christians) endeavor to do everything Jesus commands because he loved us and died for us. It is the way we express our GRATITUDE. It is the way we PROVE our faith in Jesus is real and that he is our King and that we are in step with God’s Spirit. Lip service is not enough. Life service is what is required. So again, Jesus says; “Peter do you love me?” If Peter says “yes” he should do what Jesus commands – irrespective of whether others are doing it or not? So Jesus says “ok, Peter lets say my calling on you is to die a premature death and my calling on John is to stay alive until I return – what is that to you. That doesn’t change anything. You must still follow me and do what I expect of you.”
Apply: The fact is Jesus is NOT SAYING John will be alive forever. He is just using HYPERBOLE to make the point that Peter has no right to compare. Of course, Jesus is calling us all to lay down our life in the service of him. But the way that works out A) in Peter’s life, may be different B) to John’s life. For some of us Jesus’ calling may be to go to Africa as a MISSIONARY. For others of us Jesus’ may be calling us to use our WEALTH for his glory. But be assured Jesus is calling the man with wealth to make as big a sacrifice as the the missionary. Others of us may be called to serve in A DIFFICULT CHURCH (with special needs) rather than go to the BIG COMFORTABLE CHURCH where everything is easy. Truth is it may be easier to be a real disciple of Jesus in the difficult church, than it is in the comfortable church. Others of us may be called to follow Jesus as SINGLE people – which can be hard. But we need to remember that others of us may be called to follow Jesus as MARRIED people in difficult marriages – which is also hard. We need to run our own race. Some of us may be called to follow Jesus in Nigeria like AMINA AND HER FAMILY who were attacked by Boko Haram. Others of us may be called to follow Jesus in all the affluence and wokeness of Sydney. But what is truly easier. It may in fact be easier to follow Jesus faithfully in Nigeria where we are forced to make real choices, than it is in Sydney where we are constantly tempted with seductive inch by inch compromise. The point is – DON’T COMPARE. What you think is harder may in fact be easier. What you think is better may in fact be worse. Just love Jesus for dying you and do whatever he is calling you to do for his kingdom. On the last day– you will not be judged on THE BASIS of what anyone else did? No! You will be judged on THE BASIS of what you did – with the talents God gave you.
And sadly, right now I think one of THE HARDEST PLACES on earth to be a faithful, loving follower of Jesus is in comfortable middle-class churches in the west. This is not easier than Nigeria. This is perhaps harder. Christians in the west are possibly in the most dangerous spiritual place on earth. We need to see again the futility of life without Jesus. There is no such thing as heaven on earth. It is a lie.
Come 1) a major PANDEMIC or 2) perhaps a GLOBAL WAR and everything this world offers begins to vanish like the vapour it truly is. Go home and read your insurance policies. Insurance does not cover acts of God or acts of war. So, in a heartbeat, all that you’ve been working for and all the world offers – could be gone. Then what? We need to grasp again the beauty of the cross AND the hope of resurrection. We need again to so fall in love with Jesus (both what he did for us and who he is) that we will kill our oxen and burn our ploughs, sink our boats and burn our nets and truly follow Jesus – because it is Jesus or it is nothing. It is Jesus or it is meaningless, meaningless everything is meaningless. And perhaps we will yet see that truth vindicated in the near future. Are you truly following Jesus OR are you among the great number of so-called Christians that even now, appear to be falling into apostasy?
Let me pray…