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Sermon on John 21:15-25

Theme:  Jesus calls even the greatest disasters to follow anew.

Goal: to encourage Christians into a new relationship of following Christ.

Need:  We feel disasters on the outside of faith looking in.



1.       Don’t be afraid to jump out of the boat again.

2.      Failure strips away our boasting.

3.      Christ renews our call even after our failure.



          How does the saying go again.  If at first you don’t succeed . . . right.  Try it the way your wife told you to do it. 

          No.  If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. 

          The reason why we need whitty saying is because there are so many times when the saying comes in handy.  We are more likely when we don’t succeed in the first go around to give up on it. 

          There are several success stories of people who were rejected or failed at what they were doing only to stick with it and become an overwhelming success story.

          Isaac Newton did awful in school and failed at running the family farm. 

          Thomas Edison was told by a teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.

          Winston Churchill failed grade 6.

          Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

          And the Beatles were told at the outset that they sounded terrible and guitar music was on its way out.

          That’s nice to think about, but what about for  little Joe Nobody here who doesn’t aspire to do much more than live a decent life.  Love my family.  Make a living.  And live my life following Jesus.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t say that when I fail at something that I right away ought to be able to pop right back up again and, hey, let’s get at em. 

          I wonder if when those moments show up for some of us, we haven’t tried and tried again.  Instead we take it as a sign that we ought to be off doing something else.  Or maybe, and you can tell me if this has happened in your life before.  You have messed at something so bad that you labeled yourself a loser.  Capital L. Loser.  It takes your self worth deflates you like a week old balloon.  You stole from your boss on the job site and got caught.  Now you feel about this big.  You had an inappropriate relationship and you feel like garbage.  You let down your children as they were growing up and you feel responsible for what is going on with them right now.  This church right now is filled with places where we have tried at this thing called life in Christ and we wonder where we are to go from here.

          Throughout lent we grew with Peter. I suppose you  might tell Pastor Jake and myself that we suffered with Peter throughout lent.  It’s true.  We picked the stories from the life of Peter where he messed up in tremendous ways.  But we heard on Easter Sunday that Jesus said very specifically “go tell Peter.” 

          This morning Scripture tells us that Jesus will even call to the people who feel like the biggest wrecks and will invite them to follow him anew.  It doesn’t matter how down on your self you are, or how many ways you have let people down and let Jesus Christ down.  Jesus has risen from the dead.  He calls the disasters like us to follow anew.

          Before we even get into the verses that we read for this morning, the scene is set in a dismal way ay the beginning of the chapter.  It starts with the Peter saying to his other disciples that he is going to go out fishing and the other disciples decide to go with him. 

          He decides to go fishing.  Peter.  Come on now. You can see that he feels like his denial of Jesus has ruined him.  Only a few years earlier Peter put down his nets so that he could take on the new calling of catching people.  Inviting them into a relationship with Jesus.  But here’s Peter in the earlier mornings casting his nets out for fish again. 

          And not only is he not catching people anymore.  He’s not catching fish either.  The disciples see a man on the shore who tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  They do that and their nets are full of fish.  They all say, its Jesus and Peter jumps out of the boat again.  Instead of thinking he could walk on the water, he just gets out and swims his way to shore. He just has to be with Jesus again.

          Perhaps in this, we already see something that we can challenge ourselves with. When you feel like a failure eventually its going to be time to get out of the boat again.  When you are a disaster because of letting the people you love down, the time’s going to come when even though you feel bad still, you take the plunge into restoring the relationships that were messed up. 

          It sure would make restoration easier as well if we knew that everyone was going to be as forgiving as Jesus.  Then we might all just take the plunge and face the mess we have made.

          So, when your life is a disaster due to things you could have done differently, the time comes when you have to confess what’s happened and start on the path of renewal again.

          What Peter discovers when he reaches the shore and talks to Jesus is that failures have a way of taking our attitudes down a few notches. 

          The disciples sit with Jesus and talk over the huge catch of fish that was just hauled into shore.  Right after they eat together, Jesus takes the time to talk alone to Peter.  Verse 15 starts off saying, 15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

          Now we better make sure we understand the question that Jesus asks.  Some people thought Jesus is refering to the fish and the nets and equipment.  “Simon, do you love me more than your fishing?”  Others have thought that Jesus is asking if Peter loves him more than he loves the other disciples.  Both understandings have some merit to them.  But we ought to understand the question differently.  Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me more than these.”  “Are you the one with the most love for me out of all the disciples.  Do you really lov e me more than any of these other guys love me?”

          That’s what Peter at one time boasted about.  He thought he was the one disciples with his act all together.   He claimed that even if the others fell away, he had an uncondiational love.  

          Peter’s reply is hardly the Peter we have gotten to know through out lent.  “He says, “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

          We miss part of the dialoge here because of the language differences between ancient greek and modern english.  We use one word “love” to describe many different types of love.  In this story, Jesus uses the word agape.  Peter do you have an undying, unhindered, unconditional love for me? 

                   Peter’s answer uses a completely different word for love.  Do you unconditionally love me more than anyone else in the world.  Peter says, yes Lord, you know that I have a strong comradaaree together.

          Its like the guys who gets up the nerve to tell his new girl friend that he loves here.  I love you so much.  And then he gets the dreaded answer back.  I love spending time with you too.

          Failure takes the wind out of the sails of Peter.  His loud mouth has quieted down.  He confidence is gone.  He’s really a disaster.

          You and I might feel like we have been punched in the gut when we feel like we have failed.

          Jesus is unphased by the answer.  Jesus responds by saying, feed my lambs.  Then he asks it again in verse16Again 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.”

          Jesus asks the question again, this time he drops the comparison to the other disciples.  Simon do you really unconditionally love me?

          Peter can`t bring himself to say it.  Yes Lord, you know  that I have a deep affinity for you?

          Then the third time the question is asked Jesus uses Peters words.  Simon do you have a friendship with me.  Peter is hurt by this.  Jesus asks three times.  And each time coming back off a little bit.

          Jesus knows where to meet us at when we are not doing what we ought to be doing.  Jesus comes to search us out when we have fallen away from him.  He comes, not just to make Peter feel better, but to put him on the right path again.

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, 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.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” [1]

          Follow me.  Follow me. Those are very strong words.  And Jesus extends the same invitiation to us again and again and again.  Part of the reason why we spend time in confession that the beginning of our service. That’s why our lives ought to cry out to God for forgiveness.  Its because even when we have failed and have gone back to our old fishing for whatever else in the world, Jesus is the one who rose again to call us back to a new life.

          We can read about the new life of Christians all over in the Bible.  We are called to put off the sin and put on the new self.  We are supposed to cloth ourselves in righteousness. 

          Peter finally would get it right.  He finally would follow Christ with his life. He would finally realize what it means to pick up his cross and follow Christ.

          Tradition tells us that Peter was also crucified for his faith. In the decades after Christ’s death the world became even more hostile to the gospel.  As Peter became the most out spoken leader of Christianity those in power didn’t appreciate Peter and his faith.  He would be lead to his own cross.  He would be crucified like he might have been on Good Friday if he didn’t turn his back on Jesus.  Instead of turning his back on the cross.  He accepted it.  And tradition says that he asked to be crucified upside down.

          When Christ restores us from disasters, he restores us to continue on the work that we had failed at.  If at first we don’t succeed hold the hand of Jesus more securely and try again.

          Where is your disaster?  What do you need to put on the new life again in Christ.  Jesus died.  Jesus rose again.  Jesus is the giver of new life.  And nothing can stand in the way of it.



[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jn 21:17-19

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