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The Church - A Community Still Following Jesus

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The Church: A Community Still Following Jesus
John 21:1-19

Open your Bibles to the last chapter of John’s gospel. … At this point Jesus has risen from the dead … and appeared to His disciples a couple of times. … And now we see the disciples back living their ordinary lives … when Jesus appears to them again.

The disciples have gone back to fishing. … And they’re on the Sea of Tiberias … (which is another name for the Sea of Galilee). {PP} (map)

(Great Sea … Dead Sea … Jerusalem … Jordan River … Sea of Galilee/Tiberias) … The Sea of Tiberias is about 80 miles northeast of Jerusalem … (as far as St. Louis to Fredericktown, MO) … so they’ve traveled a very long way … (when you consider their modes of transportation) … in the short period of time since Jesus’ death.

They’re confused … and it seems like they just wanted to get as far away from Jerusalem … as fast they could.

{PP} (2nd map) Here is a photo of a section of the Sea of Galilee today. …

A peaceful sea. … A place they could return to their lives of fishing. … A place far away from all the disturbances of Jerusalem … and the death of Jesus.

Follow with me as we look at John 21 … and this encounter with Jesus … which took place on the shore of this very lake … in an area much like you see in this picture.

John chapter 21 … {PP} (John 21:1-19) … “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” {PP} (John 21:1-19) So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. [PAUSE]

4 Early in the morning … Jesus stood on the shore … but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” {PP} (John 21:1-19)

No,” they answered.

6 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.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” {PP} (John 21:1-19) 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. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. {PP} (John 21:1-19)  9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them … “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.

11 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. {PP} (John 21:1-19)  12 Jesus said to them … “Come and have breakfast.” … None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. {PP} (John 21:1-19)

15 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.” {PP} (John 21:1-19)

16 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.” {PP} (John 21:1-19)

17 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.” {PP} (John 21:1-19)

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!

{PP} (blank)

What did it mean for the disciples to follow Jesus? … [PAUSE] … When He called His first disciples … what did He call them to do? … [PAUSE – get feedback]

Do you see that … up until this point … following Jesus meant … (quite literally) … following Him around? … But things will be different now. … He won’t be with them physically anymore … and so He needs to teach them how they will follow Him after He’s gone. … And how … in fact … He will still be with them … (as He says … “even to the end of the age”).

Essentially … Jesus is teaching us what this community … [SHOW] … called the church … should look like. … And what it means to follow Him … now that He’s not physically here in His body anymore. …

That’s our topic. … The Church: A Community Still Following Jesus.

People are longing to see the church really be the church. … A lot of people today describe themselves … as “spiritual … but not religious.”

I had a great discussion about this for a couple of hours this week. I was talking to a young man who said he believes in God … but he’s just not sure he believes in the church.

And we’d have to admit … that the church in the 21st Century … does not always look like the church is supposed to look. … That’s why we’re doing this series on the church and community.

The church should look … like the Bible says it should look … like a community following Jesus. … Because this is Jesus teaching us how to follow Him once He’s gone … understanding what Jesus is saying in John 21 will help us to “follow Him.”

Notice that … before they even know it’s Jesus … He says … “Throw your net.” (I know you’ve been fishing all night … and you haven’t caught any fish … and I’m a stranger you don’t recognize over here on the shore … but just one more time …) … “Throw your net.”

This exchange is far more significant than you might think. … It calls to mind Luke chapter 5 when Jesus was in the boat with these same disciples three years earlier. … They had just met Jesus. … On that occasion they had also been out fishing all night … and … they also hadn’t caught any fish. … And then Jesus gets in the boat … and in Luke 5:4 He turns to Peter (before he was even called Peter) and says … “Simon {PP} (Luke 5:4-11)

Put out into deep water … and let down the nets for a catch.

5 Simon answered … “Master … we’ve worked hard all night … and haven’t caught anything. … But … because you say so … I will let down the nets.” {PP} (Luke 5:4-11)

6 When they had done so … they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them … and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. {PP} (Luke 5:4-11)

8 When Simon Peter saw this … [PAUSE] … he fell at Jesus’ knees and said … “Go away from me … Lord … [PAUSE] … I am a sinful man!” 9  … For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken … 10 and so were James and John … the sons of Zebedee … Simon’s partners. {PP} (Luke 5:4-11)

Then Jesus said to Simon … “Don’t be afraid … [PAUSE] … from now on you will catch men.” [PAUSE] 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore … left everything … and followed him.” {PP} (blank)

That’s how it all started. … That’s what happened when they first started following Jesus.

Without Him … they can’t catch any fish. … With Him … they catch more than they can handle.

Now … three years later … we have the same scenario. … The disciples are out in a boat fishing all night … but they can’t find any fish. … John 21:3 says … “that night they caught nothing.”

Once again … Jesus comes and tells them to throw their nets … and when they throw the nets … once again … they catch more fish than they can handle.

Have you ever noticed how similar these two stories are? … One at the start of His ministry … when He first calls the disciples … and one at the end of their training … just before He will be taken away from them physically.

But there are a couple of very important differences that I want to draw your attention to.

This time … unlike the first time … Jesus is not in the boat with them. … And … this time … they don’t even recognize that it’s Jesus directing them. [PAUSE]

What’s the significance?

This is all part of teaching them how to still follow Him after He’s gone.

One commentator said … “this is Jesus’ way of saying to His disciples … (once I’m gone) … even if you don’t recognize Me with your physical senses … even if I’m not physically present with you … I still want you to do My work in the world … and … I will still be there to help you do it.”

What is it that He wants them to do in the world? … (What does He want us to do?) … That’s simple. … What did He tell them when He first met them? … “I will make you … (what?pause for answer) … fishers of men.”

That’s still a major part of our mission. … To be fishers of men. … Jesus made His first disciples “fishers of men” … and He wants to make us “fishers of men” too … and women J.

You say … “I can’t do that. … I can’t catch men!” … “I’m too shy. … I don’t know what to say.” … [PAUSE]

Don’t worry. … The disciples couldn’t even catch fish without His help … and they were fishermen. … This is really important. … He was teaching teach them … (and us) … that there is no way we will ever catch men without His help.

He will make you fishers of men … He will tell you where to throw your nets. … Even if He’s not physically with us … and even if we don’t recognize Him … He is still helping us do His work.

He will help us fulfill this mission of the church. … [PAUSE] … Fishing. … [PAUSE]

I want you to think of an aspect of fishing that you may not have thought of before … but it’s the reason Jesus uses this image.

And I’m not a fisherman. … I’ve only caught one fish in my entire life. I was about 8 years old … and my sister and I were fishing in the pond on our grandpa’s farm. … We caught a fish we named “Buddy.” … Then I had to take Buddy off the hook. He jumped around for a long time … and then he stopped moving so fast. … Why? {Wait for answer}

Eventually we threw Buddy back in the pond and he was really happy.

When you catch a fish … you are bringing the fish from one reality into another. … In our case … Buddy didn’t like his new reality very much. … But it’s possible that we could have had a nice tank for him … with food. … [PAUSE] … Does that make sense?

When the disciples caught fish … they were taking them out of the sea … and bringing them into the boat.

Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a net.

To understand this … you have to understand that symbolism was incredibly important to ancient people. … Much more so than it is for us today.

In the Bible the “sea” was always a symbol of death … cold … and darkness. … I really learned this during our series on Revelation. Revelation talks about the beast rising up out of the sea … and then Revelation also describes the new heaven and the new earth as a place where there will be no more sea.

The image of bringing a fish “out of the sea” … fits perfectly with the image of Christ followers being “fishers of men.”

Our “fishing project” … involved taking people out of one realm … and putting them into another. … Out of the sea (of death and darkness) … and into God’s community. … As Paul says … {PP} (Colossians 1:13) “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness … and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” {PP} (blank)

Weren’t some of you in the “sea”? … The deep … dark … cold. … You were lost. … Apart from Christ … and apart from hope in this world.

Aren’t there thousands of people all around us who still live in that “sea”? … He has called us to be fishers of men. … Let’s throw our nets.

And … they were fishing with nets. Big nets. … This kind of fishing could only be done with others. … In community.

That’s how fishing for men works too. … We can’t do it without Jesus … but we can’t do it without each other either.

So what do you do? … Gather together your best friends … people just like you … and work on this together? … No. … I want you to think about who Jesus is talking to. There were only a few disciples there … but it’s very interesting to think about who was out in that boat together.

Thomas … and Nathanael.

Nathanael was a superstitious person. … Nathanael believed things way too easily. … Without checking them out enough. … There was a time when Jesus simply said … “Nathanael … I saw you under the fig tree.”

Having nothing more to go on than this statement … Nathanael says … “You are the king of Israel.” … And Jesus rebukes him by saying … “you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree?” … “You will see greater things than this!”

On the other extreme … Thomas is substitious … (if that’s a word).

Superstitious means “over believing” … so Substitious must mean “under believing.” Right?

Thomas was substitious. … A cynic. … It wasn’t good enough for him that the other disciples saw Jesus alive. … He said … {PP} (John 20:25) “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands … and put my finger where the nails were … and put my hand into his side … I will not believe it.” {PP} (blank)

Thomas is a skeptic.

Thomases and Nathanaels hate each other. … A cynic … and a superstitious person. … As opposite as they could be. … But they’re both in the boat together. … [PAUSE]

Think about Peter and John. … John is rational. … Peter is impulsive. … John is the first one to think. … Peter is the first one to act. … John’s a rationalist. … Peter’s an existentialist.

Johns think Peters overreact. … Johns want Peters to slow down and think things through before just charging ahead.

Peters think Johns don’t do anything. … They think Johns just want to form a committee and write documents. … Do you see?

But Peter and John are in the boat together.

Phil Hill and I worked through this with worship.

I’m a Peter. … “Let’s get everyone who is SHAPED for worship … serving in worship.” … “Oh … you play the ukulele … great … how about playing for God? … Come next Wednesday to practice!”

Phil’s a John. … “We need a document … we need a process before we just start adding people to the worship team. … And we need to think about why we would add someone. Do we really need a ukulele? (See … Peters don’t ask questions like that.)

You know what? … Phil and I are in the boat together. And we’ve learned that it’s good for both of us. … As different as we can be on some things. … I make him uncomfortable sometimes … (like anytime I call and start the conversation with) … “Hey Phil … I’ve got a great idea for worship!” … [PAUSE]

He keeps things orderly … and makes sure everything we do is grounded in scripture. … I can tell you that there is no worship pastor … anywhere … who is more concerned with making sure everything done is biblically. We’re so blessed.

We need [SHOW] each other. … It’s good that we’re in the boat together. … It’s good for us. … It’s good for the church.

Jesus calls us to be a community. … A community means that there will be all kinds of different people … with different personalities … and different points of view.

People who would never see eye to eye … and be able to work together out there in the world. … The church is different. … [PAUSE]

We all need each other. … We need a community … with lots of different people … with lots of different points of view.

Otherwise we won’t grow. … And we need to keep growing because there is a world out there that needs to see a community that looks the way Jesus says the church should look. … [PAUSE]

A community of very different people … who genuinely love one another. … A community that shares with one another … and outsiders … in staggering amounts … because money is not an idol. … A community that shares its time … because we’re not living for ourselves. … A community that’s still following Jesus.

But Jesus teaches us something else in this passage. … We’re not only called to be “fishers of men” … we are also called to be feeders of sheep.

Peter had denied Jesus … the rooster crowed … Peter wept bitterly. … This happened after Peter told Jesus that he would follow Him … even if everyone else fell away.

So in John 21 Jesus restores Peter.

Look at verse 15. {PP} (John 21:15) “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” (Notice that He does this publicly. Jesus doesn’t pull Peter to the side … and whisper something in his ear. … Just right there in front of all the guys … “Hey Peter! … Do you really love me more than these guys?”)

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” {PP} (blank)

That’s another part of our mission. … Feeding His lambs.

Jesus is saying … once you catch men … you need to feed them.

Go out there and bring men and women … boys and girls … (whoever you can) … into this different reality of my Kingdom.

Then feed them. … They need spiritual food if they are to grow.

You don’t need a seminary degree to feed people spiritually. … You don’t need to be an elder. … You don’t need to know much about the Bible.

The only prerequisite Jesus gives is … “do you truly love Me?” … [PAUSE]

Do you love Him? … [PAUSE]

Feed His lambs.

You don’t need to be a Sunday school teacher to do this. … Maybe you can serve in the nursery so others can go to Sunday school.

(Lisa Brown … (stand) … usually don’t want to embarrass people … but this will be Tim and Lisa’s last Sunday here).

Will someone else step up and serve in this ministry so that people can be fed? … Maybe someone who doesn’t go to SS now? (Or is that extra hour of sleep more important than seeing people fed spiritually?) … [PAUSE]

Or … this summer. We’re going to feed kids spiritually at King’s Kids Camp. … We had a training meeting most of the day yesterday and I can tell you that it will be an incredible camp. … We have 7 or 8 counselors going to camp. … Most of you can’t be a counselor. … Can’t get the time off work or whatever. … But … if you’re not able to be a counselor … does that mean you can’t feed kids spiritually through camp? … How about helping a child go to camp through a scholarship? (see me)

And there’s even more ways to feed kids at VBS! (see Janet Wodicker)

Next Saturday we’re having a women’s ministry luncheon here. … The women will be well fed spiritually … (and physically). … If you’re a man … does that mean there is no way you can help see women fed spiritually?

No way.

If you’re married … you can make sure your wife is able to go. … It might look like this:

(Role play) … “Honey … are you going to that women’s luncheon next week?” (Turn and ask her right now. … I’ll wait.) … [PAUSE]

If she said … “No. I never RSVP’d.

No problem … You can RSVP right after the service … (Right up front here … Suzanne Winter will be up there.)

I can’t leave you with all the kids.

No problem. I’ve got it covered.

Do you see? … Men … you can minister to your wives by taking away all the road blocks so they can attend.

There are lots of ways to feed people spiritually in a community like this.

Jesus just says … “do you truly love Me?” … If so … “Feed My Lambs.”

Fishing and Feeding. … Fishing … trying to bring people out of the reality of this world and into His kingdom. … Feeding … helping them grow spiritually. Giving them spiritual nourishment. … These are the two great missions of the church. … And Jesus couldn’t have made these points more clear for us than He does in this chapter. … [PAUSE]

I want you to see one more thing before we close. … Did you notice Peter’s response when He realized that stranger on the shore was Jesus.

The text says … {PP} (John 21:7) “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 … and jumped into the water.” {PP} (blank)

Peter jumped into the water … and he ran to Jesus.

What did Peter do three years earlier … when Jesus performed this same miracle? … He said … “get away from me Lord … I am a sinful man.”

That was Peter … before he understood the gospel.

Now Peter runs to Jesus as fast as he can. … He doesn’t even wait for the boat to go the final 100 yards.

Remember that Peter had just failed Jesus big time. … He really blew it. … But … unlike three years earlier … Peter now understands the gospel. … And when you understand the gospel … you understand that … when you fail … you’re not condemned. He took your condemnation. … That’s why He died. … That’s when you realize how much you really are loved.

All Peter wanted to do is to be with Jesus. … He didn’t know what Jesus would say. … Maybe Jesus was going to rebuke him over the denials. … Maybe Peter would lose his position as an apostle. … Peter had no idea. … But … He knew he wanted to be near Jesus. … He knew that being with Jesus was more important than any position he might hold.

Listen to me. … Jesus loves you so much. … Run to Him. … Take all your sin … and all your failures … and run to Jesus. … [PAUSE]

He will save you. … He will make you fishers of men. … He will make you feeders of sheep.

Let’s pray.

“Lord Jesus. Thank You that we can run to You … just as we are. Thank You for helping us catch men … and feed them too. … Thank You that we are not left alone to perform these important assignments that You have given us. … Now help us to take on these assignments with all our heart. … In Your name. Amen.”

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