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The ministry of Christ to the suffering heart 6 April 06 PM

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The ministry of Christ to the suffering heart

He heals the broken-hearted

and binds up their wounds.

                                                                Psalm 147 v 3

In conjunction with John 21[1]

Tonight’s theme has been with me for some days now – but originally I had intended to approach it via John 14 “Let not your hearts be troubled…”

Jesus has a ministry to broken hearted, and whether or not you feel that you are in that category tonight I commend to you’re the CHRIST OF THE BROKEN HEART. 

If you looked into the chapters in John that lead up to the arrest of Jesus you would see how frequently Jesus is troubled in His own heart[2] - and how he commends to His disciples the remedy for such a condition – BELIEVE IN ME!

I want to take the verse in Psalm 147 and illustrate it by reference to one of the Easter narratives – John 21, in which Simon Peter is restored to a place of calm and usefulness and hope.

The Psalmist is largely preoccupied with God in creation – but he gives us a beautiful text with which to take hold on Christ.

He heals the broken-hearted

and binds up their wounds.

In that respect the verse is unusual because the rest of the psalm provides us with no insights into a particular incident in his own life. It is simply a necessary observation that GOD IS LIKE THAT – He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.   

The God who is described in the remaining verses as at work in the wonders of creation – is a God who enters our world and offers to deal with us at close quarters.

That is what Palm Sunday is about – the King of Glory approaching humbly and seated upon a donkey. He fulfils the expectations of the prophets.  He goes to His cross in order the heal us.

I want to illustrate this statement by telling you about Simon Peter who – in John 21 is a disillusioned man, who despite what he knows of the resurrection of Jesus has returned along with his companions to the old familiar ways of life before Christ.

Simon Peter’s heartache springs directly from his human failure as a disciple. He vowed he would never let Christ down – but he did. He denied Him three times, and as Luke tells us, went out and wept bitterly.

As we turn to John 21 we realise that the Gospel writer has not mentioned Peter by name since the race with John himself to the empty tomb. Before that it was his denial that dominated the story.

You can see here:

a.                The symptoms of Peter’s condition

b.                The remedy applied

c.                 The healing process

A.            The symptoms of Simon’s broken heart

1.                a wounded conscience

2.                a loss of purpose

3.                a sense of shame

A wounded conscience

I do not have a verse in this chapter for that – but as I look back at the events on that night when Jesus was dragged before the high priest, and Simon stood outside warming himself at the fire – I have no doubt at all that the big fisherman’s heart was broken then.

Try and imagine how he felt as Jesus turned and looked at him and, in Luke’s words, he “went out and wept bitterly”.

He had failed.

Failed His Lord

Failed himself

Failed his friends

The big man with the words of undying devotion had failed to deliver.

We too have to face up to failure

We have failed God

Failed to keep His laws

Failed our friends

Failed those who trusted us

We need Someone to minister to our wounded conscience.

A loss of purpose                     v 3

There are many ways of interpreting what Peter said at the beginning of John 21

“I am going out to fish”

But clearly he included the words BECAUSE they were significant. It wasn’t just a phrase like “I’m going for a walk…”

I believe these words are another symptom of the wounded spirit.

Peter is going back

To revisit the old haunts

To seek reassurance in the old ways

To find consolation in the established patterns of a previous life

So much had changed! – yet Simon decided to go back to fishing

We too return to old ways

Take refuge in the parts of our life and experience that once we enjoyed

Pull out of any new commitment – to the old habits of duty.

It was not a terrible wrong he did – but it was a symptom of losing his way, losing his focus.

Up till then JESUS had dominated his life for several years.

Have you experienced the loss of purpose?

A sense of shame                    v7

John tells us how pointless and empty that night had been, and that they did not recognise the Lord as He stood on the shore in the dawn light.

When the voice came it was John who recognised the speaker

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

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“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!” 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.

And then Simon knew and his reaction was one of shame.

He throws himself into the water.

Have you ever felt that way?


Ashamed because you have been found out by a dear friend.

Ashamed because someone you vowed to serve has discovered your failure?

It is a necessary prelude to the HEALING WORK OF THE MASTER.

B.  The treatment

1.                Jesus stood on the shore

2.                He asked the inevitable question

3.                He gave directions for the miracle

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

5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“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.

When the heart is bruised and wounded Jesus is not far away

He stands – the Stranger on the shore in the morning light after the pointless toil

He is there

Know this – that He who came from heaven’s glory and shared these years with His friends, and then suffered and died upon the cross and rose again – HE APPROACHES US

He is not far away – as if we needed to find Him or pursue Him.

How long has Christ as it were been standing not far from you – and once or twice you have glimpsed Him there but not made a move towards Him.

How often has He approached and you have heard of His love, and His power and His forgiving work?


He asks a question

He applies surgery, as it were to the broken heart – He wants us to face up to the reality of our situation.   His question is rhetorical:

“Haven’t you any fish?”

He knows of course that they have failed

He wants them to face that failure and admit to it.

The Saviour never did avoid the real issues in those He ministers to.

“Well – face up to it!

        Without Me – nothing!

        Your work is no longer in the past duties to which you may have returned

I commissioned you once – despite your grief, your wounds, your guilt and your failure.

He gives directions

He holds in His pierced hands the remedy to the broken heart.

Do as you did once before when I confronted your disappointment.

6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

Do as I say.

And what does He say to us?




So finally we have:

C.  The healing process      vv15-17

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.”

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.”

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.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Jesus takes Peter one on one aside from the others and talks to him personally.

And as He does so we see the way by which He applies His healing work to the broken heart of Simon.

One to one

Gently but firmly




And these are the phases of that process:

1.                A question of devotion

2.                A renewal of duty

3.                An old discipleship

1.                Do you love me?

Examine that heart and measure how important I am to you.  If you must compare your own devotion with that of others – but know this it is a matter of YOU AND ME not YOU and OTHERS

2.                Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep…

As you are able to respond to the probing of Christ who wants only to know how much He means to you – so you will be able to recapture that PURPOSE and FUNCTION that makes your life significant – for now and for eternity.

3.                Follow me  v 19

And – despite everyone else, and everything else FOLLOW ME!

That is the healing ministry of the Christ.


[1] Developed from LRd 16 July 1989

[2] ..\@Waterloo Hall\For Troubled Hearts WH.doc

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