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Encouraging People – John 21:15-25
I. Do you love me more than these? – Verse 15 – Stunning moment, so much in this Q!
· I want to deal initially with these three questions Jesus asked Peter. But let’s look at how the passage begins: ‘When they had eaten breakfast’ Always good to leave the ‘heavy’ conversations for after you’ve eaten! I reckon, once you’re sat down in the lounge with a mug of coffee and some relaxing music on in the background, begin your sentence with the word ‘so’… some free advice there for you, your welcome! Notice, before Jesus tells Peter to ‘feed’ my sheep, he is first fed by Jesus (vs 12-13), and this is a theme throughout the text, the first command is to ‘love the Lord your God…’ If you desire to ‘feed’ others, let me first ask you, ‘are you being fed by Jesus’?
· Simon, son of John, Jesus knows how to get your attention, if a friend turns to me and says ‘Timothy Blaber’ – I’m on edge! Simon Son of John, his birth name, before his confession of faith in Christ.
· Do you love me more than ‘these’ – ‘these’ are the other disciples, ‘do you love me more than these guys’? I would put to you, that this is an awkwardmoment, for everyone. If I turn to one of my children, if I look at Skye and ask her ‘Skye Blaber, do you love me more than your siblings’? Do you see the tension? If she says ‘yes’, then how are the others going to react? No you don’t! And in an instance I’ve lost the breakfast table to anarchy!!
· Read Matt 26:33-34 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” ‘I love you more than these guys, I’ll never let you down’. Read John 18:25-27, ‘do you love me more than these’? Peter’s response ‘you know that I love you’ – Peter doesn’t compare himself to the others, he is humble, he isn’t bragging/self-confident, he appeals to Jesus’ knowledge of his heart – ‘you know’, ‘you know I love you’ you can see my heart. Jesus is so tenderhearted
· This is ‘the question’ for sinners, think about it, Peter had seriously messed up – shouldn’t Peter be asking Jesus ‘do you love me’ after what I did? Do you still want me, after what I did? When Peter first met Jesus following another astonishing catch of fish, do you remember what he said? When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” Luke 5:8, how different his reaction is here, ‘When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer clothing around him (for he had taken it off) and plunged into the sea.’ John 21:7, what a contrast, ‘get away from me’ and now he sees Jesus and he’s like Usain Bolt! What’s made such a difference? If he felt sinful before he met Jesus, shouldn’t he feel like an utter wretch now having denied he knew him? Having rejected him and his friendship? What’s changed in Peter’s heart? Grace: through the cross, the resurrection! Peter knows ‘amazing grace’ that ‘saves a wretch like me’, he does not fear God’s judgment, he does not fear retribution and punishment! Grace calls men and women to run to Jesus when they sin, not hide! Adam hid from God, Peter runs to him… If you think your sin means you need to hide from God, then you haven’t understood grace, his heart aches for you – come to me? Do you love me? Love for God is a fruit and not a root!
· Three times, ‘Do you love me?’ – On third time Peter is grieved, three times he is asked the question, mirroring the three times Peter denied him Is Jesus toying with Peter? Is this a little unnecessary, cruel even? Of course not, in truth, this couldn’t be more compassionate. Jesus is taking Peter through a full restoration, he is taking him by the hand, as it were, and lifting him, empowering him, healing him. Bruner “Jesus wanted Peter’s last memory of his last main meeting with Jesus to be Peter’s threefold, ‘I do love you, Lord,’ ‘I do love you, Lord,’ and ‘I do love you, Lord’ rather than his shameful threefold, ‘I don’t know the man,’ I don’t know the man,’ I don’t know the man
II. Two Qualifications for Christian Leaders…
A. Failure – Show me one individual, called and appointed to lead by Jesus who does not have a story of failure to tell? Peter’s failure, far from disqualifying him for leadership, is the very feature that does qualify him,it’s his weakness, his vulnerability, he is called from his brokenness in order that he might utterly cast himself upon the one whose power is made perfect in weakness! Paul described a ‘thorn in his flesh’, he called himself the ‘chief of sinners’, we could be here all day discussing the failings of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Sampson, David, Solomon. Pride in us would want others to perceive us as strong, powerful, capable, clever, but those God calls and uses will have a story of weakness/failure to tell… When I am weak, then I am strong, grace is my shield and Christ is my song. Jesus wanted Peter, Jesus knew Peter, warts and all, and Jesus wants you, warts and all! He wants your warts… My story of failing, a question of identity, am I my sin? Am I my failures? Here’s God’s kindness is such that those he calls and uses will always walk with a limp, a thorn in the flesh, to keep us dependent on him, to keep us on our knees, that we might know constantly without His power, I can’t do this!! Tozer: Beware any Christian leader who doesn’t walk with a limp – His power through weak vessels
B. Love for Christ – before Peter is commissioned to ‘feed’ and ‘shepherd’ anyone else, he is asked the most crucial question for anyone who would aspire to lead others in the church, ‘do you love me’? Before Christ would commit his sheep to his care, he asked him, Lovest thou me?... Those that do not truly love Christ will never truly love the souls of men. (Matthew Henry) It is possible to have the greatest preaching gift, to have qualifications up to your eyeballs, to be the most engaging and entertaining speaker, but if there is no love for Christ, then you are no shepherd of the sheep, worse still you may even be a wolf! Is Christ your bread of life? Is he the delight of your heart? Is Jesus the love of your life? Have you know the sweetness of his grace, as Peter? The power of Christ which pulses through weak vessels is the Love of God, poured in to our heats by The HS!
III. Two Commands for Christian Leaders
A. Feed my Sheep – Earlier on in the gospel Jesus says to Peter follow me and I’ll make you ‘fisher of men’ here he is being commanded to ‘feed my sheep’ – Peter is called to ‘fish’ and ‘shepherd! Good shepherds care for the sheep, see them fed, watered, protected from wild animals, kept clean from parasites, they know their sheep by name, and the sheep recognise the voice of the Shepherd! The Shepherd being Jesus himself, we look after ‘his’ sheep, hence Jesus repeats ‘my lambs, my sheep’. Does this sound like Jesus? Does this sound like my Masters’ voice? Can I follow this shepherd? Are these my Maters’ words? You need to test the words of your shepherds! Ezekiel 34: Where it goes badly wrong! This happened in Israel’s day, it is happening in the church too!
B. Follow me: Such simplicity to Christ’s call, ‘love me, feed my sheep, follow me’, this command reminds Peter that he too needs a Shepherd. Follow Jesus, imitate Jesus, be led by Jesus – a good under-shepherd follows The Good Shepherd, we point others to Christ, He points us to The Father. For Peter, following Jesus his whole life involved his martyrdom, Peter became a Shepherd like Jesus laying his life down for the sheep