Hearing Jesus 8: Jesus and Us
050-00749 John 21:15-19
I. It doesn’t take any special kind of intelligence to recognize that today is a special day.
A. For many of us, today is the long awaited climax to our Lenten journey.
1. We have expected it because we are reliving an event that occurred thousands of years ago.
2. In truth, for me the coming of the Resurrection is the only hope that keeps me pointed to the cross of Jesus.
3. I can bear to watch Jesus suffer and die because I know that he does not stay dead.
4. The story of Jesus has all the earmarks of a great tragedy. Until the resurrection. Then it becomes a story of great victory.
5. A painful story of death suddenly becomes a delightful story of life.
B. There are also many who celebrate this day without much of any story attached.
1. Easter is a Christian holy day and there are many in the world who are not Christian and who have no desire to think about some fable concerning the dead coming alive again.
2. Cinderella fits the slipper; Snow White is kissed by the Prince; Pinocchio becomes a real boy; and we all live happily ever after.
3. I can’t blame those who are skeptical concerning resurrection from the dead. It goes against everything we have ever known or experienced.
4. Of course skepticism does not change reality, it merely makes it more difficult to believe.
5. So to avoid thinking too deeply about it we have Easter Egg hunts on the White House lawn, we have huge meals with large family gatherings, and we try to celebrate what is a strictly Christian holy day as if it were another generic holiday without trying to offend anyone.
C. I do not stand here this morning to try to prove that Jesus was raised from the dead.
1. In the first place such an attempt is destined to fail.
a) Any proof of an historical event is not primarily scientific.
b) Historical proof is testimonial.
c) People who witnessed an event tell others or write about it giving their perception to the world to judge.
d) The gathering of such testimonies and comparing them provides a balance of reporting that helps get to the truth.
e) There may be scientific ways to test people’s claims, but the effort is limited.
f) If you believe that you have seen a ghost, there is nothing I can do scientifically to prove you wrong or to change your mind.
g) That Jesus was raised from the dead is an historical fact that has as solid a witness as any other fact of history.
h) But there are many who choose to reject that testimony and the two sides of the issue are left with nothing to discuss.
2. But I do make a claim this morning that the Resurrection of Jesus has had a significant effect on the whole world.
a) The first evidence for this I lay before you: the whole world, whether Christian or not, knows about the Christian Holy Day called Easter.
b) And whether one believes or not, there is a universal curiosity about this man Jesus and the events the Christian Bible describes regarding his life and death, and yes, resurrection.
c) Even more pointedly, if we listen to the words of Jesus himself following this amazing and unique event, I believe he will show us just what kind of difference his resurrection has made.
II. Sometime after Jesus was raised from the dead, he met with his disciples as they were fishing. They were not catching anything until Jesus arrived on the scene and suggested they cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The catch was more than they could handle.
A. So Jesus and the disciples had fish for dinner, and then Jesus started speaking to Peter.
1. John 21:15-17 …“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.” …“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.” …“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.”
2. I don’t really believe that this conversation between Jesus and Peter was just between Jesus and Peter. If it had, I don’t think Jesus would have spoken publicly this way.
3. Instead, I think Jesus was speaking to Peter intending not only for all the disciples to hear, but for us to hear also.
4. When Jesus asks Peter, we cannot help but hear him ask each of us, “Do you love me?”
5. So when I read the gospel here, I believe that Jesus is speaking to all of us, but that his message can only be understood by those who can answer his question with a yes.
B. What I would like to spend just a few moments on this morning is the differences between Peter’s experiences before the resurrection and his experiences with Jesus after the resurrection. These differences are what I believe to be the great significance of Jesus’ resurrection and that this significance has permeated throughout the world ever since.
1. The most obvious difference in the before and after is that Peter denied Jesus three times before and he confessed his love for him three times after.
a) This is no small change.
b) Peter, the brash disciple who often spoke before he thought was determined not to deny Christ, three times asserted that he did not know the man and he had no dealings with him.
c) And the rooster crowed.
d) But after, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to renew his commitment to him.
e) Three denials to three confessions. That is a significant change.
f) Some may point out that the circumstances were different and there was much less of a risk when he told Jesus he loved him.
g) But that does not explain that there was not another time in all of Peter’s life when he publicly denied Jesus. No; he was the first to preach the gospel; he was the first to evangelize; he was the first to be imprisoned for his faith; and he was righteous enough to pronounce judgment on those who pretended to believe but did not.
h) Something important happened to Peter between his denials and his confessions.
i) That thing was death of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
2. But this change in Peter also reveals a change in Christ.
a) Before, Jesus had to restrain Peter on occasion.
(1) Peter wanted to build houses on the Mountain where Jesus was transfigured before him.
(2) Peter declared that Jesus should never suffer and die for which he was sharply rebuked.
(3) Peter refused to let Jesus wash his feet until Jesus challenged his position.
b) After, though, Jesus gave Peter not only public opportunity to declare his love but he demonstrated that he had received him as a shepherd of his sheep.
3. Prior to the Resurrection, Jesus had warned Peter to watch out because he did not know the power of sin within him.
a) Now Jesus encourages Peter to let go and be free because of the power of love that overtook him.
4. Before Peter did not want the Lord to serve him by washing his feet and after the Lord told him to now serve his lambs by feeding and tending them.
5. Peter was a changed man after the resurrection of Jesus. And you may argue that there are many reasons for the change. But the most significant event that affected Peter, and the other disciples, was that between the old and the new Peter Jesus had died, been buried, and been raised from the dead.
C. This is the ultimate description of the before and after that Peter experienced: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 …Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
1. You see, all of the differences in Peter between the before and the after come down to the thing that did not change:
2. Before, following Christ led to a cross.
3. And after following Christ would lead to a cross.
a) This Peter who was so changed; this Peter who had been impetuous and foolish was now called to serve and to give himself away in loving care to the death.
b) John 21:18-19 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.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.
c) Dying is the way but rising is the goal.
III. Everything that happened before this was to prepare us for our death and our resurrection.
A. Before this time, neither Peter nor any of the other disciples had really caught on.
1. The thought of a crucified Messiah was so hard to take.
2. But the resurrection of a crucified Messiah was impossible to believe.
3. Yet Jesus rose.
4. And with his rising he brought a change to all of his disciples and to anyone who would follow him to the cross.
5. This change was the truth that Death could not win. Death could no longer defeat Peter because Death was defeated by Christ Jesus.
6. And so, before the cross Jesus called Peter to follow him to the cross and after the resurrection, when Jesus tells Peter how he will die, he calls him again to follow him.
B. This is the power of the Resurrection of Jesus. This is the power of Easter. And this is not a power just for Peter, or the disciples at that time.
1. This is the Easter Power to which Christ calls all of us.
2. If there was a before and after for Jesus; if there was a before and after for Peter; if there was a before and after for all of the disciples; if there was a before and after for Paul and Barnabas and Timothy and Apollos and Stephen and Philip and Philemon and Onesimus and the five thousand that heard Peter preach at Pentecost; then there is a before and after for us.
3. There is a death to the old life of bondage to pride and envy and anger and abuse and greed and alcohol and drugs and every other evil.
4. And because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ there is a rising to new life: a life of love and forgiveness and caring and serving.
5. Which life do you want?
C. We have listened to the voice of Jesus for the past seven weeks.
1. Today is the climax. Today is the pinnacle. Today is the day to hear Jesus speak most clearly to us.
2. And this is what he says, “Follow me.”
a) Follow me as I love others.
b) Follow me as I lead others to the Father.
c) Follow me as I bring healing and wholeness to the distressed and broken.
d) Follow me as I speak words of truth and wisdom.
e) Follow me as the world hates you and mocks you and does everything in its power to stop you.
f) Follow me all the way, even to the cross and the grave.
g) And then follow me to glory and honor and the Father and heaven.
h) Follow me to a whole new way of living that is in peace and with joy.
D. Do you love me? Then follow me.