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Not Perfect? I'll Take and Use What You Can Give

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Text:  John 21:1-25


            What a rich time we’ve had in our study of John.  We are now in our final (35th) lesson and this last chapter has some tremendous thoughts to leave us with. 

Jesus is about to leave His disciples for the last time.  You know as well as I do that the final words He leaves them with are going to stick with them for a lifetime.  There were many words that never got recorded in the Gospels, but what we have in this chapter has much meaning, for many of us could be in Peter’s shoes.  What Jesus has to say to Peter can be taken to heart for each of us.  Like Peter, many of us let the Lord down.  Now Jesus questions Peter about his love for Him, but the way Jesus reinforces Peter can lift each of us from rejection and place us on our feet for a life time of sacrificial service.  Let’s see how.  Read Text.

1.      The chapter opens with a scene on a lake where some of the disciples had gone fishing.  Included in this boat is John (one of the sons of Zebedee), thus we have this story first-hand.  At whose invitation was it to go fishing?  (Peter)       Why do you think they turned to fishing so soon after the crucifixion?  (Men don’t process the feeling of being lost very easily; the solitude of the lake makes a good distraction.  Perhaps they were restless, or felt the need to support the family.  Now that the school of discipleship is over, they were momentarily lost about what to do next.)
Insight: Whatever the reason, the expedition was an exercise in futility.  They caught no fish!

2.      What does the fact that there were seven men in the boat fishing tell you about common feelings?  (Many of them had no idea what to do next and had nothing better to do, so they went along.  They found it a good distraction until they could re-establish their sense of direction.)     Do you think they were going back to their former way of life before meeting Christ?
Insight: No one who follows Jesus can go back to their old way of life.  Jesus calls us to something fresh and new.  It’s not that we must change jobs.  He changes us, and we find no real satisfaction except in doing His will?

3.      Are you now or perhaps in the past, in a stage of being dissatisfied with your occupation and want something more?      Have you ever felt the Lord tugging you in a direction to do something more significant for Him?     What counsel would you give to someone who’s in that place of dissatisfaction now?

4.      What does the fact that they spent all night fishing tell you about their frustration level come dawn?      If they didn’t have to be there on the lake all night, why stick it out the whole night long?  (When hollowness reigns in your heart, any distraction is appreciated.)

5.      As darkness begins to flee with the morning sun, a voice calls from the shore.  Why do you think Jesus calls these half-grown men, “children”?  (Because they were acting like it; or he endears them like a father would his own children.)      Do you think the fish were on the other side of the boat all along or they swam there at the command of Jesus for just this moment?

6.      Who was the first person to recognize Jesus?  (John)      Why do you think he was the first to recognize Him?  (John leaned against Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper; he was the one whom Jesus loved; therefore, being so close to the Lord, he was closer to Him to recognize Him.)
Application: In a world where there are many distracting voices, we need to be sure we are spending time every day listening to the Voice of the One who can direct us out of harm and into the Shepherd’s fold.  If you don’t, you may not hear the whisper in your heart because it’s not familiar to you.

7.      Even though Peter denied the Lord, how is his eagerness to see the Lord a good example for us to follow?
Insight: Sometimes we may find ourselves feeling what Peter felt: he had failed the Lord, but was eager to see Jesus again.  Don’t let your sins drive you from the Lord…hurry back and show Him your love!

8.      What’s interesting about verse 13 since Jesus is in His resurrected state?  (He ate.)     Is that anew thought for you?

9.      After a breakfast of fish and bread, Jesus singles Peter out for a divine encounter that has both tension and affirmation.  What is the tension in Jesus’ question (we’ll get to the affirmation a little later)?  (Peter had denied the Lord 3 times, now the Lord questions his loyalty to the extend of asking him 3 times if he really loved Him.)

10.  How many different ways could you take Jesus’ question to Peter?  (Does Peter love Jesus more than the other disciples do?  Or more than he loves the others?  Or more than he loves his boat and nets and his old life as a fisherman?)
Insight: Whatever the intent of the question, the significance is clear.  We are to love Jesus most of all.

11.  What forms of the word “love” are used here and what is meant?  (Agapao = God’s kind of sacrificial love.  Phileo = to love as a friend.)
Insight: By asking Peter if he “agapao Me,” Jesus is asking for a more committed, deeper love that Peter once had for Jesus.  But Peter responds, “Lord, you know that I phileo You.”  Jesus asks again for the deeper, agapao, love, but again Peter responds saying, “Lord, you know I phileo you.”  Not getting the response Jesus wanted, He then asks Peter, “Do you phileo Me?”  And Peter responds with only the love he can at that moment, “Lord, you know all things…you know that at this moment I can only phileo you.”  Though this lesser form of love is all he can give, Jesus accept it and calls him to serve.

12.  In response to Jesus’ question of love, how does He tell Peter He wants to see the expression of that love?  (By feeding and nurturing others.)     Do you see anything significant about the different uses of the words here for sheep?  (Lambs, young sheep, and the whole flock.  Jesus trusts him to feed all the flock of God.  Feeding lambs is an easy task; the more mature ones is not so easy because sometimes they don’t know what their needs are, or they think they know what they need, but really don’t.)     How is this an affirmation to Peter?  (Jesus trusts him with the whole flock of God.)

13.  The third question of Peter’s love brings him grief.  Why do you think the Lord drove the nail in so hard?     Do you think Peter was later able to give Him agapao love?  (Yes, tradition tells us that Peter was crucified in Rome, but at his request upside down, for he did not feel worthy to die as his Lord had.)

14.  What do you think Jesus meant by verse 18?  (He was prophesying that one day he would be taken against his will into imprisonment and killed, v.19.  To stay true to the Lord, his love was going to have to be strong.)       Jesus then says, “Follow me.”  When had Peter heard those words before?  Lk. 9:23; Jn. 12:26

15.  Why do you think Peter turns the attention to John and asks what’s going to happen to him?  (Since he was so much endeared by Jesus, perhaps he thought he was going to get preferential treatment.)      Is Jesus’ response to Peter a rebuke?  (Yes, but the last words to Peter are the same as the first, “Follow me.”)

16.  Does verse 25 leave you hanging, wanting to know what those “many other things” might be?


            This is John’s gospel…written that you might believe.  He was known as the one whom Jesus loved…the one who leaned on Jesus’ breast.  His life theme, besides “believe,” is love.  

            Historians record that at the end of John’s life in Ephesus, John was an old and crippled man.  He was carried into the Christian meetings on a stretcher.  Often he was asked, “John, do you have a word for us today?  What are the most important words you remember from our Lord?”  He always responded the same: “Children, love one another.”  Finally after multiple responses, all the same, one asked him, “John, why is it that when we ask you a word from the Lord that it’s always the same, you say, “Children, love one another”?           

His response was, “Because if you learn to do this, that is enough!” 

I couldn’t close this study of John with a more appropriate challenge: Friends, go love one another!

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