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John's Easter

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John’s Easter

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”                                                                               JOHN 21 20,21

This morning I want to share some thoughts about John the beloved disciple with you – in particular from his Easter narratives:

·        John 20:1-9                               The race to the empty tomb

·        John 20:30 – 21:14                     The recognition of Jesus on the shore

·        John 21:20-24                            Sharing the challenge to Peter

John is the longest lived of the apostles.  Almost certainly his gospel was issued after the prophesied death of Peter.   Peter and John were very close friends – and John enjoyed a particularly close relationship with his Lord.  He invariably refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

Whereas Peter is the action man of the duo – John is marked by a particular insight and depth of thought.  It is said of him:

…when he saw, he saw far more than others did.  When he heard, he heard what others did not hear. … John was a man who was ever looking for the invisible, and seeing it; listening for the inaudible, and hearing it; feeling after the intangible, and sensing it.”[1]

He was also a man marked out by love – a word which became the keynote of his writings.[2]

I commend to you the example of this man of God and want to divide up my comments into two sections:-

1.               The race to the empty tomb  &

2.               The recognition of Jesus on the shore

Then the Communion, and after that –

3.               Sharing in the challenge to Peter

PART ONE

The race to the empty tomb        20: 1-8

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

It is interesting to notice that in this easter narrative John is ahead of Peter – in the final narrative we find him following behind his friend.

In its own way that is a comment on the ways of Christian discipleship.  There is a race to be run – and sometimes one will be ahead, and at other times behind but what matters is the energy and purpose, the motivation of that race.

In response to Mary’s suggestion that the body has been taken, Peter and John race to the tomb.  I don’t know how far it was – but the disciples, however afraid they might be of the enemies of the Messiah are preoccupied with getting there quickly.

Someone[3] has rather beautifully highlighted the differences between Peter and John in this race – not according to who won – but how they ran.

One runs with the rhythm of the rhyme “He loves me, he loves me not…” the other runs with the rhythm: “He loves me, He loves me…”    Peter, no doubt still smarting from his denial, moves with the uncertainty of the Master’s love – but John is always sure of the love of his Lord.

The closeness of John to His Lord has a profound bearing upon his ability to see what others do not.  John had followed his Lord into the courtyard of the high priest, he had stood at the foot of the cross and taken seriously the word of Jesus regarding himself and Jesus’ mother – so when the race is run that Easter day he may not enter the tomb first – but when he does he sees and he believes.

Peter saw the same view – indeed he saw it first – but he did not believe. Those who would learn faith need to live close to the Master.

I’m not sure whether John is explaining his friend’s lack of faith – but he adds:

“They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

There would come a time when all the disciples would have reflected with the help of the Holy Spirit upon the Scriptures – and then that emerging faith would have itself rooted in what God had said.

And later still this same John would write this Gospel and we would have proof of the resurrection from those who:

Ø     Knew Jesus

Ø     Believed the signs they saw

Ø     Understood the Scripture

Ø     Left behind a record so that we would be without excuse.

Now the disciples return to their homes.

Where would John go? To whom would he speak first of what he had seen and believed?

Almost certainly to the woman whom Jesus asked him to take into his own home – Mary the mother of Jesus.

A SEQUENCE IS EMERGING

Knowing Jesus

Seeing the evidence & believing

Setting it in the context of Scripture

Sharing it with others

Oh Lord – give us that closeness to Yourself that John had – that we might find it the easier to interpret what we see in the light of your love – and learn to trust where we cannot see – simply because we know that You love us.

 

We move over the narratives that follow to Chapter 21 and verses 4-7


! Recognising Jesus on the shore     21: 4-7

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!”

Once again the beloved disciple is the one who reads the sign of the catch of fish and knows that the stranger on the shore must be the Lord.

It is worth noticing that John – despite his faith and his insight – was also amongst those who “went fishing”.

Almost certainly this chapter is added to his Gospel out of tribute to Peter who had probably been martyred.  John gives us this beautifully described lakeside scene in the early morning after a disastrous night.

Was it the voice he recognised?

Or was it the similarity of what was happening to that catch of fish in Jesus’ earlier ministry to them?

Peter and John make a delightful combination.  John’s insight and Peter’s action!

We need both in the fellowship – but we particularly need those who can tell when Christ is at work.  Those who are sensitive to His ways.  It is not difficult to respond to disappointment, or change with a withdrawal into the familiar habits of the past – (we go fishing).  It takes a particular relationship with Jesus, a particular insight into His ways, to recognise the Saviour on the shores in disappointment or difficulty!

John’s words in Peter’s ear have the desired effect – and although it isn’t necessary for Peter to jump into the water to get to Jesus – He does, because now he has been told by someone who sees and hears what he has not seen or heard.  IT IS THE LORD!   And action is called for.  Even though he now swims encumbered with his outer clothing! 

Oh Lord give us that sensitivity to your voice – that awareness of the ways you work – that can recognise in the early morning of disappointment the glorious Saviour working His miracles of risen power!

John may have gone fishing with the others for the same reason Peter did

But John’s inner ear of the Spirit is tuned to the voice of Jesus

His eye sees the catch of fish – but sees more than a catch – the Lord’s workmanship.

He is the one to speak in the ear of his friend – explaining the mysterious,

Provoking worship – for I believe Peter’s dive from the boat is just that – a kind of worship response to the miracle of Jesus.

It is strangely appropriate that we now meet around the Table of the Lord – as did those disciples gather at the feet of Him who had prepared already a sufficient meal for all of them.

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. 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.

This is not, of course, a sacramental meal – but it is so similar to the meal that two on the Road to Emmaus ate.   It echoed another feeding of a much larger crowd too – but this has an intimacy that is so appealing.

“Come and have breakfast!”

“They knew it was the Lord.”  V 12

And so we approach the Lord’s Table.  Let us do so in the confidence of John, who was able to recognise the voice and the doings of his Lord.  Let us also do so with the exuberance of Peter, who, with John’s help, recognises the risen Jesus and jumps into the water to be first at His feet!

So many memories crowded into the experience of those disciples:

The smell of the fire for Peter

The appetising meal for all of them

The intimacy of a group sitting around the fire in the early morning.

Oh Lord bring us to your table with the same expectation that we shall be fed – with the same reminder of failures and forgiveness as Peter must have felt at that open fire so like the one where he denied his Lord – with the familiar actions of shared bread.  Help us like John to recognise you and celebrate your love

 

Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb

Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom;

Let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,

For her Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting….                         (689)


PART TWO

Sharing the challenge to Peter      21: 17-24

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!”

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumour spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

In these closing comments we move on a few verses to the familiar story of Peter being restored to usefulness and new ministries.

We meet the story at the point where Jesus tells Peter that he will serve into old age and then suffer martyrdom.

Peter – having been challenged to FOLLOW JESUS turns round to see John following.

Lord, what about him?”

 

“Lord, what shall this man do?”

 

The issue here is APPLICATION – FACING THE FUTURE WITH JESUS.  We see the events through the eyes of John – who was always able to see more that others, and hear more than others.

1.                Jesus knows what the future holds

2.                Jesus challenges us with a NEW SPHERE OF SERVICE

3.                Jesus challenges us with AN OLD COMMANDMENT

4.                Jesus challenges the PETERs and the JOHNs alike

We need to remember that for a long while the significance of Christ’s words were misunderstood – and one of John’s reasons in telling this story is to dispel that wrong understanding of what Jesus said.

23 Because of this, the rumour spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

Rumours still plague the Church!

Applying the words of the Lord out of context and without due reflection.

John knows that the words about him have been misunderstood.  John’s letters show us that such misunderstandings were a problem to the early Church.

There are several aspects of Christian doctrine touched on in this misunderstood utterance:

Ø     The Second Coming – ah, ever a ground for disagreement and rumour – but a glorious truth none the less!

Ø     Words intended to provoke discipleship NOT speculation!

So let’s set out again briefly what Jesus is teaching here:

1.                Jesus knows what the future holds

2.                Jesus challenges us with a NEW SPHERE OF SERVICE

3.                Jesus challenges us with AN OLD COMMANDMENT

4.                Jesus challenges PETER and the JOHN alike

Ø     Jesus knows the future – individually and globally

Ø     Jesus wants Peter to recognise his MINISTRY to FEED and TEND

Ø     Jesus wants Peter (and John) to FOLLOW HIM MORE CLOSELY

That is surely what this study in John’s narrative is about.

Notice the reference to the Last supper:

(This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 

A reminder – if there was need of it – of the close following that John understood.

Set aside differences of ministry and gifting – exercise what ministry you have been given for Him.  Don’t look over your shoulder at the others who you know belong to Him as well.

It is YOUR WORK for the Lord that matters

Whether the active ministry of a Peter

Or the contemplative, writing ministry of a John

FOLLOW ME!

And, finally – for a moment dipping into the AV

21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

 

Oh, I know that it is literally  “What about this man?”

But the thought is relevant – Peter means this – What about him. Lord? What will he do? 

And I challenge you – in the light of John’s narrative:

The Lord knows your future?

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Oh Lord – give us ears to hear what you are saying to us. Give us eyes to see what you are doing here, and how we fit in. Give us a closeness to you that will not hesitate to ask important questions and provoke others to recognise Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

 

Remind us that we must FOLLOW CLOSELY – always listening for your voice that tells us of a change of direction, or a new form of service, or to recapture the love for you we once had.

 

Lord of the cross of shame,Set my cold heart aflameWith love for you, my Saviour and my Master;Who on that lonely dayBore all my sins away,And saved me from the judgement and disaster.                                443

Remind us that You love us – and that we must love you in word and in deed!


----

[1] Campbell Morgan “The Great Physician” p 35

[2] ibid

[3] Jerry DePoy Noted in a sermon online: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=77961

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