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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Oct. 19, 2007

  • 2007 Oct 19

Peter—Do You Love Me?

Part 2 Continued from October 18th


3. Jesus wanted them to learn to follow His directions for their lives (v.6). John 21:6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Across the water a clear voice again reached the boat saying, “Cast your nets on the other side”.  

Peter was the greatest fisherman he had ever known; and inside began to boil with indignation at a landlubber’s impudence giving him directions. 

But what else was there to do since nothing else mattered anyway. So Peter the leader, Peter the pendular, went from anger to resignation and the men followed throwing the net where they were commanded to throw it. 

The sharp tug on the rope in his hand, the weight of an entire shoal of fish summoned by the Master of Creation—jerked Peter out of resignation and apathy to full alert.  

The key is not why Jesus said, “Cast on the right side”, because if Jesus had said the left side, that is where the fish would have gone. It is not where we serve or how we serve but whether we serve at Christ's command! 

The key was listening to Jesus, doing what He said, and not operating on our own initiative and in our own wisdom.  

But the sight before Peter’s eyes of 153 of the largest, strongest, fighting and splashing fish ever surrounded by his nets instantly made Peter’s head jerk up, eyes squinting and riveted on that lone figure on the shore. That was the start of love lesson four which is— 

4. Jesus wanted them to know that He ONLY blesses obedience. (vv. 7-11) John 21:7-11 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 

As his heart told him the same, Peter heard John’s voice behind him; and filled with awe and worship for the miracle they were experiencing again. “It is the Lord!” 

Peter needed one thing always and only, and that was to be back as close as he could be to Jesus. The pendulum had swung wildly these past days. But nothing drew him, and caught him like the thought of Christ's presence.  

In a flash he was overboard and swimming with all his might through those cold dark waters that had separated him from Jesus for even a moment. 

If you are listening to this story of Christ's dealing with Peter and likewise feel empty and frustrated and aimless—maybe you need to follow Peter’s lead.  

Stop anything else you are doing and lift your eyes to Jesus, gaze at Him and listen to what He commands you to do, and obey.  

Jesus has a work for each of us to do and a way for us to do it—only when we are willing to stop, listen, and obey—can He do it. That is a lesson for all of us this morning. 

Have you seen Jesus? If you haven’t you can today. You can discover Jesus as you obey Him. Even if at this moment Jesus seems distant, far off or even unreal—that is normal. Sin always separates us from Him. If you want to obey Him, and if you will seek Him—you will find Him. As surely as those seven men found Jesus that morning you can also.  

You may be asking, “How can I find Jesus?”  

As a believer you just need to stop going your own self-prompted way, confess your sins and ask for His cleansing as you yield your way back to Him (I John 1:9).  

If you have never been saved, Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). Call upon Jesus as your Savior and by His grace turn away from your sins. And finding Him was wonderful because the fifth love lesson was— 

5. Jesus wanted them to share the joy of His Presence all through life (vv. 12-13). John 21:12-13 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.  

Onshore the scene was like the old days.  

Soon they were eating, talking, and in wonder before Jesus, quietly worshipping and adoring Him in their hearts and minds. Soon the past days of doubt and confusion are erased and the warmth of Christ's love is surrounding them. 

Remember fearful Peter who got caught in water over his head and cusses and swears that he didn’t know Jesus, and then Jesus turned and looked at him?  

Devastated Peter slips out into the dark to weep the bitter tears of failure that had stained his days every since. 

But John 21 is all about Jesus who comes looking for Peter and gives him forgiveness. That leads us into the sixth lesson on love— 

6. Jesus restored Peter in public, showing Peter and all of them (and us) that the only motive for ministry Christ accepts is LOVE. (vv. 15-17). John 21:15-17 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. 

Jesus begins asking Peter three distinct questions as they stood beside a fire of coals. The warmth evaporated as Peter flashed back to his worst memory.  

This was a similar setting to that night—with a fire of coals, in a dim and flickering light (John 18:18), with probing questions from the servants of Caiaphas.  

Three times by a fire Jesus questions Peter’s love; three times by a fire Peter had denied loving Jesus. Every part of Christ's three questions are so full of meaning. 

  • First Jesus reverts to his old name and reminds Peter that he is acting like what he used to be. “Simon” was the names of the person Jesus changed into Peter (John 1.42); and Simon was the way Jesus warned Peter of his coming temptation (Luke 22.31) after Gethsemane. So when Jesus says Simon it brings back a strong reminder of the old man, the flesh or natural man that was Peter. Then Jesus asks, “Do you love me (with self-sacrificial agape love)”; and adds, “… more than these?”  

'These’ may mean the other disciples but probably meant more than these fish, more than your old career, more than doing what you want to do, to which Peter responds, “Yes Lord, You know that I like You (with phileo admiration of Jesus as a friend). “ 

Jesus responds to Peter’s honest, contrite admission of his failure with a renewal of Peter’s call, as He says, “Feed My lambs”.  

Just like in Mark 1:16-20 when Peter was recruited right here at this lake; and just like in Luke 5:1-8 when Peter was re-commissioned right here at this lake; so this third time at this same lake Jesus restores Peter, “I want you to be my servant and serve my church”.  

  • A second time (v. 16) the question comes to Peter, “Do you love me (with self-sacrificial agape love)?” These words pierced and wounded him as he remembered again his three denials. But this time Jesus drops the “more than these” so Peter can focus on just his heart.  

The question for Peter is also for all of us, do we really love Jesus. We may serve, we may speak, and we may study—but without love, it amounts to nothing. 

Jesus would later warn the Ephesian church that they had perfected the defense of the faith but at the loss of love, and thus they amounted to nothing. Without love there is no real life; we are lifeless speaking and serving mannequins without being motivated and controlled by a deep and abiding love for Christ in all that we do. Jesus says if you err, err on the side of loving too much—not too little. 

Again Peter answer signals his humble confession that he has failed but wants a chance. Jesus repeats the same high ministry calling—minister to my flock. 

Jesus here reminds Peter that only those who love Him deeply can serve Him properly. Ministering to Christ's flock, His church is a work so consuming, where appreciation is often so minimal, where criticism is often so harsh, where spiritual warfare is often so fierce, and results are often so scarce—that only those “constrained by Christ's love” (II Corinthians 5) can do the work of the ministry! 

  • The third time Jesus questions Peter’s loyalty He uses Peter’s word phileo and says, “Peter, are we even really friends?” To which the crushed disciple says, “Lord, you know that I am your friend”. And again the highest calling is offered by Jesus to Peter. That calling is to serve Christ's church.  

This three times repeated command to ministry (Feed My lambs) was a strong signal to Peter that Jesus wanted him, weak and failed, flawed and uncertain—Peter was still called. Peter made it through the spiritual surgery. Jesus loved him whether he was perfect or imperfect, Jesus loved him whether he was bold or fearful; Jesus loved him, liked him, called him and would again use him. There was nothing Peter could do or not do that changed Christ's love. 

Have you ever come to that place where you stop performing for Jesus and just get honest like Peter. Telling Jesus, “you know I am flawed, I’m weak and often sinful—but I want to be your friend; but I am afraid to even say that I love you with self-sacrificing love?” Jesus knows that; He loves us while we sin, before we sin, after we sin. He never changes, but we must. 

Peter repented on that shore. He repented of trying to be perfect and perform well enough to earn Christ's love. He found Christ's love was secure even when he was not.  

Have you ever stopped thinking that what you do externally for Christ makes you any more pleasing to Him? It is in His unchanging love that we rest. Peter did so to the end of his life.  

This lesson will continue tomorrow October 20th when we start by looking at “REMEMBER THE LESSON PETER NEVER FORGOT”


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