Good evening. It’s a pleasure to be with you all this evening. I usually am downstairs with the junior high students where I do enjoy being and I’m grateful to have been down there almost eight years, so thank you for the opportunity of getting to pour into the lives of these junior high and senior high students. And every now and then folks will ask, “How can we pray for the students?” And one of the ways that you can continue to pray is that God would grab their hearts before they leave the high school hallways, that they would fall in love with Him, that their faith would become their own, and that if it’s not during that time that at some point in their life God would overwhelm them with His grace and how much He loves them.
The Gospel of John: The Hall of Jesus’ Fame
Well this evening, we’ll be in the book of John. And we have been in the book of John with our senior high students on Sunday night this past year. We are only at the end of chapter 6 so far, so it has been for me a pleasure to go through and look at the end of the book as we’ve been studying the beginning of the book. But one of the things is we get a feel for the book of John that can be helpful to think through is to have that concept of a Hall of Fame in your mind. And I would imagine most of us are familiar with a Hall of Fame, a place where people’s excellence is celebrated, whether it’s sports, music, education, or another type of Hall of Fame. You’ve got video footage, you’ve got plaques, you’ve got written information saying, “These individuals are great and we are wanting to show you why they are great.” And I can remember years back I had the opportunity to go down to TPC Sawgrass. Saints fans, this would be like going to the Superdome, getting to walk through the locker room, go on the field, throw the football around. I grew up playing golf. I had aspirations of playing on the PGA Tour. As you can tell, I am here, and by God’s grace that did not happen, but got to play TPC Sawgrass. That’s the course with the island green. And my cousin got me into the locker room and got to go through the locker room and see, “There’s Phil Mickelson’s locker, there’s Adam Scott’s locker, there’s Tiger Woods’ locker.” And then you get to walk down this player’s entrance. And as you’re walking down this player’s entrance to the first tee, you’ve got picture after picture of great moments throughout the tournament history. And I’m walking up, I’m getting amped up, I’m getting fired up - you know, hook my drive into the woods and end up double-bogeying the first hole.
But as much as Hall of Fames are, for me, getting to play where the pros play inspire me and encourage me, the book of John is doing something similar because John is saying, “I want you to see Jesus. I want you to see the greatness of Jesus.” He is showing us Jesus again and again and again. He is saying, “This is the Messiah the Old Testament has been pointing towards all of these years. This is the Gospel staring us in the face and saying, ‘This is the reality of who Jesus is. This is the greatness of the Son of God.’” John wants us to value Jesus above all else. He wants us to have more Jesus in our lives. And as he puts the purpose of the book so succinctly in chapter 20 verses 30 and 31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John wants to see Jesus take us from the evil that we so easily and so naturally walk in and he wants to set our gaze on an object that’s going to stop our wild careers. Let’s pray before we read.
Father in heaven, we thank You that You’ve given us the privilege to come together to open Your Word. Lord God it is through Your Word that You show us Your Son. And Lord God we pray tonight that we would see Jesus and Lord God we would see our need for Him, we would see that He loves us more than we can fathom. Lord God, open our eyes. We need You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Hear the Word of God. This is John chapter 21. We’ll be going through verse 19:
“After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, 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.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, 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 everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever.
I. The Day Breaks, and the Shadows Flee Away
Well the first point, the day breaks and the shadows flee away in verse 1 through 8. And I think we’ve probably heard that phrase a few times before from the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church. Someone by the name of Ligon Duncan would use that in many of his benedictions. That was Dr. Duncan reminding us of that truth that dominates Scripture - that light makes the darkness run away. And in this passage we have the disciples doing what comes so natural to them - fishing. And as they’re making that journey back to the shore with empty nets, John is kind enough to include in verse 4, “Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” What a picture! If we’re thinking, “Hey, what kind of picture do we want to put over our mantle?” that’s a picture right there. The One who makes the darkness of our souls run away is standing on the shore as the light from the physical sun is making the night disappear.
There’s not many people that get to see the sun rise; far more see the sun set. There was a time in my life when I saw the sun rise five days a week and oddly enough that was during my college years. I know most college students are up at the crack of dawn. That was the case for me. We had 6am practice four days a week and on Sundays we had 7am practice, so I had that constant reminder of the beauty of the sunrise coming as it’s pitch black and light continues to fill and that darkness is running away. And I can remember on a Sunday morning how great it was before going to church to see that sunrise and that reminder that the darkness will run away. So every time we see a sunrise, we need to be reminded of the One who chases away the darkness that plagues our souls.
A Childlike Faith and Enthusiasm
And another thing as the day breaks and the shadows flee away, we see a childlike faith on display in this passage. We’re also told in verse 4 the disciples didn’t know it was Jesus on the shore. As they hear this voice from a distance, “Did you catch anything?” And for any fisherman that’s usually the first thing they hear when they come back, “Did you catch anything?” And the report they had to give was the one that no fisherman wants to give. “Nope, didn’t catch a thing.” And I love the humor that we get in Scripture. If you look at verse 6, Jesus says, them still not knowing that it’s Jesus, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” And you’ve got to think, these are experienced fishermen. Surely they’re muttering under their breath, “Who does this bystander think he is? If we actually cast the net over here like we’ve been doing all night that we’re actually going to catch some fish?” It’s one of those moments that would have been priceless. To see their reaction on their face as they do cast that net over and they can’t even haul it in there’s so many fish. All night long, nothing, and then Jesus says, “Over here.”
Up until Jesus arrived, this was a fishing expedition no one wanted to remember, but once Jesus arrived, it was a fishing expedition no one would ever forget. And it’s that reminder when Jesus arrives on the scene it changes everything. And then John, in verse 7, yells with conviction, “It is the Lord!” and Peter follows John’s declaration by jumping into the sea and making that hundred yard trek to where Jesus is. These men are so overjoyed by the sight of Jesus that one yells, “It is the Lord!” and the other jumps into the water. This is not normal behavior of grown men. It takes something pretty special to get grown men to show that kind of enthusiasm. It’s usually either their team scoring that winning touchdown, it’s the thought of the honeymoon coming, it’s the thought of the job promotion. It takes something great to get such a response from men. And the point being is that we’re not generally excitable people; we have to be moved to respond like that. So very few show that kind of enthusiasm unprompted.
And do we catch who had that enthusiasm to jump into the water? It’s Peter, the same man who denied Jesus three times in His darkest hour. How could a man who deserted his leader, his friend, in His darkest hour, ever show his face again, let alone run toward Him with enthusiasm? Most men will do everything they can to avoid the individual they’ve wronged. So why on earth would Peter act like a giddy, junior high girl, so excited that a guy’s actually calling her in that moment? He ran to Jesus because he grasped the Gospel in his bones. Peter knew he deserved the wrath of God with every breath he took but he knew Jesus removed that wrath by loving his heart to death. Have we realized that in our lives? Do we get it down into our bones that we deserve the wrath of God with every breath? But that wrath will never touch us. It’s not even going to singe the hair on our bodies because Jesus loved our hearts to death. Peter had every reason to walk around with “failure” across his forehead. We can probably even hear Satan whispering in his ear, “Peter, you denied Jesus three times. He even told you that you were going to deny Him and you still did it. There’s no way that He’ll accept you back. There’s no way He’ll love you. There’s no way He’ll extend grace to you.”
And the enemy whispers similar things to us as he says, “You know you’re not good enough. You know Jesus isn’t going to love you. You know if everything was pulled back and everyone saw your life they would run for the hills!” The Gospel tells us, “Yes, we are terrible, but something’s been done about our terrible condition.” And as we tell our students often, we believe you’re never so bad you’re beyond the reach of God’s grace. Peter knew that better than he ever had, that he and no one else were beyond the reach of God’s grace. When we know it and we feel it in our bones that we aren’t beyond the reach of God’s grace, the heart begins to change in ways that it never has before because, as sure as the sun will rise to chase away the night, His mercy will never end and we are more loved than we could ever know. And that is why sinners like us can dine with the Savior.
II. Breakfast with Jesus
That’s the second thing we see in verses 9 through 14 - breakfast with Jesus. Does it get any better than that? Breakfast with Jesus, by a fire, near the sea. There are so many moments in Scripture where it’s like, “I would have loved to have been there for that.” Like the Red Sea when the Red Sea parted and you go on dry ground, just that picture of fish like an aquarium, you just wonder, “Are they going by or are they jumping out?” And there are so many moments in Scripture like that. I want to be there; I want to see what that was like.
Fellowshipping with the Savior
But I think in a lot of ways this is a moment that I would love more than any other - breakfast with Jesus around a fire on the sea. And I think some of it is the southern way getting into this crazy Texan. There’s one thing that in the South we do well - we do well fellowshipping around a meal. We know how to cook; we know how to be hospitable. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I have come to love this picture right here. To be sitting around the warmth of the fire, the fish cooking, people relaxed. They visit with one another and the host is the resurrected Jesus! If social media had been around at this point, this is where the disciples are getting on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, getting the right filter, making sure they get the best picture possible, and you see the little hashtag, “#breakfastwithJesus.” And just a hunch, there probably would have been a few “likes” a few “comments,” maybe even a possible trending on Twitter with that.
Realizing the Savior’s Supply and Sufficiency
But one of the great things too, do you notice that Jesus, the host, already has the meal prepared in verse 9. Verse 9 tells us that a charcoal fire was in place with fish already cooking and bread there. Jesus didn’t need the fish the men caught, actually the fish that He helped the men catch. And it’s that subtle reminder that Jesus does not need our efforts for us to come to Him. Verse 12 He says, “Come and eat breakfast.” The invitation from the Son of God to come and eat, to come and dine, this invitation is Jesus reminding His disciples, “I will feed you. I will sustain you. Your efforts will not do. You cannot do this on your own. You are fishermen by trade and if you had trusted in your skills we would not be eating here right now.” The only reason they are enjoying that meal in that setting at that time is because Jesus supplied their sustenance. As Christians, the only way that we will be sustained and be able to feed the sheep and live the Christian life is by trusting in Christ’s accomplished work for us. This passage is reminding us no matter of expertise, no amount of strength, no amount of human wisdom is enough. We need Jesus.
III. Love Me and Feed the Sheep
And then the third and final thing that we see in verses 15 through 19 - love Me and feed the sheep. Repetition tells us it’s important. If we can think back to our school days, some of you might be in school right now, for others it may be a few years since you’ve been in school but I think we can all remember this concept - if the teacher repeats something three times or asks the same question three times there’s a pretty good likeliness, “This is important. This is probably going to be on the test.” And Jesus repeats two things three times between verses 15 and 17. “Do you love Me?” and “Feed or tend My sheep.” First, “Do you love Me?” Is Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love Me?” because Jesus is unsure or is He asking for Peter’s benefit? This is for Peter’s benefit. He even tells Peter in verses 18 through 19, “Your death will be gruesome. You are not going to die peacefully in your sleep at a ripe old age.” Jesus is preparing him for the road ahead because at times it will feel like God is slaying him as life gets brutal. And Jesus is the only One who will sustain him. God is saying, “Peter, you need to remember you love Me and that will see you through these dark days.”
...in order to Feed the Sheep
The second thing, “Feed or tend My sheep. The only way, Peter, that you can tend or feed my sheep is if you love Me.” It is knowing, as we sang, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds” because if Peter knows how sweet the name of Jesus sounds he will have manna and rest for his weary soul. He will have a shield and hiding place. He will enjoy boundless stores of grace and God will enable him to proclaim His love with every fleeting breath as one day his soul was refreshed in death. So until the day breaks and the shadows flee away for all time, let us be sustained by His loving grace as we proclaim Christ to a lost and dying world, so they might dine with Jesus too.
Father in heaven, we thank You that You give us visual reminders of Your love for us. Father, that as each day that we rise we are reminded that there will be a day when there will be no more darkness in our souls, Lord God, that we will know that sweet communion and fellowship with You without the brokenness of sin around us. And Lord until that day we pray that You would sustain us by the blood of Your Son. Father, we pray that You would enable us to feed and to tend to those around us as You tend to our soul and others tend to us as well. Lord God, fix our eyes on You that we would love You, and Lord God, trust in You, because we need You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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