Sunday, August 9, 2020

Loving Jesus, John 21:15-25

 Audio Link

Loving Jesus

John 21:15-25, Remsen Bible Fellowship, 08-09-2020


 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Do you want to live a fruitful life? Do you want your life to count for something, to have not been a waste? Jesus says there is a path to a fruitful and meaningful life, but it’s not the path we’d choose: the path to eternal fruit is the path of death. 

The German pastor Deitrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote that, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Is this how you conceive of Christianity? Is this what it means for you to trust in Jesus, to follow him? If not, then to be frank you may need to reconsider whether you have met the Jesus of this book. Such bold calls are laced throughout the gospel narratives. 

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  Mark 8:34-35

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:28-33

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:25-26

What does believing in Jesus necessarily involve, according to Jesus? Following him, even unto death. Counting everything else as of less value than him. 

These are hard words. But they are also words of kindness, words with the power to develop in us a deep and lasting joy that nothing and no one in this world can rob from us. Jesus wants you to live. To have life, and have it abundantly. Are you willing to die to yourself to have his life?

Read the text: John 21:15-25

What Love Does, v15-17

If you remember the setting from last week, this final chapter of John takes place on the seashore of the Sea of Tiberius, also known as the sea or the lake of Galilee. Jesus has come out right at daybreak, and sees the disciples out fishing, struggling after a long night of fruitless fishing. When he asks, “are you catching anything?”, and they answer in the negative, he instructs them to drop the net on the other side of the boat-and what they get is a haul of fish so large they can’t even haul them into the boat. 153 large fish (see v11). We are also told that by the time they get to shore, Jesus has already prepared a breakfast for them of bread and fish. Now, in v15, we read that they’ve finished breakfast.

I imagine this was a somewhat quiet and awkward scene. Maybe not, maybe they’re bustling and laughing. But these guys are all so in awe over seeing Jesus again in the flesh that they won’t even ask the question they desperately want to ask: is it you? So here they sit. V9 tells us where they were sitting: around a charcoal fire. That might seem like a throwaway point, that the fire was made of charcoal. But God doesn’t write throwaway points. Do remember another place in this gospel where we are told of events around a charcoal fire? 

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. John 18:15-18, 25-27

A charcoal fire is the scene of Peter’s greatest betrayal. After declaring in ch 13 that he would die for Jesus, Peter discovers in the courtyard that his love and devotion are more fragile than he realized. But while Peter surely is still reeling from the weight of this denial, Christ Jesus has no interest in rubbing his face in it. As Peter fell through a three-fold denial, so Peter will be restored in a three-fold declaration of love.

In v15 we read Jesus ask, Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these? What does Jesus mean by this first iteration of the question, do you love me? What is the “more than these” part about? While there is disagreement, I think the most likely option is that Jesus is saying, do you love me more than these other disciples love me? We know Peter has claimed this in the past. Matthew 26:33-35 reads, Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. 

So Peter claims, prior to the denial, that he loves Jesus in an extraordinary way. And now, on the other side of Peter’s catastrophic failure, Jesus asks him to affirm this love. Do you love me, Simon? More than the rest? Peter, probably quite sheepishly, answers, yes, Lord; you know that I love you. 

How is that love to express itself? Tender care for, and faithful service to, Christ’s sheep. 1 Peter 5:1-3

What Love Costs, v18-19

  • Verily, verily, truly, truly, amen, amen-listen up!

  • Peter, you used to be proud and capable (v11)

  • One day, you will be humiliated before men, and stretched out (crucified), v19

  • How might Peter feel about this call? Can’t we just hug this out, Jesus?

  • 13:36, not now-but later, 12:24-26

  • Peter is to follow Christ, even into death: is this unique to him?

    • Luke 14:25-33

  • “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

  • Loving Jesus will cost you-time, treasure, dreams, relationships, social standing-it cost Peter his very life

  • What have you laid aside to follow Jesus? Are you holding something back?

  • Following Jesus into death was the means by which Peter honored the Father-devotion to the Son always honors the Father

Love’s Focus, v20-24

  • V20, transition from seated to walking

  • John identifies himself, drawing special attention to the close relationship he had with Jesus, leaned back against him. Some commentators note a parallel with 1:18

  • Peter, likely somewhat shaken by the words Jesus has just spoken, turns and says, “what about this guy?”

  • Jesus has no time for this (v22)

    • This is a rhetorical, almost sarcastic, question

  • Loving Jesus cannot be conditional upon, or even necessarily concerned with, how he is dealing with someone else at any given moment

  • Jesus could have listed all John will go through-but he doesn’t. 

    • He says, Peter: shut up and you follow me!

  • Do you ever feel Peter’s pull? But what about…? How come they get…? God, why this way?

  1. It’s none of your business

  2. They’re calling isn’t as easy as it seems to you

  • V23-24, John isn’t promised an infinite earthly life, his life actually gets quite hard, and he does die

  • He does have a different role than Peter

    • While Peter was to Shepherd and feed and then be martyred, John was to live a long life of witness, including writing down this record (in addition to his letters and the Revelation)

    • Peter glorified the Son by preaching Jesus and then dying for him

    • John glorified the Son by testifying to him over the course of a much longer life than Peter’s

  • What has God put before you? Are you willing to lay aside your own pride, ambitions, inhibitions, and follow Jesus?

The One We Love, v25

  • Who is this who demands our allegiance?

  • Is v25 hyperbole? I don’t think so

  • Jesus’ call to discipleship, his call to die, is certainly hard. But when you evaluate Who He is, then it is an entirely reasonable call.

  • Philippians 3:7-11

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