Sunday sermon 14 April – Peter restored, Peter prepared…

Reading: John 21:1-19


There are three possible ways into the conversation and story today as we look at this text.

1.      Fishing and braai(barbeque) on the beach

For those who come from the same wonderful country as me – this is great! It’s a fish braai! Barbeque on the beach. (Let’s go – shall we! we are so close to the beach here we could walk out of church and soon be there enjoying ourselves).

Nope. That didn’t work. I thought you may be too comfortable! Getting church people out of the pews is not easy really! So you should consider coming to the picnic today and getting to know people better in this family.

But there is something rather nice about Jesus doing the fish thing again – like he did when he called them in Luke 5:1-11. “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4) Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some… says Jesus this time in John 21:6.

It is all about listening to Jesus really. And of course he told them they would be fishing for people. (Remember the song? I will make you fishers of men, if you follow me….)

People have tried to make this passage about numbers – trying to account for the 153 fish. I think they go to far. That’s the first option as we approach the story. The second is this:

2.     Resurrection appearance number three.

I think you had a brilliant time with our preacher last last week as you considered the resurrection of Jesus. I’m not sure if I will visit that again today- although it under-girds our whole faith. This is, according to John, the third appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples (v14).

This third appearance of Jesus is earthy. It has none of the certainty of Thomas’ confession after really seeing and touching the Lord Jesus – “my Lord and my God”. In fact they seem a bit stunned really – listen again:  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.

A good thing really – in case people might suggest that they were having a once-off hallucination!

The real thing that challenges me in this passage today is this:

3.     Believing that God can actually use me (like he used Peter) to change the world.

This restoration of Peter is stunning. Amazing and beautiful all at once. Listen once more:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said…

I think Jesus had a way of gathering people around food – because food disarms you. You lower your guard – you are intimate.

I think he did it with Zaccheus the tax collector. Invited himself for tea, as it were – while the guy was up a tree. And I’m sure the hard conversation took place – and the man’s life was changed – with the fruit of repentance! He gave back what he stole.

And so in this comfortable and safe setting for a fisherman – around a charcoal fire, Jesus engages Peter on the important issues of the day:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said…

Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’

Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’

16 Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’

He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’

Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’

17 The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’

Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.

On Good Friday three of our number shared in the Ecumenical service. Our task was to portray the betrayal of Peter.

Peter’s denial – for the leader of the group and the first to recognise Jesus as Messiah – is an awful failure and would have really disabled him and his confidence.

This whole passage starts with Peter doing what I have felt like doing at times. When it is tough – you want to go back to what you know best and what feels safe.

Peter still is the leader – listen to it again:

‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Jesus meets them in a double failure – no fish and no future.

And he tests Peter. He calls him by his given name – Simon son of John. That’s like Robin Palmer. It’s who you are in relation to your dad.

It’s not the name “Peter” which means rock – that was Jesus’ name for him. It was the name “Simon” meaning reed. He had wavered.

I don’t think we should read too much in the different words for love used. We are reading something in a second language here. Jesus and Peter would have been speaking Aramaic anyway. The Greek may have different words but they are sometimes used interchangeably.

More important than the words for love used – the restoration of Peter is part of the preparation for his future. And it’s deliberate – three questions about love for Jesus matching the three denials. Both these questions and the denials take place at a charcoal fire (the word for this fire is only used these two times in the New Testament). It’s a key moment in the history of this movement because it’s about Peter restored, and Peter prepared…

We are moving towards Pentecost now – and it is there that the fullness of God’s love and power really brings Peter to life.

Before that, is this grilling, the re-test from Jesus:

Do you love me more than these? This is about the seriousness of his love and also his leadership role. When you are called to lead you are called to love more. You can’t be mediocre or business like about the things of God. It can’t be a soft option or something on your too do list way down in terms of priorities.

It’s passion!

It’s something that we as leaders are moving towards. Without leaders of passion the church is in trouble.

Passion is love and love is passion. Passion for God and the things of God is seen in love for Jesus – a greater love than the other things that drive us!

So Jesus keeps pressing in – Simon do you love me? Then be the leader of the sheep and lambs you were meant to be.

This Pastor role is not just standing around with a big shepherd’s crook looking out for marauding wolves – or making sure the nice sheep eat their grass!

The nurturing, guiding, comforting, sustaining and teaching role of the shepherd is a very challenging load.

And of course Peter was the preacher on Pentecost – that big launch of the church! He confessed his love for Jesus on this day on the beach, and then waited on God for that powerful upper room experience on the later day of Pentecost – that release or touch of the Holy Spirit – when he would be filled with power  that would catapult him and this fledgling group into history.


If God could use Him – he can use us too!

When we fail – and we will and do – he calls us back to this commitment of love – and commissions us – puts us to work to be the ones that actually change the world in which we live.

I think he wants to ask us the same thing today.

Do you love me? Then do it! “Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep”

This begins here – and if we love Jesus then we are to love the sheep too! Even though people fail us in the church – we are to love them. There is no escape from this. The local church is the place where we do this – where God’s people gather and where they serve him and worship him! And where we need to live out restoration and forgiveness for all who fail.

And through the local church – through us together – we can reach out to the lost sheep too. We can change the world where we live.



About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on April 13, 2013, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: