John 20:19-22 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
With Anzac Day coming up – there’s a lot of talk about security and keeping the peace. And at a personal level there are many people who don’t experience peace in their lives. Anxiety tends to crowd peace out in this day and age.
What I like about this Easter account in John 20 is how Jesus greeted these fearful, distressed and confused disciples with a greeting of peace. In this short passage it happens twice.
I wonder what peace means to you?
Here are some of the things that peace does not mean:
- Peace does not mean we can pretend that war or conflict or failure has never happened.
- Peace does not mean that there need be no apology or remorse.
- Peace does not mean there should be no accountability for things that are criminally wrong.
Pretending that something didn’t happen is the worst thing. It makes people feel devalued.
In every part of life people abuse both power and position in very damaging ways. Historians looking back on World War 1 especially can see how foolish the worlds leaders were in taking the world to war. And how often don’t you hear people praying for leaders today to becoming peace makers. Leadership is probably one of the most important areas of life in every arena – good leaders often determine the fate of nations and the world.
At that first Easter it was the leaders who were in trouble. After the terrible execution of Jesus – and the failure of his disciples – particularly Peter – it must have tough when Jesus kept appearing in their lives.
In John 21 the peace making continues. They had gone back to what they knew best – they went fishing.
And Jesus meets them there – in their retreat to the old world they knew before they met him. He takes them back to their better days as disciples by doing the miraculous fish thing again – and he gets their attention. Listen to the tone of this conversation:
Joh 21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” Joh 21:6 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. (ESV)
Then he invites them to breakfast. It’s a great example for us – eating together is the best place to sit and really share one’s life with another, and to have those difficult conversations.
- The details are there – the thoughtfulness
- He has the Barbeque going – he has fish and bread already.
- He meets their basic needs –while allowing them to catch an abundance of fish as well.
- And then proceeds to restore Peter. Peter who had denied him three times publicly. Those denials had to be addressed for him to come to a place of peace.
And by the way – if you don’t get how serious this was – imagine your best friend, or loved one being arrested and executed for no good reason. And you denied knowing him or her. ( hymn: Do your friends despise, forsake you?)
Jesus asks Peter – three times –
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times – one for each of the three terrible denials. He uses Simon his old name – meaning a reed. And not the new name he’d given him – Peter – the rock. Peter would have understood the implication. At hearing the third question we are told that Peter was hurt. Ironic – considering how he’d treated Jesus.
I do think he understood true remorse and sorrow.
Luke records that he had wept bitterly when he failed.
And Jesus fed him at that breakfast. That act of kindness was part of the restorative process. Three times he responded to Jesus – “I love you”. Three times Jesus gave him the pastoral care job that was to be his – “feed my lambs – tend my sheep – feed my sheep”.
I love reading Peter’s words as an older and wiser person:
In 1Pe_1:2 he says in his greeting: (to God’s elect )who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
He goes on to say in 1Pe 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,
He also writes in his second letter: 2 Pet 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
Later he writes: 2Pe 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 2Pe_3:14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
There is an interesting end to this passage. Jesus gives Peter the good news that he will live until old age – but also predicts his death. Like the other disciples – Peter would give up his life for Jesus at some point. I think Peter would have been at peace about this too.
This peace is something that Jesus gives us. Do you have it? He also said this:
Joh_14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Joh_16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
And returning to today’s passage: Joh_20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
We need peace to take the gospel of His peace to others – and to be peacemakers. And we need his peace in abundance.
Receive the peace of Christ today wherever you are.
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 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.
THE BOTTOM LINE
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.