This story touches many people who have struggled with the question of whether, after a spiritual fall, they can really do any good for Jesus. They say they love him, but don’t feel ready to get back out and do anything.
A. The 40 days in which Jesus was still on the earth after the resurrection were not normal for the disciples. Jesus was not present with them every day like he had been for two to three years. Instead, Jesus just showed up and then disappeared. So after the second Sunday, we don’t know what Jesus did, but we do know something the disciples did.
B. They went up to Galilee. For many of them that was “home.” Several of them were fishermen before Jesus came into their life and the time with Jesus was seemingly at an end. John tells us that sometime after that first week, six of the disciples followed Peter and decided to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee. The Bible tells us that they fished all night and caught nothing.
I. Peter’s Story
A. Luke tells us an early story of Peter and several of these men. I just want to tell you that story that is recorded in Luke 5. Jesus asked Simon (whom we call Peter) if he could use his boat as place from which he could teach the people who came to hear him. After Jesus was done teaching he told Simon to take his boat out into deep water to catch fish. Peter really didn’t want to do it. They had fished all night and caught nothing. But Peter said yes.
B. They caught so many fish that Peter realized Jesus was more than just a rabbi. In fact, the Bible says he fell down before Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Jesus then responded, “from now on you will be catching men.”
C. I tell you that because our text in John says when Peter and the others went out they fished all night and caught nothing. BUT, on the shore was a man who told them to cast their nets out on the right side of the boat, they did and caught so many fish they couldn’t even haul them in.
D. It was then John told Peter that it was Jesus on the shore that told them to cast their nets. Peter jumps into the water and swims to shore.
E. Our text in John then says that Jesus had built a fire, now John is very specific, he calls it a charcoal fire. That description is used only one other time in the Bible. It described the fire Peter warmed himself at when he denied Jesus three times at the home of the high priest.
II. Love Is Questionable
A. Let’s open up this text (READ John 21:15). It is an interesting question. It is not just, “Do you love me?” Jesus asked, “Do you love me more than these?” People debate what Jesus meant by “these,” but again, Jesus seems to do everything with purpose.
B. Listen to what Matthew records for us about what happened the night Jesus was betrayed. (Matt. 26:31-35). Luke adds another detail to the story of that night. Listen to that discussion (Luke 22:31-34).
C. When you put all that together, it appears that the “these” Jesus questions Peter about is the disciples that he had so boldly stated that if THEY all fall away, he would not. But Jesus wanted Peter to know that he prayed for him, that his faith would not fail – his actions absolutely failed, but Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail and when he returned back, he would “strengthen his brothers.”
D. Jesus not only asks Peter, “do you love me more than these,” he also charges him to “feed my lambs.”
E. This would have been enough for me to hang my head in shame, but Jesus didn’t stop after one time. Jesus asked Peter a second time, this time simply asking, “Do you love ME?” A second time Peter says, “Lord you know that I love you.” Peter is feeling the weight of these questions. His response each time is that Jesus should KNOW that he loved him. But love is more than words, love is seen in action. So a second time Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”
F. Now, third time Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” Peter denied Jesus three times, now three times Jesus ask, “Do you love me?” It is more that Peter can take. Look at his words (John 21:17), “You know EVERYTHING, you KNOW that I love you.” Jesus responded, “Feed my sheep.”
III. Call To Action
A. I titled this sermon “Gone Fishing.” It was not just Peter that went fishing that day. Jesus went fishing for Peter. It was time for Peter to stop being Simon and starting being Peter. I want you to understand that no matter what emotion Simon Peter felt, the calling was for him to strengthen his brothers, the calling was for him to “feed my sheep.” Peter needed to get back to the real task that Jesus called him to about three years earlier.
B. I know of Christians who have failed God and gotten wrapped up in sin so deeply they hurt many people, but especially God. They don’t know how to repent because they find running away easier than facing their past. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” It was time for Peter to understand that loving Jesus is seen in obedience and service. It was time to leave his nets and follow Jesus, just like he earlier.
A. The same question could be asked of each of us, “Do you love Jesus?” Do you love Jesus more than … fill in the blank. Do you love Jesus enough to face your sin, repent of it and get back to serving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
B. Once again, Jesus told Peter, “Follow me.” Life would be difficult and following Jesus would eventually cost Peter his life, but the question of love is answered in the actions of obedience and service.
C. Jesus says to you today, “Follow me.” If we can help you to follow Jesus, then come as we stand and sing.