Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Do you ever fail Jesus? John the Apostle said ?1 John 1:8-9 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.? One of the most common experiences we as Christians share is the reality that we will fall. No matter how hard we try we will do things that are against he character of God. Yes, we have forgiveness. John goes on to say that ?if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.? But is that enough to undo the nagging feeling that we have let Jesus down?
After all, Jesus gave his all for us. When we don?t give our all for him we feel deflated and like he wouldn?t want to hang out with us anymore and that we should just fade into the woodwork and forget trying to really serve Him.
If you have ever experienced that feeling then John 21 is for you. If anyone can say they know what it is like to fail Jesus it is the Apostle Peter. Peter, the one who proclaimed most loudly his loyalty to Jesus was the only one who openly denied knowing Him in front of witnesses.
Let?s look at the account of that in Luke 22:54-62. Peter let the Lord down and knew it. He wept bitterly over it (unlike Judas, who went out and killed himself). Jesus appeared to Peter alone (vs 34) but we don?t know what He said. He appeared to the disciples with Peter present but He said nothing at that meeting about the incident. I wonder if chapter 21 of John represents lingering feelings of failure on the part of Peter. Jesus comes in His last recorded visit in John to the disciples and singles out Peter. The words He speaks I think made a huge difference in Peter?s life and can in ours as we struggle with the feeling we have failed Jesus too!
1 ? 3
You can just picture this. Peter never knew when Jesus would appear. He?d told them to be His witnesses but they?d received no marching orders. I wonder if Peter started thinking that he was simply no longer worthy of being used of the Lord?that he?d done something so terrible that someone else ought to step up and take his place (in reality that just where the Lord wanted him).
So Peter goes back to what he knows: fishing. But just as with us, once you turn your life over to Jesus, looking for fruitfulness in your old life is like going fishing with me, you can be sure you will never catch a thing.
So here they are, empty handed after a long night?s work and then in the dawning light they hear a voice calling them from the shore and see someone standing there, offering some fishing tips.
4 ? 6
Everyone knows that the worst question to ask a fisherman is ?caught anything?? I love their answer: ?NO!?. They didn?t even bother talking about the ones that got away. ?Try it on the other side? Jesus says ?and you will some.? It is unusual that these professional fishermen would take advice from a landlubber. Jesus tells them to go to the other side, the side they shouldn?t expect to catch fish on. Finding a lot more than ?some? they get a haul. 153 fish ? notice that John remembers that detail, but doesn?t even recall the names of all the disciples.
But isn?t it cool how Jesus works? He directs our lives to work in areas where you wouldn?t normally go to find fruit in unexpected places. Just because Jesus prompts you to work in places that you might not think would bear mammoth amounts of fruit, you should do it anyway. That might mean ministering to that lonely neighbor or teaching that small class or ministering in a small church. Jesus is in charge of the catch.
So anyway, as soon as John sees the unusual haul he realizes the stranger on the shore is no stranger at all. (Luke 5 records another time Jesus did this with Peter)
7 ? 8
So I just wonder if here again the little rivalry between John and Peter comes out. John notes that it was he who recognized that it was Jesus but that Peter throws on some clothes and jumps into the water, leaving John to pull in all the fish. No wonder he remembered how many they caught!
Just a side note: when you are going about your ?normal? activities, do you expect to see Jesus arrive on the scene? Or are you, like the disciples, surprised that He would show up in everyday life?
I do love the fact that despite his failures, Peter rushes to be at Jesus? side. Do we do the same?
9 ? 14
I wonder if Peter is finally at a loss for words. Here he is, dripping wet, facing Jesus whom he had denied. Maybe he just stood there, or sat by the fire to dry off, wondering what Jesus would say, dreading it, perhaps.
Do you ever wonder where Jesus got the fish and the fire? Jesus tells Peter to haul in the fish, and He cares not only for the catch but also for the tools. I think this is symbolic of what He is about to tell Peter. Jesus cares about the work of getting apprentices but He also cares for the ones who will deliver that message, the nets.
No one seems to know what to do or say here. What a long breakfast that would have been for Peter. Eventually,? Jesus turns to Peter and begins the process of reaching out. Peter has finally run out of excuses and pronouncements and just waits on Jesus to act on his behalf.
15 ? 19
Jesus first question could mean three things: ?Do you love me more than these other men do?? ?Do you love me more than you love them?? or ?Do you love me more than this fishing business that you have gone back to??
It seems that the first is a good choice. Peter had often boasted of how much he was loyal to Jesus and would follow him no matter what. Peter would not be a leader of the church until he learned that humility is the first and primary character trait that Jesus wants in his leaders.
So then just as Peter had denied Jesus three times, Peter has the opportunity to express his love for Christ three times. Each time Jesus turns Peter to the task of his life: provide a fruitful environment for the growth of the body of Christ. Leaders are not to make more power for themselves, their focus should be outward toward the care of others.
One thing to notice here. When Jesus says ?do you love me? he uses the Greek word agapeo, which means to love deeply. Peter replies with the word phileo, which is more of an affectionate love and not as strong as agapeo. The final time Jesus asks Peter it is with the word phileo. Perhaps this is another way of Peter acknowledging that he has shown he does not have the same kind of love and loyalty that he knows he needs. ?We love because he first loved us.? 1 John 4:19.
Then Jesus tells Peter by what kind of death he would die. When John wrote these words, Peter had been dead some 20 years. Tradition says he was crucified, with his wife, upside down because he did not feel worthy to suffer in the same way as his Lord. You get the feeling that at this point Jesus stands and motions for Peter to follow for some personal words.
20 ? 24
John wrote this chapter as sort of an epilogue to the gospel. A rumor had begun to spread saying that Jesus would come back before John died. But that?s not what Jesus said and so John puts this in here to clear up the misconception. Otherwise people might get feeling something is wrong when Jesus doesn?t come back.
Jesus did a bunch of things John didn?t write down. Why would he say that the whole world couldn?t contain the books if everything were written? I suppose one reason is that Jesus has never stopped doing things. Uncounted billions of souls have been touched by this Man.
What is Jesus writing in the book of your life?
So what happens when we blow it? We see a pattern here in how Jesus acted towards Peter than should encourage us:
- When we fail we go back to our ?last known good state? ? in this case it was fishing for Peter. We kind of hunker down in whatever we used to do: work, a hobby, or maybe just doing nothing but being depressed.
- Jesus shows us the unfruitfulness of our lives without him
- He then reminds us of the ?abundant life? we have only by being connected to Him.
- He doesn?t leave us alone but comes to seek us out, just as he sought out Peter
- He invites us to fellowship
- He gives us the opportunity to reconnect our relationship to him
- He reminds us that we are already forgiven and that he uses discipline to mold us and then use us more powerfully than before.
- When we have failed:
Rush to Jesus? side (James 4:8 ?Draw near to God and He will draw near to you?)
Wait for Jesus to speak (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3 Guard your steps when you go to? the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to? offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore? let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool\'s voice with? many words.?)
Express your devotion (Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.)
Listen to his love, answer his call (Hebrews 12:6 For? the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.\")
Learn the lesson of humility and service (Matthew 20:25-27 \"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles? lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.? 26? It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant )
Walk once again with Jesus? in restoration and fellowship and service (?Follow Me?)