- Sermon Notes
An Invitation to Love
As we begin the new year we also find the disciples beginning their lives after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection changes everything.
It changes the meaning of the cross. Before the resurrection it represented death and struck fear in the hearts of any who looked upon a cross. But after the resurrection it has become a symbol of hope and a reminder of how much God loves us. It has become a thing of beauty.
The resurrection changed death itself. The grave has been looked at as the final chapter, the end of all hope, the final curtain. But because of the resurrection, death no longer reigns over us, it has been conquered. Our last breath is not the end; that is where life really begins.
The resurrection also changed our lives. Before, all we could hope for was found here on earth; our purpose, the meaning of life, it all centered here, on the material, those things which are earthly. Now, because of the resurrection, all those things seem so unimportant when compared to the eternal weight of glory. We have been set free.
I recently heard the testimony of a man who was radically changed because he understood how much God loved him when the Lamb of God died on the cross. He hated every one and every thing, including himself, but one day a neighbor gave him a baby lamb. It became his constant companion and best friend. One day he came home to find his father in a drunken rage, fixing a flat tire. Out of curiosity, the boy’s pet lamb had wandered over, but the father, in a rage, killed the lamb with a tire iron. The boy was never the same; hatred filling his heart. As a man, he had an encounter with death and found himself sitting in church, hearing about the Lamb of God.
For the first time in his life, he understood love. The Lamb had died so that he could receive God’s love, the Father’s love he had never known. It changed him; he could feel the hatred leaving his heart as he gave his heart to this love.
In the same way, the resurrection changes everything in our lives. When you look at this final chapter in the book of John, it’s about the new life that God has for the disciples. It’s about faith, hope, and love.
I. God Transforms Failure
- Jesus told the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. They had the faith to take Him at His word. They went to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee and waited.
- Finally, Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” And the other disciples went also. They fished all night and caught nothing.
- Jesus told Peter that He would make him a fisher of men, yet Peter was going back to catching fish. This is not just a recreational fishing trip, professionals fished at night. But God let them fail; they caught nothing.
- But God will transform their failure; it’s the theme of these verses. This is not the first of Peter’s failures either.
- Failure often comes when we rely on ourselves. Peter was relying on himself when he went back to fishing, and he was relying on himself when he promised that he would stand by the Lord even when the rest of the disciples fell away.
Mark 14:27-31 Peter’s self-confidence
Illus - They had been fishing all night and failed to produce even one fish – all night long they fished.
- It’s interesting that while many people often think too highly of themselves, at the same time they often think terrible thoughts about themselves.
- Peter’s overconfidence and self-reliance went down in the flames of failure, but then his shame and regret caused him to weep deeply.
- When Jesus appears on the shore, He tells them to cast their nets on the right-hand side of the boat.
- When they enclosed a great quantity of fish, John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Immediately they were reminded of when they first met the Lord.
Luke 5:1-11 When they first left their nets to follow Jesus
- The Lord’s presence changes everything. Sometimes the Lord allows us to fail in our self-reliance to prepare us for the blessing that comes from the touch of His hand.
Psalm 127:1-2, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while He sleeps.
- Self-reliance can build a house, but it is in vain. Self-reliance can guard the city, but it is in vain.
C. Success can be a snare and a ruin
- We can do worse than fail, we can succeed and be proud of our success, or we can worship the net and forget the hand of the One who supplies all things.
Matthew 5:45, “for it is He who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
- As one author wrote:
“Success – even spiritual success – can be a snare and a ruin, while failure can be an unspeakable benefit. Failure is often the only test by which the real worth and quality of a man or woman can be tried. It is in failure that a man begins to think, to wonder whence his failure comes, to look around and seek for the reasons, to put into his work double watchfulness, and to look upwards to Him who can turn failure into glorious achievement.”
App - Here is a great lesson; one of the worst things that can happen is to do the wrong thing - and win. You’ll only repeat the thing that was wrong and will have learned nothing; or worse, you will think that you don’t need God.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18, “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth; that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Illus - When they brought the fish to the shore, someone counted and there were 153 fish. Was there significance to 153? Yes, fishermen love to count fish.
II. God Pursues You with His Love
- In the next verses, Jesus has a private conversation with Peter. He needed to be restored.
- Peter had made great promises to Jesus that though the rest of them may fail, he most certainly would not, yet he failed worse than all of them.
- There is a great lesson here for all of us. We all understand what it means to fail and we need to know the heart of God when we do.
- We feel shame, we’re embarrassed and we don’t feel worthy of being in God’s presence because we are very much aware of our sin.
- Some people feel so unworthy they say to themselves, “What’s the use of trying? I’m a failure anyway, I might as well give up and stop trying to be righteous.”
- If you have those thoughts, can I say something to you? In love. “Stop it; stop it right now.” You are allowing your flesh to convince you of something that is not God’s heart. What a clever thing for your flesh to say; to use your shame against you so you’ll stay defeated. Hasn’t the flesh had too much victory already?
A. Love God as your highest priority
- When Jesus was asked which was the highest and foremost of all the laws God had given, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
- For Peter to be restored, love had to be reconciled.
- What happened between Peter and Jesus could not go unspoken; it had to be addressed, it had to be worked out.
Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
- When Peter failed it was as though he was saying, “I won’t deny You because I love you more than these.”
- Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John do you love Me more than these?” Peter responded, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
- The significance of these verses is only revealed if we understand a bit of the Greek language.
- We have one word, ‘love,’ which is used to mean many things. I can say, “I love my wife,” or, “I love golf,” or, “I love apple pie with ice cream.” The word love means different things.
- In the Greek language, there are many words that are all translated into English as love, but are very different words with very different meanings.
- There is eros-love, which is physical, sensual desire and longing. There is phileo-love, which means friendship and a general type of love between family and friends. Then there is agape-love, which is the deepest sense of true unconditional love; love that is selfless, it gives and expects nothing in return.
Illus - There is a sense of this distinction in English, for example, when a woman says to a man, “Let’s just be friends.” When Jordi and I first met, we were in a worship band together and I heard those words, “Let’s just be friends.” “Okay,” I thought, “let’s be friends.”
App - If we had different words for love in English, it actually might be very helpful.
- When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you have agape-love?” It’s as though He was saying, Come back to this, Peter, come back to true, unconditional love.
- Peter is making no bold claims now, he carries his shame and failure, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo You.”
Illus - Is it possible to have an inadequate type of love for God? Yes. There is an experience of God where someone feels moments of passion, such as in intimate worship, but they don’t want the commitment of selfless, unconditional love.
When Jesus spoke of the highest and foremost of all laws, He said, “You shall agape - love the Lord with all your heart…”
- Finally, the third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you phileo- love Me?” Peter was grieved when Jesus used that word for love the third time.
- Jesus wanted Peter to affirm agape love, but Peter only affirmed his phileo love. Finally, Jesus came to his level and asked him to affirm even that.
- It’s interesting that Peter twice said, “You know I love you,” but the third time Peter said, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
- Peter was truly affirming his phileo love even if he wasn’t quite ready to affirm his agape love.
- Each time Jesus asked Peter to affirm his love, Jesus then told Peter, “Tend My lambs,” or, “Shepherd My sheep.”
- In other words, Peter, if you love Me, don’t go back to fishing, care for those I love; become a shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:15-16, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick;”
- Then, in verse 18, Jesus told Peter that he would grow old, but also signified by what kind of death he would glorify God. By this He meant crucifixion.
- It’s as though He were saying, You once said that you would die for Me. Yes, you will, but it will be when you are old. Trust Me with the rest of your life.
- Then another interesting turn came in the story when Peter turned around and saw John following them and asked Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”
- Jesus corrects him, “What is that to you? You follow Me!”
- It’s so tempting to compare ourselves to others, but Jesus is saying to let go of all of that and simply be faithful to what God has given you to do and trust Him with your life.
- God gives us grace to each one according to His purpose in their lives. “Trust Me and follow Me.”
Ephesians 4:7, But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
John 21:1-22 NASB