May 6, 2019 John 21:1-19


21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

21:2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

21:3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

21:4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

21:5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net to 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 there were so many fish.

21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

21:8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.

21:10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”

21:11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

21:13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

21:14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

21:16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”



From the creation of the entire world, God has been moving. I’m no pastor, but I’ve been going to bible studies for over twenty years. Reading the bible and reading what others say about the bible in between. Nothing I have read leads me to believe that God has stopped moving. I believe that the bible is the ongoing dialogue we are invited to have with God. Through scripture, corporate worship, fellowship, and service, we are invited to walk and talk with God as He moves and if we decide at any point that we have read the bible, been to church, and are done, then the only thing we are going to have a chance at seeing is a glimpse of God’s back as He continues to move.

So when I speak from this pulpit, my words are just a part of my journey with God and that changes as I learn and think about what I am learning. It means I may say something you don’t agree with or that you see differently. I may even feel differently about something I’ve read a year from now because I too, am moving, as are all of you. We are all on a journey and we change and grow. We go to the bible with the same kinds of questions that have been asked by people since the beginning. Why do bad things happen to good people? Will evil and death continue to have the upper hand? Does God see and hear us? Is He good? Is He still working? How are we to live?


Today we are going to look at how Peter handled change and how we might see ourselves sitting next to him.

Imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. He has just seen his friend and teacher crucified. He has seen the Risen Savior and Jesus has breathed on the disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit and given them a commission so they got busy and went to work, right?

No they didn’t. They went fishing. That just didn’t make sense to me. At first…

But then I thought about how I handle being upset. Dale used to say if he wanted the house cleaned all he had to do was invite company over or pick a fight with me.

Now when company was coming I would clean the house but when I was mad? It was super clean time. I would polish the washing machine. I just had to be left alone until I worked it out of my system. I retreated to the familiar and the physical labor helped me get my mad out.

After Dale was sick and in the hospital for several months, we came home and I tackled a stump that was in the backyard by our air conditioner. I dug and I wrapped a chain around it and pulled and fought with the thing until I finally got it out. That stump had nothing to do with Dale being sick, but my response to the stress was to tackle a challenge. Life had been out of control and in both these situations, I needed something to help me feel in control again.

So Peter has had several shocks, one right after the other. And underneath all of it is the deep disappointment he carries in himself for denying Jesus.

We have all done things that we feel guilty for. Maybe we accidentally hurt someone. We can go apologize and hopefully that resolves the situation. We feel better and the relationship is stronger. But sometimes there is no fix. Sometimes we carry that weight around for a long time, and like anything you carry, the longer you tote it around, the heavier it seems. When that happens, sometimes we get stuck.

So maybe Peter retreated to the familiar, tried to tackle a challenge that he could control. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Peter and the other disciples fished all night and didn’t catch anything! So now on top of everything else they are tired and hungry and have no fish. Now there is some man on the beach telling them to drop their nets on the right side of the boat. I picture Peter scratching his head and then shrugging his shoulders. What could one more try hurt?

They dropped their net and and it filled up with so many fish they couldn’t even haul it into the boat!


Imagine you are standing in that boat with the disciples. What have you poured your heart and sweat into and ended up with nothing but aches and pains and darkness? Watch for dawn. Listen for Jesus voice. Then do what He says.

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

To quote Tom Wright: “Jesus after all, has given his followers a strange and striking commission in chapter 20. They are to work for him. They are to be filled with God’s breath, and be sent into the world as Jesus had been. But if they try it their own way, they will fail. They will toil all night and take nothing. The only way is for them to admit defeat, to listen afresh to Jesus voice, and to do what he says.”


Now if we go back to Luke 22:54-62

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.  And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

So, back at the beach…

The mysterious disciple whom Jesus loved recognized Jesus and when he said so, Peter threw on his clothes and jumped into the water. The other disciples stayed in the boat, dragging their big old net full of fish. When they got to shore, there was a campfire with fish cooking and bread!

Remember when Peter first denied Jesus? It was near a fire. Peter walked out of the ocean to his savior and smelled the cooking fire. Maybe the same smell as another long night, the night he denied Jesus.

What did Jesus do? He fed Peter and the others. He cooked them breakfast! He told the disciples to bring their fish but he already had fish cooking. He didn’t need their fish, did he? So why does John include this information? I think John wanted us to learn a lesson. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking we must do it all. We think it’s our responsibility to organize, to clean, to lead, to tell others the good news of the gospel. God NEEDS us!

Of course when we serve we are to serve in a mighty way. But it isn’t all up to us. The same God who created everything in the world is still on the throne and we are invited to be a part of the kingdom and we are created for a purpose and to fulfil that purpose is built into us. God doesn’t need what we have or what we can do. But we need Him.


In my mind, Jesus sees Peter’s heart. He sees how he is stuck in his guilt and his “stuckness” keeps him from moving forward.  After they have eaten breakfast Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. He answered him yes and Jesus gave him instructions. “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asked him again. Peter once again answered that he loved him. Again Jesus gave him instructions. “Tend my sheep”

I wonder if it all came flooding back to him.

Imagine how Peter’s heart must have been pounding. How he must have been shaking. I wonder if he was thinking, here it comes. Jesus is going to let me have it. I failed Him. I deserve whatever I get.

One more time, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. This time Peter said “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Jesus is the passover lamb, who takes away the sin of the world including Peter’s sin. How often do we find that the hardest person for us to forgive is ourselves. I’m not making light of what Peter did. And sin always has consequences. In Peter’s case, maybe his sin was keeping him from what Jesus had commissioned him to do. Jesus went right to the hurt and each time the question is asked and answered, Jesus doesn’t pat Peter on the shoulder and tell him it’s okay. He doesn’t even use the words “you are forgiven”. He gives him his commission again. Time to get to work Peter!

John 10:11 says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”


Back in John 20:21 Jesus told the disciples “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”

Jesus shares His ministry with Peter. He entrusts Peter with the care of His sheep. Peter was not just forgiven, he was restored. Jesus is not just putting Peter back to work. He is sharing His own work with him.

I have experienced “stuckness” in my life when I felt guilty or worried or hurt and couldn’t move forward in my life until I figured out why I was stuck and dealt with it. That’s a lot of MY and I and when we are stuck, I would venture to say that our focus is pretty much on ourselves (at least that is how it is for me) and sometimes the only way out is to change that focus and do something for someone else. A part of this seems to be Peter being told to put on his big boy pants and move on. Yes Peter, you messed up. It’s done. Now go take care of others.

Peter got refocused.


I asked myself why this question? Of everything Jesus could have said in this exchange, why did he ask Peter if he loved Him?

Maybe because real ministry, whether you are a pastor, a lay person, a committee leader, a teacher, whatever you do, deep down, it begins with a love for Jesus. It’s not so much the work – it’s the heart. We aren’t earning grace. We are responding with relief and gratitude to something that is already complete. Even though we have all let Jesus down probably many many times, Jesus wants to help us find that love and to express it and be healed and be restored. He wants us to hear His voice as He gives us new work to do.

Will we fail? Sometimes. Will we let Jesus down? Repeatedly! But along with Peter’s greatest failure Peter holds another memory. He remembers a time when he heard the masters voice and literally stepped out of the boat in faith and even when his own lack of faith would drown him, the Jesus he loved, held him up. So if we will listen for the voice of Jesus, and act on what He tells us we may get wet….but occasionally we may get to walk on water!

I cannot remember the author of this quote but the words – We are not to be just recipients of salvation, but also bearers of salvation. Three times, Jesus tells us how to do that. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, care for the flock.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

We live in a different world than the one we grew up in. Anyone with a phone has access to data and can look up any scripture, any commentary, any article written by anyone in minutes. We are no longer isolated in our church or anywhere else. What is done or said in view of others can be seen and heard by everyone almost instantly and the world is watching. And questioning. Will they see this loving shepherd Jesus in us? Will they get a glimpse of me walking on wave tops and want to climb out of the boat and join me?  Or will they see a judgemental, punishing Jesus who sees their failure and has written them off as unworthy and decide their safe, comfortable boat is just fine, thank you very much!

I just recently discovered an author and yesterday she died. I am surprised at how I am grieving for someone I never met She was 37 and leaves behind a husband and two small children. This quote resonated with me. I ask that you join me in praying for her family and friends.

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.” ~ Rachel Held Evans


Father help us to hear the voice of our shepherd. We know that we have let you down and we know that only your great love can restore us. Open our hearts to let Christ heal what hurts and keeps us stuck and give us new work that you have prepared for us. We gratefully receive salvation and we want to extend it to others and so we ask that you fill us with your spirit because we know that we can’t do anything good apart from you. Help us to be Jesus loving, water walking, bearers of salvation. As you sent Jesus and Jesus sent the disciples, send us! AMEN.