Seaside With Jesus: Fed to Feed - John 21:15-19
"Nothing," was the pitcher's shaky reply. "I just want to hold on to the ball as long as I can."
Last Sunday we considered the need to fish where Jesus says fish—the importance of going into all the world, regardless of whether we have been successful in the past, regardless of the dark places we may have to go, regardless of whether the means make any sense to us—to make disciples of all people, to share with them the love of Jesus Christ and bring them into the fellowship of our family.
We pick up where last Sunday left off. Remember the Scripture from last week. Discouraged, Peter and some of the other disciples had decided to go out fishing. They had cast our their nets all night fishing. They had caught nothing. They were packing it in when a man, who was Jesus, told them to cast the nets out the other side. The caught 153 fish in their nets, so many they couldn’t get the net back in the boat and had to just drag it ashore. They set up a fire and cooked the fish and Jesus and the disciples sat around the fire and ate fish for breakfast.
Now we pick up with our reading this morning. Peter, Jesus, and the disciples have finished eating breakfast. Jesus look over at Peter and says, “Peter, I need to talk to you.”
Imagine Peter’s thoughts. Remember, we discussed last week that Jesus had never confronted Jesus on Peter’s denial. Peter is probably thinking, “Okay. Here it is. He’s going to tell me that it is time for us to part ways, that I am no longer worthy to be a disciple.”
Instead, Jesus leans over to Peter and says, “Peter, do you love me more than these?”
I have heard other pastors suggest that the “these” Jesus is comparing Peter’s love with is whether or not Peter loved Jesus more than he loved the fish that were remaining after breakfast. If that is the case, Jesus could have been asking “Peter, do you love me more than the contentment you feel from a satisfying meal; do you love me more than nourishment itself? Would you be willing to risk being in situations where you wouldn’t get to eat a meal like this for my sake?”
Another possibility might be, in addition to simply eating, if we remember that Peter is a fisherman, Jesus could have been saying, “Peter, do you love me more than you career; do you love me more than job security and guaranteed income?”
Other scholars suggests that Jesus was asking Peter if Peter loved him more than the other disciples loved him. We may want to say that Jesus would never ask a question like that, but we have to remember that Peter constantly set himself out apart form the rest of the disciples. We have to remember that Jesus had set Peter apart by not calling him “Simon,” but calling him “Peter” and saying, “upon this Rock I will build my church.” We have to remember the night Jesus was going around washing the disciples’ feet, that when Jesus had washed the feet of other disciples, and he came to Peter, Peter said, “No, you can’t do that Jesus.” Then after Jesus explained the importance of what he was doing, Peter wanted Jesus to wash his whole body. We have to remember that later that evening, Peter was the only disciple to tell Jesus, “Lord, why can I not follow you? I would lay down my life for you.” Yet, like the other disciples, Peter’s loyalty to Jesus disappeared after Jesus’ arrest. So Jesus could have been saying, “So far you have been like all the others, do you love me enough to deny yourself now?
In all actuality, either way you look at it, whether it be the fish or the disciples that Jesus is talking about, it boils down to the question, “Peter do you love me more than you love anything else, including yourself, including your own life?” If you do not think that is a possible scenario, remember that to save his own life, Peter denied knowing Jesus after Jesus had been arrested.
Jesus asked Peter three times whether or not Peter loved him. In all three cases Peter said, “yes.” Peter did not get it at first. He grew restless about Jesus asking over and over again…thinking that Jesus either was not hearing him or not believing him. Each time Peter said “yes,” Jesus responded by saying “Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.” Finally, after the last “feed my sheep, Jesus explains that this love that Peter is proclaiming is not going to be an easy kind of love…that this feeding and tending are going to lead Peter to his death. Jesus asked three times, just as Peter denied three times. It would not have been lost to Peter that Jesus has put him right back to where he was before Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion, it would have been as if the rooster crowed at the start of this new day, this new opportunity for Peter. Jesus is saying, “I forgive You Peter; you have proclaimed your love for me; that love is going to be tested, going where I send you will put your life in jeopardy, you will die. Do you love me enough to go where I send you?”
My brothers and sisters, what does this scene between Peter and Jesus have to do with us? Everything. At some time in our lives, and if you’re like me, more than once, either through our words or our actions, we have failed Jesus. We have denied Jesus. Yet the God we worship, the God we encounter in Jesus, is full of mercy and grace. And just as Jesus asked Peter, He now comes to us and asks us, “do you love me more than these?”
Do we love Jesus more than the things of our lives?
Do we love Jesus more than the food on our table or the food at the restaurant?
Do we love Jesus more than a Saturday or Sunday of sleeping in?
Do we love Jesus more that a ballgame or a race?
Do we love Jesus more than a good day fishing?
Do we love Jesus more than a trip up to the mountains or out to the Cape?
Do we love Jesus more than our careers?
Do we love Jesus more than we love our own lives?
Do we love Jesus more than we love our friends, our family?
Tough questions…and as we consider our answers, may we remember how much Jesus has loved us. May we remember the wounds He bore to heal us. May we remember the scourging…may we remember the nails…May we remember that out of His love, Jesus gave his very life for you and for me. Without him we would be dead…dead in our sin right now…with no hope in sight.
Yet because Jesus loved us more than He loved His own life, we have hope. We have the promise of eternal life because Jesus willingly went to the cross and gave up his life and the Father raised him from the dead…so that our sins might be washed away by his blood and that we might have the promise of eternal life through His resurrection. We have been given that gift.
And like Jesus fed the disciples before asking this of Peter, just as he enabled them to catch the fish they had for breakfast, Jesus feeds us…not with drum, trout, or mackerel, but with something greater.
God has poured out His Holy Spirit upon us filling us with grace, filling us with the very love of God. We can come before God with our souls empty and hungry, even after a night of empty fishing, and find God nourishing us…pouring the Holy Spirit into our lives and filling us with what we need.
Once we are fed by God, the voice of Jesus comes calling…Do you love me? Feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep…follow me.
What about that pitcher at the beginning of the sermon? What does he have to do with anything? Well…now that we have been fed by God…now that we hear the voice of Christ calling us to go into all the World and make disciples of all peoples…what are we going to do? God’s put the ball in our hands, how long are we going to hold it?
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.