Following Jesus regardless of the future – John 21:18-23.
At the end of John’s gospel we get this fascinating piece of dialogue between Peter and Jesus regarding John and Peter’s futures. What are we to make of it? Firstly, it is clear God has a plan for each of them. Peter’s was that eventually he was to die as Jesus died but it would not be until he was old. We know Peter died something like 30 years later. Peter carried that knowledge for the rest of his life. He was now a changed man, the man who denied Christ would die because of his refusal to deny Christ.
A rumour spread around the early church that Jesus had said John would not die. This rumour probably grew as John aged and Peter had by then died. John was eager to stamp out such false mysticism. He did not want to be the centre of attention. John’s only focus was the gospel. John was content to accept God’s plan for him but while he lived, he lived to testify to Jesus Christ. v24
Are we prepared to accept God’s plan for ourselves, whatever it might be or will we rage against it.
Do we live in accordance with the spirit of John the Baptist’s words, ‘He must become greater, I must become less?’ John 3:30
John’s passage about what is known as the restoration of Peter, with Jesus’ thrice repeated question, ‘Do you love me?’ is so familiar that its impact may have become dulled. A great deal is often made of Jesus’ use of agape and fileo, and Peter’s reply of fileo. However, it is possible too much emphasis is put upon this as in common use the two words were often interchangeable and are also applied that way in biblical texts. Great preachers of the past have often emphasized the importance of repeatedly relating biblical passages to the cross of Christ. There is great wisdom in this. It was prior to Jesus’ crucifixion that Peter lost his nerve and denied he knew Jesus. Peter was the man Jesus had said was the rock on which he was to build his church. Mathew 16:18 Jesus, by asking Peter three times if he loved him mirrored Peter’s threefold denial. Following each of Peter’s replies Jesus recommissioned him to nurture and build up the church that was about to be created. Just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd so Peter was to be a shepherd of Jesus’ flock.
Peter’s restoration was only possible because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus himself had taken upon himself Peter’s judgement. Peter would forever carry the wound his denial inflicted upon him, he had been humbled by his own actions, his weakness had been exposed. How could he carry on? Only because of the cross. We know from accounts in Acts that Peter went on to have a powerful and influential ministry. God used Peter on the day of Pentecost to bring thousands to faith in Christ, it was through Peter that God made clear the gospel message was a universal message. The impact of Peter’s ministry remains fundamental to the modern church. Through the bible Peter is feeding Jesus’ sheep. Peter had a profound experience of his own failure but he also knew Jesus’ deep personal forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s anointing. Peter experienced what has sometimes been termed, being broken at the cross. Because of his weakness he powerfully experienced the resurrection strength and life of Christ in his ministry.
Does that mean that anyone can be forgiven and then restored to their previous ministry regardless of what they have done? No, it does not. You don’t give an alcoholic the keys to the wine cellar. But there is a route to forgiveness and restoration at the foot of the cross. How has the cross of Christ impacted your life?
The physicality of Jesus’ resurrection – John 21:1-14
During the first century one of the common heresies asserted that the physical body was not important, it was the spirit that was all important. Jesus is was alleged was not raised physically but was in some way a spiritual apparition. The heresy went on to assert that because the body is not important and resurrection was only spiritual it did not matter what we did we with our bodies because they were disposable and ultimately worthless. Therefore, sexual sin did not matter along with other behaviours such as gluttony or drunkenness.
Jesus in his “breakfast’’ meeting with eight of the apostles, two of which are not named, made clear that he was bodily resurrected and as the first fruits of resurrection gives confidence to believers that they also will be bodily resurrected. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22) By meeting for an extended period of time with eight friends who knew him very well indeed, Jesus showed that accounts of seeing him following his crucifixion were not hallucinations. It is feasible that one person could have such an hallucination but for eight people to have the same hallucination is impossible. Jesus as a man greeted, instructed, cooked, eat with, conversed and walked with the disciples. He was indeed a man and alive.
How does the physical resurrection of Jesus give you hope and confidence?
As John draws his gospel to a close he has in view the purpose of his writing and the equipping of the apostles for their continued mission. John has made a careful selection of the material he used with the purpose of leading people to faith in Jesus. This has meant he has not always kept to a chronological order but instead drawn together intertwining themes for Jesus life and teachings. His style of writing is amazingly modern in that he systematically presents evidence regarding Jesus identity and mission. He presents us with source material, first-hand accounts, and a theology of remarkable depth. One of his great skills is in knowing what to leave out from a wealth of potential material. Nobody was closer to Jesus throughout his ministry than John. His gospel is an intimate account. It differs from Luke’s in the sense that Luke drew from other people’s first hand knowledge and fitted it together to make an account that related to Gentiles and especially the downtrodden, because he was a close member of Paul’s team who was the “apostle to the Gentiles.”
John’s objective in writing is that through his writing the Holy Spirit would take the words and cause the reader to grow into faith in Jesus as, ‘the Messiah, (saviour king) the Son of God.’ John20:31 The reason for that is that such faith is the means of gaining fullness of life. ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ John 10:10
How important do we think it is to present those who have yet to believe in Jesus with the source material and evidence that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God?
How could we use John’s gospel to introduce others to Jesus?