Do You Love Me?

John 21:15-17

[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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” [16] He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.”

In this passage, Jesus finally addresses Peter and his betrayal directly.

Three times, Jesus asks “Do you love me?”  Jesus could have asked Peter any number of things.  “Peter do you feel really bad?”  “Peter do you believe?”  “Peter will you go on mission trips?”  No, he asks “Peter, do you love me?”

See, Peter did not want crucified savior.  When he began to follow Jesus, he was a mess of mixed motives.  Peter was ambitious.  He wanted to be the greatest.  Peter was excited.  He wanted to see the kingdom of God and do miracles.  Peter wanted to reign, not suffer.  When Jesus spoke of His death, Peter rebuked Jesus to His face.

So Jesus asks, “Do you love Me as I am?  Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.  Do you love Me as I am? Sovereign, just, holy, glorious.”

Peter’s response is amazing.  Three times, Peter declares “Yes Lord, You know I love You.” Of course Jesus knows everything and of course He knows Peter loves Him.  But Peter’s life has not demonstrated that love.  Peter is devastated, not because he broke a rule or is embarrassed or disappointed in himself; he hates his sin.  Peter wants his love for Jesus to be clear and unmistakable.

Finally, we come to Jesus’s reply.  Three times, Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep.  We can be tempted to separate our love for God and our love for people.  Jesus never does this.  The inevitable result of love for Christ is love for His people.

This is the true measure of love for God.  The true measure is not how loud we pray, how many books we read, or how many meetings we go to.  These things matter but only insofar as they reflect our love for Jesus’s sheep.  Sheep are not easy to love.  Sheep are stupid and rebellious, just like us.

When I encounter extremely obnoxious people, I want to punch them but I’m a Christian, so I don’t.  Instead, I close my heart and cut them off.  Perhaps when they change, I’ll give them another chance.

When Jesus calls us to love, He is necessarily calling us to love difficult people.  Loving difficult people always involves forgiveness.  If we spend enough time with a sinner, they will sin against us.  If we are to continue to love them, we must forgive.

Paradoxically, forgiveness is not about people but about Jesus.  It is an act of worship.  When our love becomes like God’s love, it does not reflect the value of the person forgiven or our own value.  It reflects the worth of Jesus Christ.

Consider, who do you need love?  In other words, who do you need to forgive?  Jesus, give us grace to do the impossible.

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Come and Have Breakfast

John 21:9-14

[9] When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. [10] Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” [11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. [12] Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. [13] Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. [14] This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

In our passage, we see the incredible invitation Jesus extends to His disciples, “Come and have breakfast.”  It is a simple and incomprehensible request.

In verse 9, we read that Jesus already has fish and bread ready.  He was waiting for His disciples to return from their failed fishing trip.  Remember, Jesus is the Savior of the World and He has just risen from the dead, yet He is waiting to have breakfast with His disciples.

I remember the day my nephew was born.  I was actually supposed to have lunch with one of my church members.  When I heard the news, I did not hesitate.  I cancelled my lunch plans.  Days earlier, the Son of God conquered the devil, sin, and death.  He transformed all of human history.  And here He waits to have breakfast with His people.  It is important to Him.

In verse 10, Jesus asks them to bring some fish they had just caught.  Remember, the disciples caught nothing.  Any fish they had are the result of Jesus’s miracle.  If you invited me over for dinner and I walk in, take something out of your fridge, and hand it to you, you will not be impressed.  When we eat with Jesus, we bring nothing to the table.  But Jesus does not mind.  He wants to have breakfast with His disciples.

In verse 11, we see Peter’s nervous energy.  When he saw Jesus, he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore.  The other disciples who stayed in the boat arrive at the shore at more or less the same time.  When Jesus asks for a few fish for the meal, Peter brings 153 of them.  Peter had abandoned Jesus in His darkest moment.  He is filled with joy that Jesus has risen from the dead, yet at the same time, he is not sure how Jesus feels about him.

You may be a fairly nice person, but I know I have wronged many people over the course of my life.  I regret many things I have said and done.  At times I have wondered whether it is even possible to make up for these things, and this is with man.  What can we do when we betray God?  How can we pay Him back?  What are we going to do to make things right with Him, after all we’ve done?

Peter knows there’s nothing he can do.  And then in verse 12, Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.”  In His invitation, Jesus is saying there is forgiveness for traitors and hypocrites.  There is grace for cowards and sinners.  There is no other god like this.

In the second half of verse 12, the disciples do not dare to ask who it is that they eat with.  They are tempted to ask, but they don’t.  They do not know this strange man cooking breakfast for them, but at the same time they do know.  Jesus must have looked different.  He is in His resurrection body.  His glory is shining.  For thirty years, Jesus had been hiding His majesty.  He appeared to be an ordinary carpenter.  Now, the disciples get a glimpse of the Word who was in beginning with God and who was God Himself.  The almighty, eternal Word invites them to breakfast.

Morning by morning, day by day, the Risen Son of God invites you to simply be with him, to share a meal with Him through reading His Word and praying.  Many times we say, “No.”  But He does not grow weary in extending the invitation.  When we hesitate, He gently asks, “Why do you wait?  For what do you delay?  My cross has made a way for you to be with Me.  Come and have breakfast with Me.”

He Threw Himself Into the Sea

John 21:1-8

[1] After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. [2] Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. [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.

[4] Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. [5] Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” [6] He said to them, “Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of fish. [7] That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. [8] The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

In John 21, the disciples decide to go fishing, and they catch nothing.  Jesus tells them to let down their nets again, and there is a miraculous catch of fish.  It must have been eerily familiar because the same thing pretty much happened when Jesus initially called the disciples to become fishers of men (see Luke 5).  The events of Luke 5 and John 21 are very similar, yet also different.

In both Luke 5 and John 21, the disciples had been fishing all night.  In Luke they are fishing because this is their career and identity.  They are fishermen.  Fishing is at the center of their lives, and they are taking a break to listen to Jesus teach.

In John, the disciples are fishing to kill time.  Some suggest they are abandoning their calling as apostles to go back to fishing, but this is very unlikely given the Lord has just risen from the dead.  At the very least, they want to see what will happen next, so the disciples are just waiting for Jesus.  Fishing is no longer at the center.  It has become a hobby.  Their first priority in this moment is to wait for Jesus and listen to Him.

Is Christian faith a break from real life for us?  Is real life work or school or family?  Is waiting on the Lord, hearing and obeying Him, a hobby or is it at the center?

Another similarity.  In both Luke and John, the disciples catch nothing and Jesus tells them to cast their nets again.  In Luke, Peter agrees to do it, saying, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Peter is obedient, but thinks he knows better.  He is saying, “Rabbi stay in your lane.  You know the Bible, but I know fishing.”  We, too, are tempted to say to God, “You know religion, but I know money, or family, or what I need, etc., etc.”  Amazingly, in John 21, the disciples just listen.  They do not even know it is Jesus yet, but instinctively, the sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice and cast the nets.  They hear and they obey.

Two final similarities.  In both Luke and John, it is the miraculous catch of fish that opens the disciples’ eyes.  Also in both, Peter’s reaction to the miracle is extreme.  In Luke, Peter falls before Jesus and cries out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

In John, when the apostle John recognizes Jesus, Peter ignores the fish, jumps out of the boat, and swims to shore.  In John 21, Peter is not less aware of his sinfulness.  Very recently, he had denied his Lord three times.  He knows his sin, but regardless, He is desperate to be with His Savior.  Usually if we go swimming, we take clothes off.  Peter, instead, puts his outer garment on.  He sees Jesus and He is going after him.  Peter does not intend to go back for anything.

God is a speaking God, and He consistently speaks to us.  The question is, when He speaks, will we weigh our options or will we jump out of the boat?

Two of the most important things in the Christian life are very simple – hearing God and obeying Him.  Not surprisingly, these are things we struggle with most.  For Peter, too, this does not come naturally, yet he still jumps out of the boat.

Peter does not jump because he is so courageous.  Peter is a coward.  Peter does not jump because he is so righteous.  His sin is clear and ugly.  He does not jump because He knows what will happen next.  He is not in control, even of tomorrow.  Peter jumps because he is convinced that Jesus is the Son of God and the Good Shepherd.  Peter simply desires to be with Him.

The Ugly Truth Will Set You Free

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– 1 John 1:8-9

It’s a rare person who is foolish enough to say that they are perfect.  Nearly everyone will admit that we’re all human and we all make mistakes.  Yet at the same time, we all believe that deep down we’re good people.

One thing that makes this believable is that we know how to compare ourselves favorably. My Sunday School boys tell me how good they are at basketball and how they can beat my son. Well my son is three, so I tell them that’s not saying much. Somehow when it comes to our character and faith, we always compare our best to other people’s worst. We proudly say that we’re better than a murderer or a drug dealer and if all else fails we can always compare favorably with Hitler.

Another reason we are tempted to believe in our own goodness is that we are experts at self-deception. Have you ever met an angry person? The last person to know that he’s angry is always the angry person himself. We know how to play this game. We don’t hate anyone but there are people we’d just rather not speak to ever again. We’re not greedy or envious, we just want to be financially secure.

But God is not deceived by any of this. He is light itself and in Him is no darkness at all. His light exposes darkness! So John is pleading with us, don’t be deceived! The lie is tempting. It feels good to think we’re better than others. It’s painful to face what’s really in our hearts. It’s tempting to believe the lie and avoid the pain, but this does not lead to real joy or real life.

It’s only when we acknowledge and confess our sins that we are free! When we downplay our sin before God and others, relationship is impossible because we have to lie. If we claim to have no sin or if we always excuse our sin, we have to try to deceive each other and God. But if we confess our sin – not that we are sinners generally, but that we love specific things more than Jesus, that we are willing to hurt others to get what we want, that today and not just in our former life that we like our sin – then He’ll forgive us! Jesus can wipe away our sin and make us clean, but He comes only for the sick.

To live in lies is tempting but this only leads to slavery. The truth – no matter how ugly – is what sets us free.

The Pursuing Father

Kenneth E. Bailey

[11] And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. [12] And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. [13] Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. [14] And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. [15] So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. [16] And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

[17] “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ [20] And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. [21] And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [22] But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. [23] And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. [24] For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

– Luke 15:11-24

The prepared confession reads, “I have sinned against heaven and before you,” and this is (understandably) usually seen to indicate heartfelt response. Jesus’ audience, however, is composed of Pharisees who knew the Scriptures well. They recognize that confession as a quotation from the pharaoh when he tries to manipulate Moses into lifting the plagues. After the ninth plague, Pharaoh finally agrees to meet Moses, and when Moses appears, Pharaoh gives this same speech. Everyone knows that Pharaoh is not repenting. He is simply trying to bend Moses to his will.

The Prodigal is best understood as attempting the same.

Having failed to get a paying job in the far country, he will try to get his father’s backing to become gainfully employed near home. He will yet save himself through the law. No grace is necessary. He can manage – or so he thinks!  But is the lost money the real problem?

He thinks that if he can only recover the lost money, everything will eventually be solved. In the interim, he will be able to eat, and once the money is returned, the village will accept him back. He does not consider the father’s broken heart and the agony of rejected love that his father has endured. While talking to himself in the far rem3259-1000x1000country he evidences no shame or remorse. If he is a servant standing before a master, his plan is somehow adequate. If he is a son dealing with a compassionate and loving father, his projected solution is inadequate.

The father does not demonstrate love in response to his son’s confession. Rather, out of his own compassion he empties himself, assumes the form of a servant, and runs to reconcile his estranged son.

The boy is totally surprised. Overwhelmed, he can only offer the first part of his prepared speech, which now takes on a new meaning. He declares that he has sinned and that he is unworthy to be called a son. He admits (by omitting the third phrase) that he has no bright ideas for mending their relationship. He is no longer “working” his father for additional advantages. The father does not “interrupt” his younger son. Instead, the Prodigal changes his mind, and in a moment of genuine repentance, accepts to be found.

The Pharisees complain, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus replies with this story, which in effect says, “Indeed, I do eat with sinners. But it is much worse than you imagine! I do not only eat with them, I run down the road, shower them with kisses, and drag them in that I might eat with them!”

Link: Complete Article

Attrition or Contrition

Does Prayer Change Things?
R. C. Sproul

We can distinguish between two kinds of repentance: attrition and contrition. Attrition is counterfeit repentance, which never qualifies us for forgiveness. It is like the repentance of a child who is caught in the act of disobeying his mother and cries out, “Mommy, Mommy, I’m sorry, please don’t spank me.” Attrition is repentance motivated strictly by a fear of punishment. The sinner confesses his sin to God, not out of genuine remorse but out of a desire to secure a ticket out of hell. True repentance reflects contrition, a godly remorse for offending God. Here the sinner mourns his sin, not for the loss of reward or for the threat of judgment, but because he has done injury to the honor of God.

The Long Road to Forgiveness

Kim Phuc
from NPR’s This I Believe

On June 8, 1972, I ran out from Cao Dai temple in my village, Trang Bang, South Vietnam; I saw an airplane getting lower and then four bombs falling down. I saw fire everywhere around me. Then I saw the fire over my body, especially on my left arm. My clothes had been burned off by fire.

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I was 9 years old but I still remember my thoughts at that moment: I would be ugly and people would treat me in a different way. My picture was taken in that moment on Road No. 1 from Saigon to Phnom Penh. After a soldier gave me some drink and poured water over my body, I lost my consciousness.

Several days after, I realized that I was in the hospital, where I spent 14 months and had 17 operations.

It was a very difficult time for me when I went home from the hospital. Our house was destroyed; we lost everything and we just survived day by day.

Although I suffered from pain, itching and headaches all the time, the long hospital stay made me dream to become a doctor. But my studies were cut short by the local government. They wanted me as a symbol of the state. I could not go to school anymore.

The anger inside me was like a hatred as high as a mountain. I hated my life. I hated all people who were normal because I was not normal. I really wanted to die many times.

I spent my daytime in the library to read a lot of religious books to find a purpose for my life. One of the books that I read was the Holy Bible.

In Christmas 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It was an amazing turning point in my life. God helped me to learn to forgive — the most difficult of all lessons. It didn’t happen in a day and it wasn’t easy. But I finally got it.

Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed.

Napalm is very powerful but faith, forgiveness and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness.

Dining with Real Sinners

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

jesus-eats-with-sinners[10] And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. [11] And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [12] But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. [13] Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Matthew 9:10-13

At the cross, Jesus unmasks the sinner not only as a beggar but as a criminal before God.

The sinners to whom Jesus directed His messianic ministry were not those who skipped morning devotions or Sunday church.  His ministry was to those whom society considered real sinners.  They had done nothing to merit salvation.  Yet they opened themselves to the gift that was offered them.  On the other hand, the self-righteous placed their trust in the works of the Law and closed their hearts to the message of grace.

If Jesus appeared at your dining room table tonight with knowledge of everything you are and are not, total comprehension of your life story and every skeleton hidden in your closet; if He laid out the real state of your present discipleship with the hidden agenda, the mixed motives, and the dark desires buried in your psyche, you would feel His acceptance and forgiveness.  For “experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved, that one can and should accept oneself and one’s neighbor.  Salvation is joy in God which expresses itself in joy in and with one’s neighbor” [Walter Kasper].