Good News keeps being good
I read somewhere that the good news is we are worse than we think we are, and God’s grace is more lavish than we expected. We find this to be true of Peter in this section of our Bible reading. Look at the beginning of John 21. We read about the in between time when Jesus has arisen from the dead, and the disciples have seen him yet they are not sure what they are to do next. For Peter it must have been an unbearable time because he had denied knowing Jesus in his darkest hour. This seems to be a time of mystery, confusion and indecisiveness. So, Peter makes a plan; “I’m going out to fish, Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’” (Vs. 3)
What do you do when you are not sure what your next step should be? What do you do when you know you have made a terrible mistake and don’t know how to make it right? We usually do something to artificially grab control of the situation, to make us feel better. Peter went fishing. It was what would make him feel like he had control again. But, even at fishing things didn’t go well and they weren’t successful at all. Then Jesus shows up.
Jesus gives the boys a common grace first. He helps them catch fish. He makes breakfast for them. He doesn’t even chastise them for going back to the old way. He meets them where they are. Then he comes to Peter with restorative grace. Three times he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these? (Maybe “these” is referring to the fish he has gone back to). Three times Peter responds back in the affirmative and three times Jesus gives Peter a job to do, a commission, “Feed my sheep.” As Peter’s denial in John 18 was threefold, so also are these steps of restoration. I’m sure it hurt Peter very much by the procedure. But while Jesus here gladly restores a broken disciple who has disowned him, he makes him face his sin, declare his love, and receive a commission.
This story reminds me of the book, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in the Chronicles of Narnia series. A boy, Eustace, turns into a literal dragon paralleling the beast he has been acting like. When Aslan, the lion (and Christlike figure) comes to restore Eustace to a new self, he has to tear the dragon skin off of him. It is extremely painful and yet joyous at the same time.
God wants to do the same thing with us today. Whatever we have done to distance ourselves from God and whatever we are tempted to turn to instead of Him, will not keep him from offering us the good news again today. We are always the ones going back to the fishing hole and He is always the One calling us back to the breakfast table of his grace and sending us out in love to “feed the sheep.”
Tips for Reading- (Application tip #7)
Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
The truth is, the good news that was passed to Peter is passed to us constantly. But, for us to grow as believers we have to remember we must stay connected to the Vine. Jesus said in John 15:5, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” This next application question is very important, “Is there a Prayer to repeat?” In fact, John 17 is a whole chapter on Jesus praying for Himself, for His disciples and for all believers. It’s a good place to get used to asking this question and modeling your own prayers after those in the Bible. Martin Luther modeled his prayers after the Psalms. We will be there in a few weeks and will have lots of examples to choose from.
Notes from David’s Journal
John 14-17 are very interesting verses to study. As you read them, remember they are stated the night before Jesus is going to die. These are His last thoughts before He faces the Cross. Imagine your own last words to those whom you love the most on this side of eternity. Wouldn't they express your heart's deepest desires? They would mine. And I think they do for Jesus.
A few thoughts as your read these chapters. Notice the teachings on the Holy Spirit. These are probably the New Testament's clearest teachings on the Holy Spirit, who He is, His work and purpose. Notice too the incessant calls to love and obey. Someone once said the entire teachings of Jesus could be reduced to those few words: love Jesus and do what He tells us to do. Notice also, especially in chapter 17, Jesus call to unity among believers. I've often wondered how many prayers are not answered because of our disunity among one another. Finally, please note how Jesus says we are in Him as He is in the Father. The implication is clear: if we are in Christ and He is in us, we are now in the Father, God's very presence in us and us in Him. It's a sovereign mystery but amazing nonetheless.
The rest of John describes the Crufixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Chapter 21, the restoration of Peter, is a beautiful resurrection narrative. Peter denied Jesus three times. Note how many times Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" One for every denial. We cannot "outsin" the grace of God. The Resurrection proves how much God loves us. Our sin cannot defeat His eternal love. That story on the banks of the Sea of Galilee always makes my heart sing. Jesus pursuing Peter. Peter repents and is restored to ministry. God's grace wins!
We began John by me saying it's my father's favorite Biblical book. Billy Graham's too. I hope you've enjoyed it too.