Video of Jason: Preacher in him. We baptized 138 last week which brings out total to 320 baptisms within a 1--week time period. Most we’ve ever had. One final week… for those of you have held on! For two weeks you have made a resolution. Just as Christ was dead in the grave for 2 days but on the 3rd day he was raised, so you have been unbaptized and disobedient for 2 weeks and on this 3rd week you will rise up to be baptized…
Our last message in this Can’t Believe series is on Peter. His story is a little different than some of the other stories that we have looked at, in that Peter is not an unbeliever whom Jesus convinces to believe, he’s a believer that has quit believing (at least in some ways), and you are going to see how Jesus brings him back to belief.
(So open your Bible to John 21… Now, as you are turning there you might notice that I am skipping the story of Thomas, and many of you say, ”Wait… Doubting Thomas: he’s like the one guy I would have thought would make a perfect ‘can’t believe’ story. You know, ”Mr. ‘Unless I see the nail--prints in his hands and scars in his side I won’t believe’-Thomas.” You are right. I was supposed to do Thomas’ story last week but felt, midstream, like David Nasser was supposed to be here. So, I skipped Thomas, and I need to end this series this week because of some really exciting things we need to get to next week. So, I’m going to come back and pick up the Thomas story later when I have a free week, because it really kills me to not do his story-his story sort of sums up this whole series. It will be like Can’t Believe: The Lost Files or bonus tracks or something like that.)
Jesus’ disciples?” And Peter is like, ”What? Who? No. Never heard of him!” This happens 3 times, and as that final denial is coming out of his mouth that rooster crows in the distance. You know Peter wanted to throttle that rooster. Peter was humiliated, and embarrassed, and he knew that he had failed Jesus in just about the worst possible way. So this Gospel can’t end until Peter has been brought back in. That’s because this Gospel is not just about Jesus’ story, it’s about your story as well. The gospel is incomplete until the resurrection has been applied to you. (And I tell you I had never really thought of this but then I heard Louie Giglio preach on this and thought, ”He’s exactly right. This is why this story is in here.” It fits well into our can’t believe series.) Before we look at it… Have you been there, where Peter is? Mr.Bold and Confident, some big promise, ”I’ll never deny you, Jesus,”but then abject, embarrassing, failure? You caved. You fell back into the temptation again. You went back to the boyfriend. You embarrassed yourself and God. One of our pastors was telling me this week that before he became a Christian he’d had a real problem with porn and smoking weed and after he became a Christian he gave that up… and he was growing by leaps and bounds and his gifts in ministry were being recognized, but then he went through a low--spot in which he went headlong back into both of those things. He was so embarrassed. When I was a missionary in SE Asia: friends in prison, mob violence. Have you been there? You think: that’s it! God’s plans for me are over. John 21 is for you. Jesus reveals himself again, for the moral and spiritual failure.
…revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.  Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.
Louie asks, ”How would you like to have been those ‘two other’ disciples?” You’re one chance to be in the Bible. Everybody else in this picture gets named, but you. There was Simon, Thomas, Nathaniel… and… two other guys. Kind of like when somebody posts a picture on facebook and you’re in it but they don’t tag you. Everybody else in the picture is tagged, but not you. You’re like, ”Do I tag myself? That seems lame.” Or how about this: You see a picture on somebody’s facebook profile, and you realize you’ve been cropped out of it? They had their arms around two people and you were one of them but the pictures cropped so that you are out of it. I have to think that’s the way these two guys felt. You got Simon Peter-he gets his full name, Thomas (called ”the Twin”)-he gets not just his name but his nickname, too. Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee-he gets his hometown; two sons of Zebedee… and two other guys.
They (Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee and… 2 other guys) said to him, ”We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. He went back to his old life, but it wasn’t the same anymore. He fished all night and caught nothing. How about that-has that happened to you? You’re discouraged spiritually and you go back to your old life but you can’t find the same enjoyment in it? You go all night but find nothing? This is like the worst place to be spiritually, isn’t it? you’ve seen too much to ever be happy again in your old life; but you are too discouraged to keep going forward with God.
Well, Peter after spitefully casts his net on the other side, the whole right side of the boat submerges in the water under the strain of fish that filled the net.
(which is John’s reference to himself, he)
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.
…they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
1 That number has no symbolic value, though many have tried to find it. For example, Augustine points out that 153 is the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 17 (1+2+3 . . . +17). Seventeen is the total of 10-for the 10 Commandments-and 7-for the sevenfold Spirit of God in Revelation. But that is just ridiculous. D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, PNTC, p. 673. It’s just a random detail that comes from a guy who is writing what he remembers. This passage is full of them. Vs. 7, Peter put his on his outer garment before he jumped in the water; vs. 8, they were 100 yards away. These have no symbolic value and nothing to do with the plot, they are simply in there because a guy is recalling the event from memory, which shows you that these are not legends that grew up over time, contrary to a lot of cynical scholarship. They give every indication of being what
Anyway, I digress… Peter’s gotten out of the water from his swim, and now he’s back hauling the net full of fish, 153 big ones, up from the shore.
Watch this: what characterizes Peter in these verses is strenuous effort. He’s swimming. He’s hauling the net in by himself. ”I got it Jesus. Look at me. I’m swimming. I’m hauling this big net of fish for us.”
Meanwhile, Jesus is standing there beside a breakfast he’s already prepared for Peter. Does Jesus need Peter’s fish? No. Did you notice the detail in vs.9 that Jesus already had fish on the fire? Where’d he get them? Who knows? He’s Jesus. He has a pretty interesting relationship to fish in the Gospel of John. He makes them swim where he wants them to swim; multiplies them; can create them out of thin air.
The contrast in this chapter is between Peter’s feeling like he needs to prove himself and Jesus’ invitation to breakfast with him.
For Peter his relationship to God has always been about working, and proving himself, and being the best. ”I won’t deny you, Jesus, even if all these do.” I’m swimming. I’m hauling. But Jesus is not asking Peter to prove anything. He doesn’t even need Peter’s fish. He’s prepared a table for Peter.
BTW, I think by this point Peter got half of the gospel. This was not the first time Jesus had done this whole ”cast your net on the other side of the boat” thing for Peter. When Jesus first called Peter to follow him, he told him to cast his nets on the other side of the boat and the same thing happened. At that point, Peter, realizing the glory of who Jesus was, that he could command even the fish, fell on his face and said, ”Depart from me, for I am sinful man, O Lord.” Seeing the glory of Jesus made him want to run away. Now, seeing the glory of Jesus made Peter want to draw close. Peter gets that, but he still hasn’t found the ”rest” in the gospel. He knows God loves him and that he wants to be close to God, but he still thinks he has to prove himself to God. So he’s always working. I understand that because I’ve always been like that. Give you an analogy to describe my life: plate spinning. ”I’ve got to keep my Scripture memory. Sharing Christ. Tithing. The poor. Missions.” The Christian life for me was a series of things to feel guilty about! When I had a week where all my plates were spinning, I could feel the pleasure of God. when a few broke, I didn’t feel close to God at all. If anything, I’d try to buy God’s approval on credit. That’s what Peter is doing. He thinks that his performance is the basis of his acceptance by Jesus. But the gospel is that Jesus has given you his acceptance as a gift. The work is complete. His last words on the cross were, ”It is mostly finished!” I’ve done the first 90%, now you have to earn the last 10%. We say, There really is nothing you could do to make God love you more… The point is not how close you feel to Jesus, but how close he has made himself to you at the cross. Understanding the nature of the gospel-leads you to a profound rest-rest in your spirit. Which is a better picture of your relationship with Jesus? Swimming for Jesus and hauling fish, or breakfast by the beach? (Listen-Christians work hard, but with an entirely different spirit than Peter has here. They work hard… Not in order to be accepted by God, but because they have been accepted by God. Not to earn God’s approval, but because they have it and they love him in response.
Not because Jesus needs them, but because they delight to cooperate with Jesus in his mission to reach the world and want to offer themselves for the world as he has offered himself for them.
So Jesus gives the gospel invitation in vs. 12:  Jesus said to them, ”Come and have breakfast.”
Peter says, ”Yes, Jesus, you know that I love you.” Jesus said ”Feed my sheep.” Jesus says to Peter again, ”Do you love me?” Yes, Jesus you know I love you.” Again: ”Feed my sheep.” Jesus asks him a 3rd time, ”Peter, do you love me.” The Gospel says that when Jesus asked him the 3rd time Peter became upset, because he sees the corollary between the number of times Jesus is asking him this question of whether he loved him and the number of times he denied Jesus.
In fact, Jesus appears to set up this whole situation to remind Peter of his failure: He asks him the question around a fire: Peter had denied Jesus around a fire. He said, ”Do you love me ”more than these” (the disciples)? Peter’s exact words to Jesus had been, ”Even if all these denied you, I wouldn’t.” Jesus says, ”Do you really love me more than these do, Peter? How well did you do on that boast?” Then he asks him 3 times…
Why is Jesus doing this? Is he trying to embarrass Peter? Is this cruel? No, it’s actually tenderness. Jesus is trying to show a guy who has always based his worth, and Jesus’ acceptance of him, on his performance that his love and acceptance are not given according to merit but as a gift based on his own finished work.
Friend, if the gospel has one agenda in your life, it is to convince you that your performance is not the basis of your acceptance before God. And so God allows you to fail so that you can see that it is his grace, not your righteousness, that is the basis of your acceptance. The biggest enemy to the gospel is self--sufficiency. And some of you are eaten up with it-because you are pretty good people, and fairly successful! David Nasser: Christ had to deliver him from his unrighteousness; he had to deliver his wife from church righteousness and that’s harder. Throughout the gospel it is not sin that keeps people from Jesus, but self--righteousness. It’s not our weakness that keeps us from being used by God, it is our strengths. Dan Bare to me: what scares me about you is that you don’t need the Holy Spirit to preach well. Your ability to hold a crowd will keep you from leaning into his power. Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit… we’ve spent all of our lives trying to become anything but poor in the spirit. We want to be middle class. Some of you are self--made men. Always capable. Always prepared. Always on the top end of the curve; finish first. And that really is a great thing, but it keeps you in a spiritually dangerous condition-deluded. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. That means rich in ability; rich in resources; rich in righteousness. Your strengths keep you from realizing how fragile your life is; your gifts keep you from realizing how dependent you really are; and your self--righteousness above others from how desperately you need forgiveness. And God allows something: failure, fear to wake you up. They are invitations for you to learn about Jesus’ grace. Every morning I pray for my kids that they will learn to love God’s grace and not their own righteousness. My kids are addicted to their own righteousness, just like I am.
I often ask them… 3 girls all in the same room. Does daddy love you because you are beautiful girls? Smart? Why does Daddy love you? Because we are your daughters. Because I want them to learn the nature of God’s love. Self--righteousness and self--sufficiency is the most damning sin of the New Testament. And that sin affects people in this room, not those who are skipping church this weekend. Do you realize how powerful this temptation is in your life? Imagine an 18 year old kid who was sheltered. No internet. Never watched on R rated movie. Amish. Going off to UNC Chapel Hill, the land of scantily clad women. If he isn’t at least aware of the temptation about to confront him, he’s a fool! Same with those of you who are good, successful people, if you are unaware of how easy self--sufficiency fills your heart. Jesus wants Peter to learn his need for grace. So he forces him to embrace his failures so he can tap into Jesus’ love. (Comparing ourselves to everyone else-the performance mentality-is a chronic problem, especially for us type--A people, and one that God has to spend the rest of our lives beating out of us. But it keeps us from knowing the love and power of Jesus.)
Let’s keep going: Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ”Follow me.” He’s telling Peter that he would one day have the courage to die for him-to die in the worst possible way: crucifixion. Now, you might think of that here as bad news, but it’s kind of good news: he’s telling Peter that one day Peter would make good on that promise to not deny Jesus. Even when people
stretch out his hands and nailed him to a cross Peter would not deny him!
But notice that in this metaphor for dying on a cross, he uses an odd image, when you think about it. He compares stretching out your hands to die on a cross to being a little child who stretches out his hands to his parents. When you were little, Peter, he said, you spread out your hands and people picked you up and they dressed you and took you around. That’s how you’re going to die. You are going to spread out your hands toward me, a picture of childlike dependency and intimacy and trust. But that childlike posture toward Jesus is what would give Peter the strength to die like that. Peter had always thought his strength came from being a man who proved himself to be better than others; Jesus told him his strength would come from relating to him the way a child relates to a loving parent. Don’t miss this: How did Jesus turn Peter, a guy who was so shaky he’d deny him 3 times in one evening, to one who would endure crucifixion? Going to seminary? More practical steps? No. Through a deep and profound experience of grace. The most powerful force in a Christian’s life is his experience of grace. PERIOD.
Peter’s pride and confidence in his abilities kept him in 4 spiritually deadly conditions:
Peter’s 4 spiritually deadly conditions:
it made him unsure of his relationship to God-have I done enough?; (2) that left him spiritually weak-because his own sense of strength kept him from depending on Jesus; (3) it kept Peter self--focused-he’s too focused on how well is he doing and
how he compares to really pay attention to other people’s needs; and (4) unable to help others in their weakness. You can’t help others if you’re consumed with your own strength. You might inspire them with how perfect and strong and capable you present yourself, but that really won’t help them; in fact, it will end up crushing them because they’ll always be trying to be perfect like they think you are perfect and that will end up crushing them. What they most need to see is how God’s grace works in your life, because that shows them where they can find grace. People’s greatest need is not a teacher or a role model or a perfect earthly father. They need a Savior. And your story of how God showed you grace can help, because it shows them where they can find that fountain of grace for their weakness.
A deep experience with God’s grace would reverse all 4 of those things. It would: give Peter an unsure assurance with God (he would feel safe). That would give weakness strength; give him an intimacy with Jesus that made him want to draw close (me with my kids); that intimacy would fill him with spiritual strength-he would constantly stretch out his hands to Jesus like a child stretches out to their parents, and that stretching for Jesus was so strong that it could endure even the pain of crucifixion. He could say, ”Jesus, you can take all that I have because Jesus, you are all that I need!”
Peter’s failure and experience of grace would… self-- centerednessothers--centered; help take Peter’s eyes off of himself-when he’s not always trying to prove himself he can be aware of other people’s needs and unable to help full of grace. give him an ability to help others by showing them how to access the same grace that he had accessed.
Jesus chose Peter to lead his church not despite of his failures, but because of his failures. His failures would put him in touch with God’s grace, and God’s grace is where a leader’s real strength comes from… and it’s a church leader’s most valuable resource to be able to help others in need. And you can only pour God’s grace into other people when you are filled with it yourself.
Mark this: It was not Peter’s successes that made him a great leader; it was his failures. His failures were his gateway to his need for grace; and his need for grace was his gateway to Jesus; and his intimacy with Jesus would be his gateway to everything else.
The Final Act
… And just when you thought the story was finally over, and Peter couldn’t possibly say anything any dumber, he totally redeems himself:
And Jesus rolls his eyes one more time and says, ”For the last time Peter, will you stop comparing yourself to everybody else?”
”My grace-Peter-that is your prize. Rest in me. Love me. Delight in me. Don’t rejoice that the demons are subject to you, or that you’re the leader of the church, or that you’ll die a courageous death, rejoice that your name is written down in the Lamb’s book of life, that you know me. That’s it. That’s all!”
The enemy’s schemes to keep us from this kind of relationship with Jesus, is to take our failures and try to get us to: Go back to fishing. But there’s nothing there! You know that. To keep trying to prove yourself to Jesus. That’s not what he wants either.
The gospel invitation is to rest in Jesus. To put faith in the gospel. To rest in his love. The invitation is to a breakfast on the beach with Jesus, to just love and walk with him and serve him from love.
I’ve heard it said that perhaps the hardest thing in Christianity to do is embrace the free, unmerited nature of God’s love. For some of you, your spiritual life has always been about performance. In fact, you are here this weekend as a kind of penance. Maybe if I go back to church a little he’ll like me again. Start giving a little money. Start acting better. Quit cheating on my wife stop looking at porn or quit doing drugs or whatever. Maybe then he’ll accept me. You’re negotiation. That’s not how it works. ”The only deal with Jesus He’s willing to make is His righteousness for your guilt and absolute surrender.”2 Jared Wilson
Have you ever really repented of sin and embraced Jesus? You can do so this weekend, right now.
Prayer Be saved Be baptized
You can stretch out your hands to him in total surrender because he really is all that you need! You can stretch out our hands to him and say, ”Jesus, you can take all that I have because in you I have all that I need…”
((Some of you ask, ”What’s symbolic about the number 153?” This is deep, ready? Nothing. That number has no symbolic value.3 It’s just a random detail that comes from a guy who is writing what he remembers. This passage is full of them. Vs. 7, Peter put his on his outer garment before he jumped in the water; vs. 8, they were 100 yards away. These have no symbolic value and nothing to do with the plot, they are simply in there because a guy is recalling the event from memory, which shows you that these are not legends that grew up over time, contrary to a lot of cynical scholarship. They give every indication of being what they claim to be, eyewitness account. You don’t write legends with random details like that. I digress.))
But in light of what Jesus shows you over and over in the Gospel of John, most significantly in the cross, (the Puritan John Owen is right that) there really is no greater insult you could ever give to Jesus than to doubt his love for you.
Are you convinced that he could not love you anymore than he does, because you are complete in Christ’s righteousness? That there is nothing you can do that would make God love you more… Is that your greatest possession, so that you don’t need the position of status or admiration of others? Do you feel safe with him, satisfied with him, content in him?
”Peter, I’m going to put you in charge of my church not despite the fact you’ve been a big, fat failure, but because of the fact that you’ve been a failure! Peter, plunge your failures into my grace and you will become a great leader.4
3 That number has no symbolic value, though many have tried to find it. For example, Augustine points out that 153 is the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 17 (1+2+3 . . . +17). Seventeen is the total of 10-for the 10 Commandments-and 7-for the sevenfold Spirit of God in Revelation. But that is just ridiculous. D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, PNTC, p. 673. It’s just a random detail that comes from a guy who is writing what he remembers. This passage is full of them. Vs. 7, Peter put his on his outer garment before he jumped in the water; vs. 8, they were 100 yards away. These have no symbolic value and nothing to do with the plot, they are simply in there because a guy is recalling the event from memory, which shows you that these are not legends that grew up over time, contrary to a lot of cynical scholarship. They give every indication of being what they claim to be, eyewitness account. You don’t write legends with random details like that. 4 Adapted from Tim Keller, ‘Jesus Meal with Peter: John 21,” message preached at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC.
One of the things I ask my kids at night sometimes. 3 girls all in the same room. Does daddy love you because you are beautiful girls? Smart? Why does Daddy love you? Because we are your daughters. Notice, Jesus is not saying, ”Peter, how are you going to make up your failure to me? How are you going to prove yourself?” It is simply, ”Do you love me?” And where will Peter learn to love Jesus? By learning to rest in Jesus’ love for him. Jesus chose Peter knowing Peter would fail him, and when Peter embraced the love of Jesus in and through his failures, he became the great leader of the church.
To know Jesus means that you love his grace more than your righteousness; that you delight in what he did for you on the cross and not what you are doing for him on earth. Don’t REJOICE THAT THE DEMONS ARE SUBJECT
Jesus does not say here, ”How are you going to make this up?” He just wants to know if Peter loves him. That is the gospel’s goal. Love for Jesus. When you have that, you will change. Grace changes you unlike anything else can. (bar). Grace produces love. (We think consequences change us. But it is grace. Consequences coerce behavior; grace changes the heart.) Destroy his self--sufficiency. Kharis and Allie: Why do I love you?
And although there were so many, the net was not torn. So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, ”If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”  This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.  Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, ”Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  When Peter saw him,
He said to him, ”Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, ”Feed my lambs.”  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.”  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.
Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ”Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.  This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.