First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (5th Sunday in Lent, March 21, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
As you know, during Lent this year, we’ve been looking together at some key events of Peter’s life, some defining moments, you could say, that somehow shaped or reshaped Peter’s understanding of discipleship and what it means to follow Christ. Over the last three weeks, we looked at Christ’s invitation to Peter; we also looked at Peter’s confession in Caesarea Philippi, and last week, we saw Peter at his worst, denying the Lord three times at Caiaphas house. Last week we were reminded that in our journey of faith, we will experience ups and downs, victories as well as defeats, gain and loss, joy and sorrow, brokenness and restoration. Peter’s failure and denial is a reminder that the path of discipleship is one of ups and downs.
Peter’s story is real. It is personal. Peter is me. Peter is you. Peter is us. That’s what makes his story so personal. It’s a story that involves calling, risk, stepping into the unknown; it’s a story that involves assurance and doubt, confession and denial. Peter’s story is our story. It is a story of grace, of love, and of renewal.
The more we look at Peter’s story, the more we realize that the story in the first place is actually about Jesus. It points to the greatness and the awesomeness of the God we’ve come to believe in. The awesomeness of our God is shown in Peter’s restoration and it displays itself in two ways:
First: A Broken Disciple is Remembered by God
Denying Christ was a chattering experience for Peter. It was a turning point. Peter’s own bold confidence and strength were killed. He knew he was sand, not “the unmovable rock.” He knew what and who he was. He knew he was a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness! That’s why Peter ran to the tomb on Easter morning. He had to know and to see that Christ had risen from the dead. If He was… then maybe Peter could ask for forgiveness. Maybe, Jesus would forgive him.
It seems that Peter was not the one looking for God. In fact, God was looking for him. On the day Jesus arose, the angel at the empty tomb told the women in Mark 16:7, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’” Those words, “and Peter,” would have rang in Peter’s ears and lifted his depressed spirit after his miserable denials of his Lord. I think that Peter would have asked the women, “Did the angel say, ‘and Peter’?” This assured him that the Lord had not rejected him because of his failure. In our brokenness, God always searches for us.
Second: A Broken Disciple is Personally Restored by Jesus
As we pick up the account in John 21:15, it has been about two weeks or so since Peter had denied Jesus on the night He was arrested and tried. Jesus had already appeared to many people including to the disciples twice in Jerusalem. Jesus told them to go to Galilee where He has now met with them a third time. When Jesus arrived in Galilee, according to John 21:2, seven disciples were present: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples who are not named.
In John 21:15-19, Jesus met privately with Peter to reassure him and restore him personally. Jesus wanted to restore Peter to his apostolic office in front of these other six disciples.
It surprises me that when Jesus meets Peter, He neither confronted nor rebuked him. Rather, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Frustrated this time, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus had to re-commission Peter. “Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. Why would Jesus ask his question three times? It’s hard to say. Some suggested that the three questions might relate to the three denials… thus the undoing of them. Others suggested that they might refer to the making of a covenant. At this time in history a threefold of questions and answers was done to enact a covenant. Maybe it’s both. In all cases, Jesus tenderly reaches out to this wounded, hurt, afraid disciple who has gone through the worst couple of weeks of his life. Peter was renewed, restored and recommissioned during this “after breakfast chat.”
I like how the gospel of John wraps us Peter’s personal encounter with the Lord. In John 21:19, we read, “After this he said to him, “Follow me.” Following Christ is not a single event; it’s a long-life journey. It’s true that we stumble and wander off the road, but here comes the Lord, meets us where we are and renews our calling, “Follow me.”
Peter continued to grow in faith and commitment. His love for his Lord grew and developed. It got deeper and stronger. It’s true that Peter trembled at the question of a servant girl, but on the Day of Pentecost, Peter got up and spoke, preaching the first Pentecost message. He was able to face a mob unafraid. Later on, Peter endured persecution, he encouraged the early Jewish-Christian community, was led by God’s Spirit to reach the Gentiles, and eventually was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Savior. Forgiven and restored. Recalled and recommissioned. It’s Simon Peter’s story. It’s our story. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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