First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (4th Sunday in Lent, March 27, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
This morning we conclude our sermon series on “Discipleship.” During the season of Lent this year, we’ve been exploring together what it means to follow Jesus; what it means to be a disciple of Christ. A few weeks ago, I pointed out that “discipleship” is our primary calling as Christians. Our spiritual journey begins when we hear the words of Jesus, “Come, follow me” and we respond in faith. I also pointed out that the more we look at the encounters of Christ in the gospels, the more we come to the conclusion that half-hearted discipleship is not enough. When we decide to follow Christ, He expects us to be fully committed to Him because He is fully committed to us.
Last Sunday, however, we were reminded that in this journey of discipleship we will experience ups and downs, victories as well as defeats, joy and sorrow, brokenness and restoration.
A good example of this is the life of the apostle Peter. In Caesarea Philippi, Peter boldly confessed his faith in Jesus, “You’re the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Last week, we saw Peter at his worst, denying the Lord three times at Caiaphas house. Peter’s life is a reminder that the path of discipleship is one of ups and downs.
Peter’s story is real. It hits home. Peter is me. Peter is you. Peter is us. 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, of renewal, and of restoration. The good news that I want to declare to all of us this morning is that in our failure, we are still pursued by our awesome God. This truth displays itself in two ways in John 21:
First: Peter is Remembered by God
Denying Christ must’ve been a chattering experience for Peter. Peter’s bold confidence was killed. His strength was killed. He must’ve said to himself: I am not the “Rock” anymore; I am sand. Peter 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.
Yet, 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 rung in Peter’s ears and lifted his depressed spirit after his miserable denial of his Lord. I think that Peter would have asked the women, “Did the angel say, ‘and Peter’?” Are you sure? This assured him that the Lord had not rejected him because of his failure. In our brokenness, God always searches for us.
Second: Peter 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.
The verses of John 21:15-19, tell us that 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.”
Then Jesus had to re-commission Peter. “Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. Why would Jesus ask this question three times? Some suggested that the three-fold question 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. The original Greek gives us another insight. The work that Jesus used for love is “agape”, which means unconditional love. But Peter replied using “philo” which also means “love”, but a different kind of love. It’s brotherly love. Jesus was stretching Peter’s love to be an agape love. 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 forgiven, renewed, restored, recalled, 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 Jesus 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.” “Follow me,” ~ a phrase that continues to transform our lives. 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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