LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 31 May 2020
Sermon Text: John 21:20-25
Watch Sermon Video: Clik this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp0i7SO738Y)
I. A life called by Jesus – “Follow Me!”
II. A life concentrated on Jesus – “What is that to you?”
III. A life that is a trustworthy testimony to Jesus
Reading these verses, we have finally reached the end of John’s Gospel. It has been a great time of hearing the voice of the Spirit of God, telling us, most times, softly and tenderly about Jesus’ saving grace and our need of repentance and faith in Him, our Saviour and Lord, yet often we’ve heard His stern voice with a warning against sins of man of rebellion against the Lord and rejection of His gospel invitation. This great book reveals Jesus to us all. I’ve truly enjoyed this sermon series and I pray that you have also.
In the coming months, that is, June and July, starting from next Lord’s Day, we’ll open some of the psalms that are called the ‘songs of ascents.’ So, today, let us humble our hearts and listen to the Lord’s message for us all. And it is about the life of believers that is by itself a trustworthy testimony to Jesus, like a ‘letter from Christ delivered’ to us, as Paul says in 2 Cor. 3:3.
As the introduction to this section, we need to be reminded of the situation of these last verses of John. And we’d better begin from the Lord’s resurrection. Having risen from the dead, Jesus appeared to His disciples. Then, He told them to go to Galilee and wait for Him. So, seven disciples came to Galilee – we’re not sure of whereabouts of the other four disciples because the Bible is silent about them. As they waited, Jesus didn’t appear to them soon. They might’ve gotten tired, probably been anxious. So, led by Peter, all of them went for fishing. They spent all night, trying to catch fish, but had no result. Then, early in the morning, about daybreak, Jesus appeared on the shore and spoke to them and directed them to throw net on the right side of the boat. Following His words, the disciples caught a great number of fish.
Then, all the apostles, starting from Peter, came to Jesus and had the breakfast with the Lord. After the breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved Him and, hearing his answers, Jesus recommissioned, reinstated him to his original call, that is, a fisher of men. Now, we follow the words of these last verses in John.
I. A LIFE CALLED BY JESUS – “FOLLOW ME!”
The first point we need to focus is Jesus’ command given to Peter which was repeated twice in just a few seconds. In v. 19, having reinstated Peter, Jesus said to him, “Follow Me!” Then, in v. 22, Jesus says again, “follow Me!”
This is a command. To anyone who has served military, this command, ‘Follow me!’, is one of the very familiar commands. In military circumstance, when a soldier hears this command, ‘follow me,’ from his commanding officer, it means more than a simple direction for an action. Rather, this command issues the soldier, first, a responsibility for compliance (that is, to follow his commander) and, second, an assurance of his privilege of being taken care of by his commanding officer. As he follows the officer, he’d know what to do to accomplish his task; he’d remain safe as his commander provides him all things necessary for his safety. Following his commander, the soldier would become a real soldier. And he knows it all clearly and instinctively when he hears this command, ‘Follow me.’ After all, he is called to be a solder who follows his commander in all things.
This is exactly what Jesus means when He speaks to Peter to follow Him. While this command assures Peter of his privilege and benefit of being a follower of Christ, it reminds him of his ultimate call, ultimate purpose of his life as a fisher of men in the name of the Lord Jesus. About three years earlier to this scene, Jesus appeared to Peter and said, “Follow Me, and I will make you [a fisher] of men.”
Movie makers occasionally use a technique of rewinding film to go to the very beginning of an event, then, fast forwarding it again to come back to the present to see how two separate moments and two separate things are connected to and interwoven with each other. To my eyes, Jesus’ command for Peter, “Follow Me!”, does exactly that effect – I mean, He is rewinding Peter’s memory back in time, enabling him to restore a picture-like memory of that moment of hearing his calling from the mouth of his Master. What happened when he heard Jesus’ call first time? As Mt. 4:22 tells us, he and his brother Andrew immediately left their nets and boat, and followed Jesus. Having brought Peter back to that moment and quickly return to the present, the Lord means something like this: ‘Peter, remember that you’re called to follow Me; the focus of your life is to look at Me and come with Me wherever I go, and follow the exact footsteps I leave.’
Truth is that no better life is there in the world than one that is called by Jesus. Hear what the psalmist sings in Ps. 65:4, “Blessed is the one You [God] choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts!” The wise man speaks in Prov. 8:34, “Blessed is the one who listens to me [that is, ‘wisdom,’ therefore, pointing out to God], watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” Peter heard this call and now hears it afresh. What a blessed man of God he is with this call from the Lord Jesus!
In fact, Jesus’ reminder is not only for Peter, but also for all those who are there by the shore of the Galilean Sea. After all, Jesus called each of them in the same way, telling them, ‘Follow Me!’ Truth is that Jesus’ reminder is not only for Peter, Andrew, John and other disciples, but also for you and for me and for all who have come to the Lord in repentance and faith. When He received you and me in His grace, washing us with His atoning blood, He spoke to each of us, ‘Follow Me!’
By this command, by this reminder, Jesus is refreshing our hearts and souls with the call we heard from Him. He is telling us that we’re among those blessed, having a life called by Jesus the Lord. He often, if not always, takes us back in time to remember our calling afresh, then, brings us back to the present to see its blessings so as to joyfully exert ourselves in following our Lord.
II. A LIFE CENTRED ON JESUS – “WHAT IS THAT TO YOU?”
Let me ask you to pause here, take a breath, and consider the situation these last verses of John’s Gospel convey. We go just a few days back in time to the night of Jesus’ arrest. Peter was a vigorous follower of the Lord. When the arresting party came, he even drew his sword and cut an ear of a servant of the high priest. Then, he followed the arresting party and sneaked into the court of the high priest where Jesus was interrogated. Then, in there, he denied the Lord three times. He was in deep sorrow when Jesus was crucified. The next morning, when he heard that the tomb was empty, he ran to the tomb at a breath, dived in headfirst. Later that day, seeing the risen Lord, he was greatly excited! Then, waiting for Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, his mind became restless.
You see how he has been up and down internally. But that isn’t anything newly developed lately; he’s always been like that. It’s his personality. He quickly goes up and as quickly comes down and hits the bottom.
And to this Peter, Jesus speaks and says, “What is that to you?” in v. 22. Jesus points out to him what he supposes to focus in his life. And He speaks the same to us all. This is so because, like Peter, we go up and down very quickly; we lose our focus instantly; we suffer from losing and missing the focus of our life. In this regard, Peter is us; we’re exactly like Peter; we’re Peter in terms of our nature and personality. To us, as to Peter, the Lord says, “What is that to you? You follow Me!”
Let me go back to Peter’s case and explain to you what this means. Hearing Jesus’ words, realising that he is now reinstated to his original calling, Peter is up again and thinks, ‘Yes, I’m ready to follow Jesus again! I can do it! I will do it! Oh, how exciting this is!’ Just picture him yourselves in your mind. Gloomy shadow in his face is disappearing and his eyes glitter with fresh morning sunbeams.
Then, he turns his eyes to John who sits next and asks Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” He means, ‘What sort of life and death would this man have?’ In that question, Peter asks, ‘Will this man live a better or worse life than mine? Will he follow You, Lord, and glorify You like what I’ll do? What about Your request for him to take care of Your mother, Mary? Would that give him a special recognition among Your followers?’
Do you see what his eyes have caught and his mind focuses? Peter again turns his eyes off from Jesus; he again focuses not on his Master, but on someone else. In fact, this has been Peter’s habit. Some time ago, while Jesus was actively and openly preaching the gospel to people, he saw Jesus walking on the water and coming to the boat he was in. He requested the Lord to command him to come to Him on the water. Being commanded, Peter walked on the water but he saw the wind and was afraid and sank. He turned his eyes off from Jesus. Later, hearing the Lord speaking to the disciples what sort of death He would face, Peter took the Lord aside and rebuked Him. Jesus’ response was fierce, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me.” Peter looked at Jesus as a mere man, not as the Son of God the Almighty! Now, again, turning his eyes off from Jesus, he asks such a question with so much meanings!
To him who looks at someone, something, other than the Lord, Jesus points out, saying, “What is that to you?” Jesus means, ‘If I give him a task that is different from yours, what is that to you? If he lives and dies, glorifying Me or not glorifying Me, what is that to you? In case he takes a greater job, a greater reward, a better life on earth than yours, what is that to you? As I have given you so far, I’ll continually give you what is best for you. Each one is taking his task, her role in My kingdom, and altogether bring glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. So, what is that to you? You follow Me for you’re with Me and working alongside Me for My name and for the glory of the Father.’
Do you see why this question, “What is that to you? You follow Me!”, is for both Peter and us all? Like Peter, we constantly lose our life’s focus, that is, Jesus who walks before us, and we constantly get distracted. So we easily become discontent, disappointed and dispirited. That’s not all – we quickly become grumpy, complaining and disruptive.
To us, as to Peter, the Lord says, ‘What is that to you? What is the wind and wave to you? Don’t you see Me, your Lord and Master, walking on this troubled water and coming to you? You’d simply fix your eyes on Me. What is another man’s success to you? What is this trouble of yours to you? Why is your face down and your heart disappointed? Don’t you see Me walking with you, in fact, before you in this trouble of yours? You lift your eyes and focus on Me alone and follow Me!’ This is the message Jesus is speaking to you and me as to Peter.
We’re called by Jesus, so we’re the blessed of the Lord as the psalmist was so clear in Ps. 65. This is the message the apostle John testifies in his gospel, isn’t it? Being saved through repentance and faith in Jesus, we must go on our life focusing on Him the Lord, living our life centred on Christ Jesus. After all, it is quite appropriate to close this gospel book, highlighting what must be the centre, core and focus of the life of Christians like you and me, and how consistent and uninterrupted that focus should be.
III. A LIFE THAT IS TRUSTWORTHY TESTIMONY TO JESUS
Up to v. 23, Peter has been the representative of all believers. But v. 24 presents another disciple, that is, John who is the author of this fourth gospel, telling us that, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things.” Then, we read, “we know that his testimony is true.” This verse tells us that not only the words of John, but also the life of John are TRUE! Those who introduce themselves as ‘we’ in v. 24 says, “We know that his testimony is true.”
The position or placement of this assertion is important. It follows the previous two points, that is, ‘we’re called by Jesus’ and ‘we ought to focus on Jesus alone and always.’ The first point reminds us that we’re the blessed of the Lord, and the second emphasises the blessing of living a life centred on Jesus. Then, comes this assertion to our attention, telling us that ‘his testimony is true.’ The message is, therefore, clear that a life that centres on Jesus alone and always is by itself a ‘trustworthy testimony to Jesus’!
The apostle John was not at all a trustworthy and thoughtful and sincere person from the beginning. He was one of the famous ‘sons of Zebedee’ together with James. Once, they came to Jesus and demanded, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” They requested Jesus’ approval for their positions in Jesus’ kingdom – surely an earthly not heavenly kingdom – to be number two and three, like prime minister and treasurer.
But having heard Jesus’ words alongside Peter, having realised that he must live his life centred on Christ alone, having been guided by the Holy Spirit to do so, he is changed and becomes a trustworthy testimony to Jesus! His life as well as words have become a trustworthy testimony to Jesus. What a great and deep blessing his life has become!
Truth is that this last point is the natural result of a believer’s life that centres on Christ alone, the outcome of the life of someone who knows that following Jesus the Lord is the greatest blessing under the heaven.
Brothers and sisters in Jesus, the Lord called Peter and John as well as other disciples. And with the same call, He has brought you and me to Himself. As He blessed Peter and John, as He turned their life a trustworthy testimony to the Lord Himself, He will proclaim His gospel to all people around us through you and through me. Fixing our eyes on Him alone in our life, we’ll one day be able to find out that He has also turned our life as a trustworthy testimony to Him, our Saviour.
So, another apostle, Paul, testifies that it is true with the words of 2 Cor. 3:3, saying, “You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” Amen. ***