A few weeks ago, we visited the Lord’s parable about the dinner a man gave for his friends, Luke 14, and we found it was a parable about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. And, if you remember, we found that the invited guests refused to come, Luke 14:8, citing various excuses of family concern, investments, work and business. Not uncommon for any of us today. As it says there, “But they all with one accord began to make excuses.”
The Holy Spirit is energetically moving around our world, our community, our families, saying, Luke 14:7, to all, “Come, for all things are ready.” Yet, most are of one accord of these legitimate concerns that are turned into excuses in which that invitation, that bidding, to do the Lord’s will, even after we have received it, is declined.
The obvious issue for each one of us is whether we are caught up in the way the world is turning in our lives, whether we are caught up in the activities of our independent urges and ambitions? Have we received an invitation, a calling, a purposeful request, from God in our lives and we have been putting it off, refusing to bring our selves into compliance with our Lord’s purposeful request in our lives?
Family is good. Business and labor are good. Investments are good. But they do take time, and God only allows us 24 hours a day. Do we choose to have time for the Lord and the calling He has on our lives.. And especially in these difficult times, where no pay check is assured, no client or customer payment is assured, we are tempted to choose to allow ourselves to be ensnared by the demands of this world, including a government with a vicious taxation, far beyond that even contemplated in God’s message to Saul, as set forth in I Samuel 8:15.
And you remember the Master’s response, in that dinner parable, Luke 14:21, 24, “Then the master of the house became angry, said to his servant . . . . ‘none of those men who were invited will taste my supper.’”
Jesus was blunt and concise. He was clear and direct, without equivocation or qualification – no excuses, not even good ones were acceptable to the master of the house: This parable is a warning to us, as we discussed in much more detail a few weeks ago, a warning against the temptation of falling in love with the world, or of being captured by fear of it.
The connecting bridge or dot is that issue of love: do our loves and fears keep us away from Jesus and His will? What was the question that Jesus asked Peter, in John 21:15-17, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these (the other disciples there)? He (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He (Jesus) said to me a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love You.’ He (Jesus) said to him (Peter), “Feed My sheep.’ He (Jesus) to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He (Jesus) said to him (Peter) the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’”
As Christians, we all would share the notion, “Hey, we do love Jesus” and so we would tend to focus on this instruction to feed the lambs of Jesus, with natural and spiritual food.
But Jesus, whom Peter knew, and we know, and believe, knows all things, already knows we love Him, and that Peter loved him, or so it appears. But if you consider this and in context, this was not as simple as it appeared. Jesus was not trying to get Peter to persuade Jesus that Peter loved Jesus: Jesus already knew what he needed to know about that, so what is not so apparent is that Jesus was trying to get Peter to evaluate his love for Jesus; that is why Jesus kept asking the same question of Peter, “Do you love Me?” That is the same question he continually asks of us, of each one of us, “Do you love Me?’
Now, you ask, what troubled Jesus about this man, Peter, this fisherman whom Jesus had called, and who had followed Jesus? Well, Jesus had already prophesied, out of foreknowledge, that Peter would deny him at the time of Jesus’ trial and scourging and leading to the Crucifixion, and Peter in fact did that out of fear of the governing authorities. But also, in this context here in John 21, at the breakfast, Jesus had seen it happen again.
The context here is that we are after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (indeed, Peter had been one to run to the empty tomb). Peter owned his own boat, a business, and he was the captain of that boat, and even though Jesus was back in the body of the Resurrection and had already shown himself to the disciples, Peter said I’m out of here – I’m going fishing! We can relate to that, right? See the beginning of John 21, and in Verse 3. And several other disciples were there with him and they went out night fishing with nets and caught nothing! (Verse 3). When morning came there was a man on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus, and Jesus (already knowing the answer) asked them if they had caught anything, and they said, “No.” So He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and that they would find some fish. And on that cast, they caught so many fish that they couldn’t pull them all in. Then John said to Peter, Hey, that man on the beach is the Lord, it is Jesus, and Peter dove in and swam to the shore to see Jesus. Peter met Jesus on the beach, the others brought in the boat and the heavy net, and Peter went to the edge of the sea and dragged the net in – pretty strong guy!
It is interesting here that Jesus still allowed Peter’s fishing trip, his business venture to be abundantly successful. Jesus favored Peter with success, even as he guided Peter in where to invest his nets and his energy.
Jesus had a campfire going on the beach and they cooked and ate some fresh fish and then Jesus interrogated Peter about his love for Jesus.
That was the context of the love interrogation. What Jesus was seeing was that Peter was distracted by the opportunities (or perceived opportunities) of his business, or even just by the love of fishing for fish, a worldly activity. We saw this in the love interrogation because in the very next verse, John 21:18, after the third question, “Do you love Me?”, Jesus continued with this: “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked about where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
Peter, in his relative immaturity, had remained caught up in his selfness, in his own plans and paths, in his own will and fears. He, even Peter, had one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in the matters of the world. He was enamored of both! How about you?? Jesus was telling Peter that, as he matured as a follower of Christ, he would not be girding himself in clothing, belt, fishing knife, even sword and going about – big strong man and leader that he was – Jesus was telling Peter that as he matured someone else – Jesus – would gird up Peter – Put him in the armor of God (Ephesians 6), take him (“carry”) Peter to a place beyond and different from Peter’s will and wish. Jesus was saying to Peter, as Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane had said to God, that Peter would find himself in his maturity saying, “Not my will, but yours.” Indeed, tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down, with his arms outstretched, and John wrote this passage, according to the scholars, after the event of Peter’s death.
Some would interpret this as saying that in his older age, his maturity, Peter would be senile, helpless, blind and tended to my others. John gave us the correct and different meaning, explaining that Peter would need the armor of God and to be carried (like Stephen) through his death, indicating in John 21:19, the same passage we are studying today, “This He (Jesus) spoke, signifying by what death he (Peter ) would glorify God. That would be an occasion of martyrdom, in which to glorify God by not denying Him in one’s death, even by proclaiming, in God’s strength, His Name and His glory, to His glory!!
And there is confirmation in Scripture of this, II Peter 1:13, “I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent (this body), to stir you up . . . .” Peter was at it for Jesus even into his old age! Not helpless and senile, but he needed Jesus’ armor and burden carrying for the martyrdom to come.
And the same sort of thing happened to Paul on the way to Damascus. Paul was certain that, in tormenting, chasing, capturing and killing Christians, he was doing God’s intended work and fulfilling the calling on his life. He had inaccurately figured out God’s calling on his life, and had completely misunderstood God and God’s plan for his life. Paul was rendered helpless and blind. He, too, had to be led around, as Peter would be carried, to places where their wills were set aside for the purpose of obedience to the will of the Lord.
As Pastor David Wilkinson has so succinctly stated, “True love for Jesus must result in the death of all independent self-will.” That is what Jesus was helping Peter to figure out, and what he got Paul to figure out. And it is what we need to figure out! Not my will, but thine, o Lord.
That is also what David said to the Lord, Psalm 139:5, “You (Lord) have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” And in Psalm 139:10, “. . . Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (“Hold” in the original Hebrew, means “grip”.)
We, too, are called to be in the grip of God, in His hold, apprehended as Brother Gene Lanier would say, boxed in before and behind, and led by Him. And we are called to seek that righteousness first in our lives (Matthew 6) so intently that it is His will that is manifest in the choices, decisions, and actions in our lives. Then, as Jesus prodded Peter, all will know – even the witnesses of our death –that our love of Jesus overcomes, by the purification of our hearts and the cleansing of our unrighteousness, in our maturing like Peter, Paul and David, our personal will, our personal fears and our love of ourselves and the world. We, too, would be a poured out drink offering – all poured out, all spent, for Jesus, as Paul described in II Timothy 4:6, when our time for departure is at hand!
Face, like Jesus made Peter do, the sobering reality of your double-mindedness, of the true extent of your heart of love for Jesus, instead of the things of this world and of you self, your family, your work, career, business and investments. Face up to them, know yourself, and take heed where heed is due, for you do not know the time of your departure, and not only do you want to be ready to go when you are supposed to go, when you are going, you want to have been in the fullness, not the halfheartedness, of your love for Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit: Not my will should be your mantra, your banner, your “go to” adage and reference point for evaluating your decisions and God’s call on your life. Don’t go fishing for fish when you are otherwise called by God!
God bless you and amen+