Wow! We are so impressed! You’ve made it! The final chapter…the epilogue. You made a commitment, you stuck to it, and you have now become a John-aficionado. But don’t get too big of a head quite yet. Scripture is ALIVE and reading through John in it’s entirety once will never be enough. Each time you read it, you will notice that it will start to READ YOU. God will speak to you in new ways, revealing novelties in his character and pointing out things you missed in yourself. So don’t let your journey end here! This is a life-long adventure of discovery that we are on together!
The epilogue. John’s final recording of his interactions with Jesus.
Later…(how much later, we don’t really know) Jesus appears to SOME of his disciples again. What are they doing? Making good on the gift of the Holy Spirit? Healing people in Jesus name? Changing the world to resemble more of the kingdom of God? Um…no. Not exactly. They are…fishing.
As we know, John’s whole purpose of writing his gospel is that we may believe and have life. John doesn’t get too wrapped up in the details. For that reason, John chooses to include the occurrence when Jesus MET Peter (John 1:35-42) rather than when he CALLED Simon Peter as accounted for in the other gospels. So, I’d like you to go and read Luke’s account of when Simon Peter FULLY realized that Jesus was who he claimed to be and decided to follow him with his life. Luke seems to be much more detail-oriented than John.
Read Luke 5:1-11.
Does this sound familiar? Does this account make you think differently about the events that take place in John with the resurrected Jesus? In this passage of Luke Jesus promises Simon (Peter), “From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And yet, after everything Peter has seen, here is the resurrected Jesus finding Peter in the EXACT place, doing the EXACT same thing he was doing before he met Jesus. Fishing for….um…FISH. And quite unsuccessfully, we might add.
Why do you think Peter went back to doing what he had been doing before he met Jesus? Do you think he felt ashamed or unworthy after he had denied him 3 times? Do you think he was afraid of the responsibility that came with having the Holy Spirit? Do you think he was running from his calling? Or do you think he was just hungry? Because John doesn’t always afford us the details, we are left with conjecture. However, let’s not gloss over how we might personally identify with Peter’s actions.
Have you found yourself returning to the comfort and familiarity of your life before Christ? Have you felt unworthy of the calling placed on your life, so you’ve settled for what’s easy?
Friends….hear our hearts. YOU. WERE. MADE. FOR. MORE.
Don’t be tempted by the easy, by the comfort, by the familiar. You have met Jesus. You have been changed. You have SEEN what he is capable of. You have been CALLED. Don’t deny it and don’t run from it. Besides, if you are anything like Peter, you won’t be very successful at your “old life” without Jesus’ power anyway. (Helloooo 153 large fish) What has Jesus called you to that you’ve been too afraid, too timid, or too ashamed to step into? Friend, the time is now. You’ve been equipped. Leave behind your nets and embrace your new mission.
If you have been procrastinating and avoiding taking your next step, don’t worry, don’t beat yourself up too much. I think Jesus will respond to you much like he responded to Peter…not by rebuking him or chastising him…but by simply saying, “Now come and have some breakfast!”
Over breakfast Jesus asks Simon a series of questions. Actually he asks the same question three different ways. Do you think Jesus asks Peter the same question three times because Peter had recently denied even knowing Jesus THREE times? Perhaps.
Verses 15-17 are a masterclass in understanding the COMPLETE inadequacies of the English language to convey God’s heart. No language has the ability to adequately encapsulate the heart of God, but English is especially poor. Upon reading this passage, it seems on the surface that Jesus simply asks Peter if he loves him three different times. However, if you were there, sitting around the breakfast table, listening to the actual words Jesus spoke, you would have a much different understanding. You see in English we have ONE word for love…LOVE. We use the same word to say, “I love tacos” as we do to say, “I love my spouse.” as we do to say “I love my mom.” Dear inventor of the English language: this is a gross oversight, please rectify this immediately. While I do have a GREAT love for tacos… WE NEED MORE WORDS TO EXPRESS DIFFERENT KINDS OF LOVE!
The first two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Jesus used the word “agapas”. Agapas is a self-sacrificing, all-consuming, echoing into eternity type of love. Peter responds with, “Yes Lord, you know I “philō” (love) you.” Philō is a brotherly, friendship, feeling of affection type of love. By answering this way, Peter is essentially acknowledging his weaknesses. While he knows that his FEELINGS of affection for Jesus is there, he doesn’t trust himself enough to promise that he will be able to follow through on the kind of agapas love that Jesus desires of him.
How does Jesus react? He’s not surprised and he gives Peter a job. “Then feed my lambs.” And he asks him again with the same agapas word and Peter responds the same way. It isn’t until the third time that we see a switch. The third time Jesus asks Peter, “do you philō (love) me?” Does Jesus lower his standards? Maybe in a way. Jesus knows Peter’s heart. In fact, this whole series of questions isn’t for Jesus’ benefit, but for Peter’s. Jesus knows the limitations to Peter’s love and abilities. He asks this question of Peter 3 times in different ways to get Peter to realize his own heart. He wants Peter to spend time in self-examination.
Essentially Jesus comes down to Peter’s level and meets him where he’s at. In his shame, in his brokenness, in his not-enough-ness. It is very interesting that after each of Peter’s answers and after Jesus comes down to Peter’s level of love, Jesus follows up with essentially the same command. “Then feed/care for my sheep/lambs.”
Jesus is sitting down with Peter (as all the other disciples are watching and listening) and looking him in the eyes and the soul and speaking this truth into his heart. “I see you Peter. I know your limitations. I know you feel ashamed, dejected and unworthy. However how you acted in the past, Peter, doesn’t change the calling I have placed on your life. Feed my sheep. Your failures DO NOT disqualify you from the miracles of ministry I have planned for your future. I know you can only offer me philō love at this point, and that’s ok. My agapas love will fill in the gaps for you, Peter. It’s time to move past your disappointments, past your failures, and past your shame. There’s a job to do and you, Peter, are the one to do it.”
Now, reread that last paragraph but replace Peter’s name with your own.
Jesus was publicly restoring and redeeming Peter for ministry. And it worked. This was a turning point for Peter. If you continue to read through Acts and the rest of the New Testament you will see that Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes a force to be reckoned with. He doesn’t go back to fishing for fish. He no longer wavers in his faith. He BELIEVES and he follows in Jesus’ footsteps in his miraculous ministry. He truly becomes the rock that Jesus always saw within him.
Let this be a turning point for you as well. Let Jesus peek into your soul. Let him speak those same words over your soul. From this point on, may you be singularly focused on your mission here on earth. Find the place where you can most effectively feed Jesus’ lambs. No more looking back!
So Jesus has a few more predictions for his disciples. Namely, their manners of death. Yikes. While no one enjoys hearing that their earthly life will come to a violent end, Peter can take a bit of comfort in knowing that he will get what he wanted all along, before the whole denying 3 times debacle…to follow so closely behind Jesus that he also follows him in death. To which Jesus simply says for a final time, “Follow me.”
And he does. But not without some curiosity for what will happen to his fellow disciple, John, who is writing this book. Jesus simply says, “That doesn’t concern you.” Don’t waste your energy worrying about how other people are following Jesus. It’s a losing game to compare your ministry successes with others. So, don’t even go there.
The final line of John’s account of Jesus’ life: “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”
The end. (sort of.)
It’s true. Not only are there so many other miracles and teachings that Jesus must have done during his short time on earth, he has not stopped his work since ascending to heaven. Each and every day he continues to turn hearts, to heal the sick, to open eyes. Perhaps when we get to heaven there will be a never-ending library FULL of all the works of Jesus over the centuries…and we will have an eternity to read over all the amazing things he has done.
Don’t go away so quickly. Let this resonate in your heart before you move on. Think about the volumes of your own life, adding to this great heavenly library of Jesus’ works. What stories will you contribute? Ask God to give you a prophetic imagination to see all the good things he has planned to do in your life. Think of the volume upon volume upon volume written on account of the things God will do with you!
You know we couldn’t leave without asking one more time. After reading John’s account in it’s entirety, do you believe? Do you want/have LIFE in his name? Let’s even add a third question…the same question Jesus asks Peter: “Do you LOVE me?”