May 1, 2022. Sermon Title: Called and Commissioned Yet Again

First Mennonite Church

May 1, 2022

Called and Commissioned Yet Again

Text: John 21:1-19

Last Sunday, we saw the restoration of Thomas, the one who demanded to touch Jesus in order to believe he was alive. Today, we will be looking at Peter’s restoration. Throughout Peter’s time with Jesus, he had been rash and brash, impetuous and impulsive. Therefore, besides the many other incidents between Peter and Jesus, it is not surprising to see Peter demanding a full-body bath when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. It is not surprising to see a half-asleep Peter reacting aggressively, chopping off the ear of the servant of the priest the night Jesus was arrested. It is not surprising that Peter would offer to lay down his life, if needed, to protect Jesus from being hurt. But denying Jesus in the end seemed to have had a devastating effect on Peter. He could not fathom to identify himself knowing Jesus and much less of being one of Jesus’ close friends. He denied vehemently and even cursed at the idea that his accent gave him away as one of Jesus’ circle of friends from Galilee. Peter’s heartbreak became clear when the cock crowed. Matthew tells us that when Peter heard the cock crowing, he remembered the words of Jesus and went out and wept bitterly (26:75)

So let us take a brief look of Peter’s life. In Matthew chapter four, we find the calling of Peter. Jesus was going by the Sea of Galilee and there he met Peter and his brother, Andrew, casting their nets because they were fishermen. Upon meeting them, Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will send you to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (4:19-20). John tells us that when Jesus called Peter, Jesus immediately changed Peter’s name. “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called, ‘Cephas,’” which means “rock.” We also know that Peter was a married man and that his mother-in-law lived at Peter’s house. And Peter’s antics, he faithfully followed Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. For three and a half years, Peter knew he was to fish for people, that he was a rock, and a follower of Jesus. However, once Jesus died, Peter’s attitude changed. Remember, when Peter saw the empty tomb, he simply turned around and went back home (John 20:6, 10). In our passage this morning we see it is Peter again who took the initiative of going fishing. Six other disciples joined Peter in their fishing expedition. Was Peter attempting to go back to his former life? This is despite Jesus’ appearing to them after his resurrection.

After spending the night with no luck, the disciple called it a night. They were heading home empty-handed. But someone appeared on the shore and as would buyers of fish do, Jesus asks them, Have you no fish? (Literally, have you nothing “to eat”—prosfagoin instead of fish—ichthus). “No,” they replied. Then Jesus gave them another chance. He commanded them to throw the net on the other side of the boat. Their catch was huge.

The Beloved disciple, then, tells Peter the person on the shore is Jesus. Peter dressed himself, threw himself into the water and went over to Jesus, leaving his friends to deal with the catch.

On charcoal from driftwood, possibly, Jesus was already grilling fish. He asked for more fish. And John once again reveals Peter’s quick action. Remember, John said that when the net was cast, the disciples were unable to fetch it into the boat because of the large haul. However, when Jesus asked for some fish, Peter jumped back into the boat and, all by himself, dragged the net full of fish. It is after he had brought the net full of fish that we know how many fish were caught–153.

From here, if we read the passage closely we can see something about the disciples. John writes: Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

Even when the disciples knew it was Jesus who had appeared to them by the shore, even when Jesus had so endearingly called them “children” and invited them to have breakfast, the disciples were reticent to come close to Jesus. They were still hesitant to come and sit around and eat, despite the many times they had done so in the past. They were either shocked to have been found returning to the former lives or they were embarrassed to have failed on something they were used too—fishing. The disciples seemed confused, wanting to keep their distance and yet glad to see Jesus in their midst, again. Jesus had to come and give them the bread and fish.

After breakfast, Jesus addressed Peter. Peter do you love me more than these? Jesus asks. Peter’s reply was, Lord you that I love you. Jesus asks Peter the same question three times and on the third time, Peter felt sad that Jesus has asked him the question three times. Peter then replies, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

As I have said in the past, the word for love Jesus used is his question the first and second time is the Greek word, agapao, the verb form of agape. But when Peter answered, the word he used for love is phileo—appreciate or friendly love. So, it would read something like this, Jesus: “Peter of John, do you dearly love me?” Peter: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you as a friend or I appreciate you.”

So when Jesus asked Peter the third time, Jesus changed the word he used for love and he used the same word Peter had been using. “Peter, do you love me as a friend?”

Whether there is any significant implication in the difference of words for love used in this exchange, the fact is that after Peter’s response, Jesus gave him a command. “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my flock.” “Feed my sheep.” “Follow me!”

Obviously, Jesus’ three-time interrogation of Peter, whether he loved the Lord relates to the three times Peter denied the Lord. But Peter’s affirmation of his love for Jesus goes beyond receiving forgiveness for his denial. In fact we do not see any sort of confession or repentance on the part of Peter. However, as Jesus confronted Peter about his love, Peter was being once again called and commissioned to what he had been called to in the first place. Peter needed to recover his initial calling: to be fisher of people and the rock, steady and truly committed to the cause of Jesus.

If Jesus knew the heart of all men, why did have to ask Peter the question, “Do you love me?” It is the same idea we find in this morning Old Testament passage in Psalm 139. Despite God knowing the words before they are spoken, still yet the psalmist opens and closes his prayer asking, “Search me, oh God, and know me.”

God knows what is in our heart, yet he is still asking each of us by name, “Do you love me more than these?”

You see, my dear brothers and sisters, by denying Jesus, Peter actually denied his identity. By denying Jesus, more than anything else, Peter refused to be what Jesus said he was: one who should fish for people, a rock, and follower. Thus, when Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus, he was once again called and commissioned. And in the words, Peter would no longer clothes himself and go wherever he wanted, but someone else would clothe him and take him where he would prefer not going.  

Peter denied Jesus because he was afraid of the possible consequences of being found associated with the Lord. Peter did not want to run the same fate as his Lord.

Denying the Lord sounds like a terrible thing for us to do. Jesus warned against doing it.

 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)

What has the Lord called you to be? He has called us follow him. He has called us to be like him in the world. He has called us to be light and salt. He has called us to serve in his name. He has called us to be holy. He has called us to seek his kingdom and its righteousness first. Therefore, any moment we fail to take a stand for him because we risk being labelled religious, naïve, a fool, we deny Christ. Anytime we put conditions in order to love or show mercy, we fail to truly follow the One who loved everyone unconditionally. Anytime where instead of being a light we embrace the darkness of impatience, indifference to the suffering of others, of self-reliance, we deny him who said he we are the light and salt of the world.

In the words of the song, Pescador de Hombres[1] (Fishers of Men) Jesus has come to our lakeshore. He is not looking for gold, silver, nor wise men. Yet with searching eyes, and sweetly smiling, Jesus is calling our name.

Let us confess our love to the Lord. Let us allow his healing reach out our souls. And let us heed his call to follow him. Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] Monsignor Cesareo Gabaráin, “Tú Has Venido a la Orilla.” 1979