If I were asked to explain what it is to be a Christian, in as few words as possible, I recon that there are two words that sum up the whole thing in my mind…. and they are LOVING JESUS.
I want you to ask yourself this question, “Do I love Jesus?” The answer must come from your heart, because it is the only way you will be able to follow Him when the days ahead get rough.
If you have said YES, are you then willing to let the Holy
Spirit examine the depth of that statement?
Jesus did this for Peter when He met him on the shore, after His resurrection, with breakfast cooking on the open coals. That day Jesus dug deep into Peter’s heart. I believe this encounter was
a key which enabled Peter to go the distance with Christ. This meeting on the shore was the third time Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after the resurrection.
John 20:19 recounts the first time Jesus appeared to His disciples in a resurrected form. The disciples were meeting secretly in an upper room because they were afraid of the repercussions of being followers of Jesus. The door to that room was securely locked to keep them from being discovered by the religious leaders outside in the winding streets of Jerusalem.
So they were astonished when Jesus, suddenly and unannounced, appeared in the room and said, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). What an amazing moment! First, Jesus removed fear by speaking peace into their hearts and then gave them a divine calling. He was sending them on a journey, just as His Father had sent Him. This commission was intended to have the same purpose and authority that He had been given:
“As my Father has sent me to bring men and women out of darkness and into reconciliation with Him, I am now sending you. You are to be witnesses of this loving heavenly Father
who sent His Son into the world to die for the sins of mankind.” What an honour and a privilege God was bestowing upon
these people of such humble origin.
Then the second time Jesus appeared to His disciples was equally profound. John 20:24–29, relates how Jesus challenged Thomas to have faith. Thomas (the twin) had doubted the truth of the other disciples’ testimony, of having seen the resurrected Lord, and he openly announced that he would not believe their testimonies unless he could see some physical evidence.
In the same way, many Christians today want to live for God, but they want to see something tangible. Because of such a lack of faith, many people fly all over the world to see some sort of miracle. Christ’s appearance to Thomas, with the other disciples present, was significant because He challenged them to believe Him and His Word without having to see a sign. This same challenge is intended for us, as well. Christ’s message was simple: Don’t be faithless but believing.
The third time he met his disciples was over breakfast, we read:
“Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and swam ashore. The others stayed in the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only out about three hundred feet. When they got there, they saw that a charcoal fire was burning and fish were cooking over it, and there was bread. Jesus said: ‘Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,’ So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore.
There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. ‘Now come and have some breakfast!’ Jesus said. And no one dared ask him if he really was the Lord because they were sure of it. Then Jesus served them the bread and fish. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead” (John 21:7–14).
The apostle John recounted these three events to show God’s incredible love and persistence. The first two encounters should have been sufficient for the disciples to leave everything and do His bidding, but they had chosen to go fishing instead. Why had they not acted on His first and second meetings? What was it that they were not grasping about their commission? If the disciples did not respond to Christ’s calling after seeing Him resurrected and walking in their midst, then there is a strong possibility you and I may also choose to “go fishing” (do another or our own thing) instead of obeying the Spirit’s calling.
I believe the disciples went fishing because this was familiar territory; this was where many of them had grown up with.
We are all like this in some way or another. We would rather let others go to the mission field because we are just not comfortable with doing it ourselves. While in that boat on the lake they were neither moving forward nor backwards. They were essentially in a stagnant place and by their own testimony, after fishing all night, they had caught – nothing?
Jesus stood on the shore looking out at those He had already commissioned to be fishers of men. He called out, asking how they had fared, although He knew their all-night vigil on the
sea had produced nothing. Yet, here He was—calling,
loving, and supporting these men who had strayed
from His calling. What a gracious Saviour, so merciful and compassionate. He met them where they were, challenging them to have faith in Him. Beloved, He will also go after you and lovingly call you when you have strayed from His plan and purpose for your life. God doesn’t give up on His children.
These may have been simple men, but they were honest when He questioned them about their catch. So Jesus instructed them, “Cast the net on the right side.” In other words, “Hear my voice and do it the way I have called you to do it.” Many of us fail to do our work in “God’s Way”. We prefer to follow tradition, or experience, or the example of our Spiritual Fathers … any and every way but the right way? Miraculously, after doing it HIS WAY, their net was filled to capacity. But it was His voice that brought them hastening to shore. It was here that Jesus isolated Peter and began to speak into his life. In a sense, Peter represented the new fledgling church.
We see in Scripture that Jesus posed a very tender but poignant question to the one who had denied Him and had led the others out on a fruitless fishing expedition. Our influence on the lives of others can have far reaching effects. Our half-heartedness, our indecision, our lack of total surrender can rub off on others and as well as losing our own Harvest, we can cause them to lose theirs! We read on… “So that when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me
more than these?” (John 21:15).
Within earshot of them all, Jesus needed to root out issues of the heart that would have stopped Peter from fulfilling his calling. Theologians have tried to explain what was meant by the term “more than these.” Jesus obviously had pointed to something or someone in their immediate vicinity, but since the apostle John does not tell us exactly what it was, we can only speculate
about what Jesus was referring to.
I suggest that Jesus could have been referring to the 153 fish they caught, large fish that would bring good money in the open market. It was a bigger catch than they had ever caught and in reality it had come by the word spoken through Jesus. Their obedience had brought in an incredible harvest of personal wealth. There is no other way to describe it. To me this represents the resources that were within the reach of Peter and the disciples. We could say Jesus was asking Peter, “Do you
love me more than gaining personal wealth?”
As you walk with God, there will be an unveiling of His resources, not just spiritual but physical. You and I must choose if we are going to love Him more than the money or material resources that become available to us. “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus had asked. “Do you love me more than the prosperity that you might have because I have come
into your life?”
When you come to Christ, God gives you a new mind; a new heart; a new spirit; a new direction. He takes you out of your poverty and brings you into this incredible treasure that His presence always brings. But if you don’t love Him more than “these things,” you are going to get waylaid. Yes, money is necessary to buy clothes and food, and to pay the bills,
but you cannot love it more than Jesus. Then again…
Jesus may have pointed to the boats and nets, to the things of Peter’s trade that he thought would provide him security.
Jesus was openly asking Peter a question that challenged everyone listening to Him. “Do you love me more than your job security, your learned abilities, your idea of your purpose in life?” This was a pivotal question and if Peter could not say
yes to this, he would go back to being a simple fisherman.
It is true he would still have had the testimony of knowing Jesus, while strumming his guitar and singing the songs of Zion—and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if he had stayed home and not followed the Lord, he would have missed the opportunity of becoming one of the greatest apostles and writing two New Testament epistles which will remain for all eternity.
“Do you love me more than these?” I wonder if Jesus was pointing to all the disciples standing around. These were Peter’s lifelong friends who were willing to join him on his fishing venture, simply because he had said, “I am going fishing.”
Jesus could be asking Peter if he loved Him enough to let
his friends go their own way if they so chose.
Many young Christians do not make right choices in the early stages of their walk with the Lord. After committing their lives to Him, they do not cut all unhealthy ties and let go of worldly relationships. Eventually, they get drawn away from Christ and their passion for God wanes, leaving them dry and empty once more. Jesus was asking Peter to live solely for Him even if he lost all past or present associations.
When Peter quickly responds, “You know I love you.” Jesus
tells him, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15) In other words, feed the new believers with the understanding that coming to
Christ means letting go of worldly things.
Jesus was drawing out of Peter what was really in his heart,
“He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (John 21:16). You can sense the emphasis Jesus placed on Himself. Do you love me? Do you love my voice so much that I can speak into you? Will you follow my voice and my calling wherever it may lead you?
That is what Jesus asks of those who say they love Him. Are you willing to let Him lead you on a journey? A journey that when you get to the end, you will say, as the psalmist says, “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them” (Psalm 126:2). People will look at you and say, “Look what God has done.” That does not come to those who just sit in church. Jesus is asking us to follow Him on a journey that is deeper; a journey that is further than we can go in our own strength.
Then it gets really interesting. In verse 17, Jesus says again, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?” Why did Jesus ask Peter this third time if he loved Him? Perhaps Jesus was going after the image people had of who He was. Could they have created an image of Him that was not in conformity to who He was? If so, Jesus would have to remove that image, or the world would begin to believe this is what He looks like?
What kind of an image of God have we created in this generation? How are we representing God among men?
What is being presented to this generation when we say:
“This is what God looks like; this is what His people look like. This is what a people, empowered by the Holy Spirit look like.” Is it a true image of Christ?
In verse 12, when the disciples had landed their boat, Jesus asked them to come and dine with Him. They instinctively knew this was the Lord, but none of them dared to ask Him who He was. This is amazing! Jesus must have appeared as an ordinary-looking man. He did not look like the Jesus they had known.
You might think there should have been at least fifty angels
with Him, attending the now-resurrected Lord, or surely there had to be some kind of glow around Him, right?
But no, here He was, just an ordinary-looking person offering them breakfast on the shore. He was giving spiritual direction to fishermen whose efforts were fruitless and He was serving them, inviting them to be partakers of supernatural provision. The coals of fire, fish and bread had all come from the hand of God standing before them.
When Peter affirms his love for Him the third time, Jesus answers, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). In other words, “share with them (out there in the world) this supernatural
provision I have given you.”
And then Jesus says to Peter, “The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go. Jesus said this to let him know what kind of death he would die to glorify God. Then Jesus told him, ‘Follow me.’” (John 21:18-19).
Jesus was letting Peter see that he would be led into places that anyone in the natural world would rather not go. He was saying to Peter, “In order for this to happen, you are going to have to follow me. You are going to have to embrace and love the image of God that stands before you, that of an ordinary man,
a servant given for you, and calling you in like manner to
be given for others.”
Are you willing to follow this image of CHRIST? Are you willing to follow in the footsteps of Christ and be an ordinary person who is God-gripped in the heart by the Holy Spirit?
If you are, the love that you have for Jesus will send you out
to serve other people. To serve a lost world; to serve those whose efforts are bearing no fruits. As you serve others, you will be empowered by God to share with them from your supernatural provision and tell them so, “what God has done for you, He can do for them also.”
Now ask yourself again, “Do I love Jesus? Do I love that image of God?” If you do, then you will be able to say “I love you enough, Lord, to obey you in my lifestyle, and turn from sin and relationships with people who are not going your way. I love you enough, Jesus, to believe that you will provide for me. I love you enough to let you form your own image in my life. And even if it is never seen by men, as long as I know it is seen by God, that suffices. I will be satisfied to know that I walk with God and
God walks with me.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
Loving Jesus is expressed most in our loving relationships
and attitudes towards one another.
Show me a Church where there is love, and I will show you a Church that is a power for good in the community. The great D.L. Moody tells this story, that “In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sunday school he knew of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little guy still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of other Sunday Schools just as good … nearer his home. “They may be as good for others, but not for me,” was his reply.
“Why not?” she asked. “Because they love a boy over there,”
If only we could make the world believe that we loved them… there would be fewer empty Churches, and a smaller proportion of our population who never darken a Church door!
Let love; ( love for Christ and love for each other) replace duty
in our Church relations, and the world will soon be evangelised, and won for Jesus Christ.