Friday, September 22, 2017
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
September 17, 2017, Second Reformed Church
From the shore of the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus calls out to the Seven to set them up for the sign He would give them, asking if they caught any fish.
After a long night on the sea, they caught nothing, but Jesus tells them to cast the net to the other side, and they immediately catch 153 large fish, and the net doesn’t break. The Stranger on the Shore shows His Sovereignty in sending the fish into their net and in keeping the net from breaking, and they recognize their physically risen Savior and God and come into shore.
Jesus provides breakfast for them, and they all eat breakfast together.
After they finish breakfast, Jesus forgives Peter for denying Him.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”
Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the other disciples.
Why would Jesus ask that?
We need to remember a passage about what happens after the Last Supper to understand why Jesus asks this:
“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter answered him, ‘Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!’ And all the disciples said the same” (Matthew 26:30-35, ESV).
Jesus says that they will fulfill the prophecy and all scatter when He is taken into captivity. But Peter pridefully states that no matter what anyone else did – no matter how weak and fearful they all might be – he would never fall away, he would never be scattered, he would never deny Jesus.
So now, as Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than all the others, Jesus is asking if Peter has humbled himself. Has he understood his place in the history of salvation? Or would he still claim to be better, stronger, more able than the rest.
And we notice that Peter never answers the question. And in that we can assume that he is struck to the heart and repents of his pride and arrogance.
But Jesus continues, and we know why – Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny Him three times – despite his protesting – and they will occur before the rooster crows:
“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. (John 18:15-18, ESV).
“Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘You also are not one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed” (John 18:25-27, ESV).
Just as Jesus prophesies, Peter denies Jesus three times and the rooster crows. So now, Jesus takes the opportunity to publically forgive Peter, reinstate him, and to make a point about the work that Jesus is calling Peter to. Jesus forgives each of the three denials individually, as He asks Peter three times if He loves Him, and commands him to his work.
Again, the first time, Jesus asks if Peter loves Him more than the other disciples – pointing back to Peter’s rash claim of superiority. But Peter doesn’t respond to the issue of loving Jesus more than the others – he gets the point. Instead, he submissive responds, “Yes, Lord, you know I love You.”
Jesus responds as He asks the question again and again and Peter responds again and again, by commanding Peter to do something slightly different each time in response.
First, Jesus tells Peter to “feed my lambs.”
Commentators explain that what Jesus is commanding here – using the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and those who believe being His flock – is for Peter to guide those believers who are weak and immature (cf. Hendriksen, John, 488).
Then, “tend my sheep.”
That is, Jesus commands Peter to faithfully teach those who are prone to wander away.
And then, as Jesus asks Peter the third time if he loves Him, and Peter cries out in strong repentance, proclaiming the Sovereign Omniscience of Jesus, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.”
Therefore, “feed my sheep.”
Jesus commands Peter to prepare those who need spiritual nourishment for spiritual warfare.
In response to Peter confessing that he loves Jesus – that he repents of his sin of thrice denying Jesus, Jesus calls him and commands him as a pastor – a minister – an apostle – to care for the believers by teaching them everything that the Word of God says, by helping them discern between true and false teachers, and by equipping them to answer those who argue against the claims of the Word of God.
Jesus receives Peter’s faith and repentance, and calls him as a minister of the Gospel – the Word of God – to care for the people of God in every way – but especially in making sure that they understand, believe, and can defend their faith.
That is what ministers are to do today.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV).
Minsters are to equip all other believers so all the other believers – primarily – will do the work of the ministry.
We don’t have time to flesh this out today, but understand that Jesus is calling Peter to the same ministry that all pastors – ministers – are called to today.
What we want to see is that Peter is forgiven for a very grave sin – he denied knowing Jesus – three times. And Jesus forgives him because he truly repents of his sin, and Jesus has a plan for him to minister to the people of God.
Second, Jesus prophesies how Peter will die, and commands him to follow.
“’Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call” (The Cost of Discipleship, 99).
Jesus tells Peter that he will be put to death for the Gospel. When he was a young man, he did what he wanted, but when he became an old man – some thirty years after Jesus says this – Peter will be taken. He will be crucified and killed for his faith – for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ – for never again denying that he knows Jesus. (The phrase “stretch out your hands” was commonly used at the time to indicate crucifixion.)
And we see that this is what happens, as two record:
Eusebius writes, “But Peter seems to have preached in Pontus and Galatia and Bithynia and Cappadocia and Asia, to the Jews of the Dispersion, and at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head downward, for so he himself had asked to suffer.”
And Tertullian writes, “At Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood this rising faith. Then is Peter girt by another when he is made fast to the cross” (Hendriksen, John, 490).
After telling Peter this, Jesus commands him to follow – to do the work God has given him, to obey all that God has set before him, for the sake of the cross and to the Glory of God.
And he does.
What are we to do with this history?
First, we are to believe with all our being that we are forgiven in Jesus.
John tells us, “We love because [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19, ESV).
Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13, ESV).
And again, John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, ESV).
Brothers and sisters, God loves us and sent Jesus Christ, His Only Son – Who loves His brothers and sisters so much that He died for us to make us right with God. And when we sin now, God bids us to run quickly to Him, because Jesus is seated at His side – as our advocate – our lawyer – to plead our case – because Jesus has already paid our debt. If we confess our sins to God, we are forgiven.
Peter was forgiven for denying Jesus three times, and you can be forgiven for your sin – just ask Him – He will forgive you. If you truly desire to be forgiven – Jesus paid the debt and will forgive you, just like He forgave Peter.
Come to Jesus; focus on the love of God. He forgives us.
Second, if we love Jesus, we are to follow Him.
John writes, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:1-5, ESV).
Brothers and sisters, we have not been left alone. The Father bids us to come into His throne room. We commune with Jesus and He advocates for us. God the Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us and empowers us to follow God’s will. And what God has commanded us to do is not burdensome – it is not a pain in the neck. When we do what God commands us to do, we are filled with joy. Even when we suffer for the Gospel – even if we are put to death. We will be filled with joy, because we know that God is with us and death only brings us into glory with Him!
And when the devil whispers in your ear and encourages you to deny Jesus – when the devil tells you that one sin won’t matter – that it will make you feel good and make you happy – remind him that he was cast out of Heaven – he is a fallen creature, doomed to eternal suffering in Hell. He is a liar and not worthy of our obedience.
No, if we love Jesus – do you love Jesus? – He forgives us and calls us to follow Him – to do what will be good and joyful for us.
Do you love Jesus? Has He forgiven you? Then show your love by doing what He commands – ask the Holy Spirit to keep you from sinning. Repent and follow Jesus anew. He loves you – He loves me.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, what wondrous love is this that You sent Your Son to live and die for us that our sins would be forgiven and we would be reconciled to You. Thank You for the history of Peter and for Jesus’ public forgiveness of him and Jesus’ command to him to follow and obey. May we be so awed by what You have done that we would believe and experience joy in obedience – in following after You – day after day. Lord, help us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
September 10, 2017, Second Reformed Church
We saw John reflect on Jesus’ words to Thomas that those who do not see Him in the flesh and believe savingly in Him based on the witness of the Word of God – and the working of God the Holy Spirit in them – are blessed. And John explains that not everything Jesus did – by a long shot – is recorded in his gospel. John records the signs he does so those who read his gospel would be convicted and believe that the signs presented in the Gospel can only be understood to mean that Jesus is the Christ – He is the Messiah – He is the Promised Savior, and Jesus is God, the One True God, come to earth in a real human, and the Only Salvation is to believe in and receive the truth of Who Jesus is and the work that He accomplished in history to save all those who will ever believe in Him.
John then returns to the history and narrates what happens the third time that Jesus appears to His disciples after His physical resurrection.
And we see, first, God created humans to work.
“After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”
Jesus appears a second time to the Eleven – now with Thomas in their midst – and proves again His physical Resurrection to them, and then Luke records:
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:44-49, ESV).
Jesus removes the veil from the Eleven and allows them to understand the Scriptures and that they say that the Savior has to suffer and die and rise on the third day for the salvation of His people. They now understand everything that happened. And Jesus tells them to wait in the city for the “promise of my Father upon you…power from on high” – that is, the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus tells them that they are going to bear witness to the Gospel throughout the whole world, proclaiming the Name of Jesus as the Only Name by which people may be saved, but they are not to start until God the Holy Spirit indwells them and empowers them to do this work. They are to wait.
Jesus doesn’t tell them how long they have to wait. We know they had to wait fifty days. What were they to do? Sit in front of their TVs and wait for Jesus to return?
Peter, never bring the shy one of the Eleven, said, “OK, I going fishing – I’m going back to work until Jesus returns.” And six others joined him.
The commentators take various views of Peter going back to fishing, but we shouldn’t think that he has done something wrong – he has not.
Moses tells us that God created Adam from the dust, and then: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, ESV).
God did not create us to stand around looking pretty.
Why did God create us?
God created humans to bring glory to Him – to show how great He is. And one of the ways we do that is by taking care of the Creation – by working – by tending the Garden – by doing whatever it is that God has given us the gifts and inclination to do to provide for ourselves and those in our care and to give some away in thanks. God gives us work to reflect His Image as Creator, Caretaker, and Provider.
Some twenty years after Peter says, “I’m going fishing,” Paul has to correct some of the Christians at the Church in Thessalonica, who are sitting in front of their TVs, refusing to work, and gossiping about their neighbors, because they are waiting for Jesus to return – they are waiting for the Second Coming.
Jesus says He will return “soon,” but we know that “with the Lord, a thousand years are like a day, and a day like a thousand years.” What is a thousand years or a day to the Eternal and Everlasting God Who exists beyond and outside of time – always and forever – (whatever that means)?
Some of the Christians in Thessalonica thought that since Jesus is going to return soon, there is no reason to go to work. They told their bosses off – quit their jobs – and waited for Jesus – while they talked about the awful things “those people” were doing.
Paul writes, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, ESV).
Of course there are people who are unable to work, and the church is instructed on how to provide for them, and we have systems in our country that provide for them, as well. But most people can and should be working.
And all believers, whether we are working in a paid job or not, are to be using our gifts in the church: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV).
Peter, and the six who went fishing with him, did the right thing. While they waiting for God the Holy Spirit to come, they worked their jobs to make money – to pay their bills and help those in need and thank God through their giving to the work of the Church.
So they went out on the sea and fished all night – using all their years of skill as professional fishermen – and they caught nothing. Nothing.
God sovereignly kept them from catching a single fish to prepare them for what would happen.
Second, God Sovereignly owns everything and distributes from His storehouse as He wills.
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.”
After fishing all night and catching nothing, the Seven begin to return to shore. They are about a hundred yards off the shore when Someone – we are told that Jesus has appeared on the shore, but they can’t tell it’s Him – calls out to them in a loving, fatherly way, “Children, do you have any fish?”
Calling them “children” is not an insult, but a loving term – just as when John calls Christians, “little children” in his letters.
“No.” They hadn’t caught any fish – after a full night of toiling on the sea.
Jesus does not ask them if they have any fish because He doesn’t know. Jesus knows they haven’t caught any fish. That was God’s Will, so a point could be made.
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”
We might think Peter would yell back, “Look, Mister, don’t you think we know how to fish? We have been at this our whole lives; we know what we’re doing.” But he doesn’t.
For whatever reason, they were moved to do as the Stranger on the shore suggested – and the cast the net on the right side of the boat.
Immediately, 153 fish jump into the net, and they are too heavy to haul into the boat. God Sovereignly calls the fish into the net and sustains the net so it will not break.
John, who understands things faster than the rest says, “It’s the Lord!” And Peter, who never finds a leap too far to jump, puts his clothes on, jumps into the sea, and swims for Jesus, while the rest of the Seven sail the boat to shore.
What just happened?
Jesus shows the Seven that He is the Creator and Owner of all of Creation, and He distributes what He owns to be stewarded as He wills. Every fish they ever caught was God’s Will for them to catch, and every fish they did not catch was God’s Will for them not to catch. God is Sovereign over the distribution of all that He owns.
That means we need to recognize that everything in existence belongs to God. Everything we have is only given to us by God on loan to be used in a way that glorifies God.
Yes, Peter was a trained fisherman with many years of experience, but the only fish that he ever caught were those that God sent and allowed Peter to catch.
In whatever job you work in, even though you do the work you are called and employed to do, you only receive the paycheck that God wants you to receive, you only receive the benefits that God wants you to receive, you do not receive anything that God forbids you to have.
That means we have a duty to be thankful to God for all that we have – even what we work for – and to recognize His ownership and control over all of Creation – using and giving what He has given us in a way that pleases Him.
Do we receive our paycheck, or social security check, or pension check – whatever – and pray, thanking God for it and asking God what we should do with it? Do we seek God’s guidance for how to use what He has given us to use for His glory? Do we pray that our use of God’s property would please Him? Do we consider what God thinks when we waste what He has given us and use it for sin?
Our God and Savior – the God we worship and serve – is the God Who owns everything and lovingly gives to His children.
Malachi records God’s promise to Israel, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10, ESV).
James, the brother of Jesus writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17.ESV).
I’ve mentioned before, I had a friend who was ranting to me about how she had nothing to be thankful for, and when I questioned her on it, she said that everything she had she earned – that no one ever gave her anything – therefore she had no need to be thankful to anyone.
Beloved, everything you have and everything I have we have received as gifts – one way of another – from the Hand of our Loving Father. Let’s not forget that, but be thankful.
Third, God provides for our daily needs.
“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
The Seven arrive on the shore, and Jesus is making them breakfast – fish and chips after a fashion – cooking over a charcoal fire. Jesus invites them to bring some of their fish, and Peter drags the 153 fish in the net onto the shore. And Jesus invites them to eat breakfast. And they join Him without asking any questions.
This is Jesus, their Lord and Savior, Who just physically rose from the dead, and here He is again, making them breakfast and eating with them. Ghosts don’t eat. Jesus is physically alive.
Why did Jesus make them breakfast?
Certainly to show – once again – that He is a real physical human being raised from the dead – alive! But something else, don’t we suppose?
Imagine, if you will, seven men on a boat on the sea all night long, using every strategy they know to catch fish, but coming up empty. Forlorn, they sail into shore and are met by their God and Savior Who tells them to cast their net again, and they pull in the incredible – and heavy – load of 153 fish, which they drag to shore. What might these men need at this moment?
Suppose you work a long day – a frustrating day – and you get home, what might you need? (Besides a drink – I knew someone would say that!) What would satisfy you?
Perhaps a meal?
Jesus instructs us to pray for what we need for this day: “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11, ESV). “Father, give us what we need to be the man or the woman You would have us be this day.”
Again, Jesus teaches:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“’Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25-34, ESV).
God will provide everything we need for today – that’s why He tells us to ask Him for what we need for this day – so we will know it comes from Him and that He loves to provide it for us.
Now, we may not receive everything we want or even what we think we need, but God, Who knows everything and knows what is best for us, will give us what He knows we truly need this day to bear His Image to the world and spread His Gospel.
So, let us remember that working – earning an income – is a good and God-honoring thing to do – and we ought to be thankful and use what we receive in prayer.
And let us recognize that everything belongs to God and He sovereignly distributes His property as He wills, and He provides for our daily needs.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, our Loving Father, we thank You that we can come to You as Your children and ask for what we need each day. Thank You for sending Your Son to invite us to pray for our needs and for promising that You will fill them. Help us to recognize Your ownership of all things. Cause us to be thankful and to seek to please You with how we use all that You have given us: the air we breathe, our bodies and souls, our clothes, our homes, this church building, food and drink – everything we know in all of existence. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.