Sermon: John 21:15-19 – Peter
Pentecost 2 - June 3, 2018 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
You all know that Jesus had twelve disciples. But how many of those disciples can you name? Or how much can you tell about any of their lives? We certainly can tell a lot about Peter. He was kind of the leader of the disciples. He was the one who denied knowing Jesus. We usually remember that Thomas doubted whether Jesus had risen from the dead. We certainly remember Judas the betrayer. But we might have some trouble remembering what more of the disciples did and said as they learned from Jesus.
Today we’re going to start a summer sermon series on the twelve apostles. It’s good for us to take a look at each one of these men because these are the very first men that Jesus chose to teach and to whom he first give the commission to proclaim the gospel to all nations. And a study of the twelve disciples reveals even more to us about Jesus and how he interacted with them, taught them, disciplined them, and loved them. That teaches us so much about how God deals with us as well.
We’re going to begin this sermon series by talking about Peter. We begin with Peter because Peter is always the first one mentioned in the list of the disciples. He was a kind of leader of the disciples, the one who usually spoke up first and took action first, although not always wisely.
Most important, we see clearly how Jesus dealt with Peter. Through Peter’s triumphant moments as well as through his horrific mistakes and spiritual falls Jesus patiently dealt with him. Even after denying Jesus three times we see in this text from John that Jesus forgave him and restored him as an apostle. Today we consider
PETER – A PRODUCT OF JESUS’ PATIENCE
Peter was not a Levitical priest, he wasn’t a theologian or some religious leader in Jerusalem. He was a fisherman in a little town called Capernaum on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The people of Jerusalem and Judea down in the south looked down a little bit on the people of Galilee as poor and rather uneducated. But it was in Galilee that Jesus really began his ministry. Jesus was raised in Nazareth a little farther west in Galilee but actually came to live in Capernaum and began his ministry there. And there in Galilee, in lowly Galilee, Jesus chose most of his disciples.
One of them was named Simon. When Jesus met Simon he said to him, “I’m going to call you Peter.” Peter was a word that meant “rock.” Simon, now called Peter or Simon Peter, was anything but rock solid. He would reveal his weaknesses many times. But Jesus saw something in him, something that would be tested and trained, disciplined and patiently developed. In the end Simon would become Peter, Peter the Rock.
Simon Peter learned very quickly that Jesus was far more than just a rabbi teaching in Capernaum and surrounding Galilee. Peter knew of Jesus. He had probably heard some of his preaching. Peter’s brother Andrew, who would also become a disciple, was the one who first told Peter about Jesus. Andrew even claimed that Jesus was the Messiah.
One day while Jesus was preaching he noticed two fishing boats pulled up on shore. The fishermen were cleaning their nets. Jesus got into the boat belonging to Simon Peter and told him to put out into the deep water and let down their nets for a catch of fish. Peter knew that fishing in deep water was not real productive, and he told Jesus that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. “But,” Peter said, “because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Peter respected Jesus and listened to him.
Well, you know how the story goes. They caught so many fish their nets began to break. When Peter got up on shore he fell down before Jesus and said, “Go away from, Lord; I am a sinful man!” This Jesus was more than a rabbi. Before this man of God who could do miracles Peter felt painfully aware of his shortcomings and sins. But Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” In those words were forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and patience. Peter would need all of that forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and patience many times in the coming years as he grew to become a fisher of men for the kingdom of God.
Peter would very easily prove himself to be the most outspoken one of the disciples. Once when a number of followers of Jesus chose to leave Jesus and not follow him anymore, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked, “Are you going to leave me too?” It was Peter who spoke up and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Another time when Jesus challenged his disciples to tell him who they really thought he was, it was Peter again who spoke first. And he spoke boldly and beautifully: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
But Peter’s quick words and actions sometimes were foolish and got him into trouble exposing his sinful weakness. He was the one who tried to walk on water to Jesus during a storm on the Sea of Galilee. He started all right but then began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus. Peter was the one who tried to defend Jesus from arrest in Gethsemane. He came swinging a sword into the crowd of soldiers presumably to kill or at least severely injure one of those who would arrest Jesus. This fisherman was no swordsman or soldier, or he just plain lost his courage and managed to only cut off the ear of a man named Malchus. Jesus sternly warned Peter to put away his sword.
And Simon Peter, the Rock, the foremost of the disciples, was the one ironically who would suffer the greatest rebuke that any disciple received from Jesus. It was right after Peter had boldly proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God that Jesus told the disciples it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die. It was Peter who took Jesus aside and rebuked him. “Don’t go to Jerusalem. You don’t want to die. Things are going very well for you.” Jesus turned to Peter with a look that Peter probably never forgot and said, “Get behind me Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” Peter didn’t understand yet that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die. His kingdom would not be established unless he suffered and died.
Peter, except for Judas the betrayer, would suffer the most severe spiritual failure of any of the disciples. We know well the story of how Peter who claimed that even if all the other disciples fell away from Jesus he would never fall away. Later that evening in fear for his life Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.
This account from John 21 is one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked with Peter there on the beach and three times asked Peter if he really loved him. Each time Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Feed my people with my word. But it was the third time that Jesus asked Peter if he loved him that Peter was hurt and stung. Three questions about love and loyalty because of three denials.
Jesus was not getting revenge on Peter. He was reinstating him as an apostle. He was finishing up his patient work in this man who could rise to the highest heights and fall to the deepest depths. Jesus didn’t give up on Peter. He called him to be his disciple. He taught him. He trained him. He turned him into the Rock.
What mercy from a forgiving God and Savior! That’s our God and Savior. Jesus did come to this world to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. To suffer and die to atone for our sins. Peter would one day write, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Through faith in Jesus we have forgiveness and salvation. Peter would also one day write, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Such forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and patience is evidence that God will deal graciously with us in this life. God doesn’t give up on us. Think of each time that Peter blundered. Jesus never said, “That’s it. I’m done with you. You’re beyond hope.” Consider in this text how Jesus came to Peter even after he had denied him three times. Jesus didn’t reject Peter or condemn him. He made sure he was ready to continue as an apostle.
Think of all the sins, all the spiritual weaknesses and failures of our lives. But here we sit today once again hearing about God’s forgiveness and mercy. His mercies are new every morning the scriptures say.
God keeps working with us to lead us to maturity. Jesus did turn Simon into the rock. From the fisherman Simon to Peter the preacher Jesus patiently trained Peter. Remember that it was Peter on that miraculous Pentecost who boldly stood up before the crowds of Jerusalem and preached about Christ crucified and risen.
Trust God, believe his word, and hear his word. He will use his word and his Spirit to patiently develop you to be the child of God he desires. He will use you as he desires.
The lessons of scripture regarding Peter really teach us more about Jesus and his patience, love, and compassion than it does about Peter. But that’s a good thing. Jesus is the Savior we need to know and trust. How forgiving, understanding, compassionate, and patient Jesus was to Peter. How forgiving, understanding, compassionate, and patient Jesus is with us.
Peter, the Rock, faithfully served Jesus as an apostle and gave up his life. Well founded history and tradition tell us Peter was crucified for his Christian faith in Rome. By his own request he was crucified upside down not feeling worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Savior. Then he went to be with the One who had called him be a fisher of men. Amen.