Sermon for Sunday, November 15th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Pro 22:1-6 ESV] 1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. 2 The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the Maker of them all. 3 The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. 4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. 5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them. 6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
New Testament reading:
[1Ti 5:1-8 ESV] 1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
[Jhn 20:30 – 21:1-25 ESV]
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 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. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 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. 7 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. 8 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. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 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. 12 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. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 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.” 16 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.” 17 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. 18 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.” 19 (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.” 20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
I mentioned last week that we might have a trilogy of sermons on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ. This now is the third in the series, as we come to the final chapter in John’s Gospel and “Jesus Third Appearance” to his disciples.
And we always must remember that John was written after the other Gospels, and so when we don’t have a recorded Ascension of Christ to heaven it is because John did not need to that which had already been told in the other gospels.
So we conclude John’s Gospel with Jesus’s Third Appearance to his disciples.
First, however, I want to look at these bookend statements in our reading.
[Jhn 20:30-31 ESV] 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
This is the purpose statement of John’s Gospel. One of the most explicit purpose statements in the whole Bible. You wrote so that you may believe, and believing you may have eternal life. And this belief has a very specific referent. It is believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Nothing less will suffice. Believing in God is not enough, for even the demons believe and tremble. (James 2:19)
We must believe in Jesus Christ. If one point is to be gathered for my year and a half sermon series on John’s Gospel – it is this: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have faith in Him and the promise of eternal life he won for his people on the cross and proclaimed through his resurrection. Believe in Jesus Christ.
The other bookend of our passage today is at the very end of the book itself:
[Jhn 21:24-25 ESV] 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Now you should see why these are bookends, or even mirrored statements. They both say not everything Jesus did is written here. This is merely SOME of what happened in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it is fascinating to think that perhaps someday in heaven we will learn more of the story, and see the glory of Christ even more fully. There are many things, John says, which are not written in this book, and he says, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Now that is a library to envy.
I’ve been in some neat libraries. They are about my favorite places. Quiet. Full of books. Good smells. Two libraries I’ve been to in particular come into my mind. One is at the Biltmore estate outside of Asheville, North Carolina where the billionaire George Vanderbilt amassed a library that hold 22,000 volumes, many rare and valuable. And then I once saw the library at Trinity College in Dublin Ireland which has not only books, but stone busts of the “great men” and a priceless illuminated manuscript, the beautifully colored Book of Kells, which is of the four gospels and over a thousand years old.
But even these great libraries cannot contain all of that which Jesus accomplished. Even Google Books is too small.
But the Apostle, inspired of the Holy Spirit, did include for us one final story of Jesus; his third post-resurrection appearance to the disciples.
And in this account, we have emphasis on both “Fish” and “Sheep.”
We find Jesus appearing now to his disciples, not in Jerusalem but in Galilee. And I’ve mentioned the profound change that the resurrection had on the disciples, that they ultimately left their old professions and went out to become fishers of men. But here we find them fishing. And it would be too far to say that what they are doing is wrong. The text says nothing about their fishing for fish sidetracking them from fishing for men. It is merely what they do. They are fishermen and they’ve gone back to get some food and make some money.
And as they are fishing Jesus appears on the shore and asks them “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” And they caught 153 fish.
In the process of this dialogue the disciples recognize that it is Jesus that is speaking to them. And we have Jesus eating with them, showing that he is not just a spirit but is truly resurrected in the flesh.
But what is the point of this story? That is, is there some meaning behind the facts of the story?
Well, we should at least look at this application:
Application: In our ineffectual toil, we have good reason to acknowledge the goodness of the Lord.
The disciples worked all day without catching any fish. But then Jesus made it such that they caught 153 fish! This was certainly not a coincidence, but a miracle. And it shows us that the post-resurrected Jesus still can command miracles. And it shows us that the Lord often has us working hard, with little to no result, so that we can see His goodness when success comes about. For it was not the disciples work that brought success, but it was the Lord’s work that brought success.
And this will apply to their missions work as well. Many will come to believe in Jesus Christ. And the disciples will spread the message of the Gospel. But it is only because of the work of God that people do believe. Without the work of God, the disciples would be casting their nets fruitlessly. All depends on God for success. So too in our lives. We are called to work, even to toil, but success is in the hands of the Lord, so that we praise Him (and not ourselves) in that success.
Next, in this same appearance of Christ, the talk transitions from fish to sheep.
Because Simon Peter had three times denied the Lord, Jesus now asks him three times “Do you love me?”
And with each affirmative — “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” — Jesus commands Peter:
1. Feed my lambs
2. Tend my sheep
3. Feed my sheep
All of this refers to the same flock of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The lambs, the sheep are the people of God, prone to wander and needing guidance.
The keys of the kingdom had been given to the disciples. That is the authority they have, but now comes the responsibility.
APPLICATION: With all authority there is responsibility.
Parents have authority over their children, but responsibility to raise them.
Employers have authority over their employees, but responsibility for them to have a safe workplace
Magistrates have authority over their citizens, but responsibility to deal with all people justly.
and ministers and elders are responsible to feed the flock of those over whom they have spiritual authority.
Things go poorly when authority dominates responsibility. Leaderships dissolves into tyranny. So Jesus leaves his disciples with that message of responsibility.
The disciples are to be servants, not tyrants. Pastors, not Popes.
But responsibility could dominate authority when the party supposed to be subservient isn’t subservient. Consider, for example, spoiled children. The parents do everything for them. The parents are responsibility, but they are not properly exercising their authority if the child runs the house.
As I conclude this sermon, I conclude this series on John Gospel which I started on May 5, 2019, the third week I preached here.
As John says “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did” which John didn’t write on, so I there are many things on John’s Gospel that could be said that I haven’t preached on. But we have seen a detailed outline of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And through all of it we are called to have faith in him who truly lived, truly died, and truly rose again. He who was, who is, and who is to come. Blessed be the Lord. Amen.