Where do we go from here? (end of Gospel of John series)

Good morning, Friends! I hope you’re all OK today!

Today we’re going to finish up the gospel of John. This is a project we’ve been working on since New Year’s, and I hope you’ve all been following it.

John is such an interesting gospel, and such an important one. John is where we learn the most about Jesus from the inside – what Jesus own feelings were.

John is also where we learn the most about Jesus’ identity – who he is, where he came from, what his purpose is.

John is where we read the great I AM sayings of Jesus – I AM the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life, the true vine.

John is filled with stories we don’t find in any of the other gospels – the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine, the woman Jesus met at the well, the other woman Jesus saved from stoning, the man Jesus healed by the pool at Bethesda, the man Jesus healed who was born blind.

The gospel of John is where we meet Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It’s where Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in the garden on Easter morning. It’s where we have whole chapters filled with Jesus’ prayers for us. It’s where Jesus tells us to wash each others’ feet.

It’s been quite a ride! And if you missed any of these wonderful stories, or if you want to go back, they’re all on the Springfield Friends web site, springfieldfriends.org.

John was the last of the gospels to be written down. There’s some speculation that the writer was the one they called the “beloved disciple” or “the disciple Jesus loved”.

He was the last living eyewitness among the disciples. And he wanted everyone to share in what he heard and saw.

Today, we’re almost at the very end. It’s weeks after the Resurrection. Jesus had appeared several times to his friends. Last week, we read the part where Peter and the others had gone fishing. They were out all night, and caught nothing. It was pretty discouraging.

Just about dawn, they saw Jesus on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him. He called out, “Did you catch anything?” and they shouted back, “No!” He called back, “Throw your net on the other side, kids! Try on the other side!”

And they did, and the net came up sagging full of fish. The disciple Jesus loved said, “It’s the Lord!” Peter jumped overboard and swam to be first.

That’s where we finished up last week. They all had breakfast, but nobody said anything. It was one of those holy moments, where words would be too much. It was almost like communion.
Here’s what happened next.

“When Jesus and the disciples had finished eating, Jesus spoke to Simon Peter. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered. “You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

Jesus spoke to him a third time. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter felt bad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He answered, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. What I’m about to tell you is true. When you were younger, you dressed yourself. You went wherever you wanted to go.

But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands. Someone else will dress you. Someone else will lead you where you do not want to go.”

Jesus said this to point out how Peter would die. His death would bring glory to God. Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter turned around. He saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following them. He was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the Last Supper. He was the one who had said, “Lord, who is going to hand you over to your enemies?”

When Peter saw that disciple, he asked, “Lord, what will happen to him?”

Jesus answered, “Suppose I want him to remain alive until I return. What does that matter to you? You must follow me.”

Because of what Jesus said, a spread among the believers. People said that the disciple Jesus loved wouldn’t die. But Jesus did not say he would not die. He only said, “Suppose I want him to remain alive until I return. What does that matter to you?”

This is the disciple who is a witness about these things. He also wrote them down. We know that what he says is true.

Jesus also did many other things. What if every one of them were written down? I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 21:15-25

Wow! That’s a lot to pack in to just a few verses.

The first part is where everybody’s full of breakfast and comfortable. And all of a sudden Jesus says, “Peter, do you love me?”And Peter says, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.”

Then Jesus asks Peter the same thing, a second time, and a third time. What’s going on here?

Well, back at the Last Supper, Peter had promised that he would never leave Jesus. But before the night was over, Peter had denied that he even knew the Lord.

He denied Jesus three times. He panicked. He said, “I’m not one of his disciples. I wasn’t there when you arrested him. I don’t even know the man!”

Can you imagine how that must have hurt Jesus? One of his closest friends, one of the first people Jesus had called, denying he even knew Jesus?

You know, if Jesus had been a lesser person, he would have been perfectly justified in cutting Peter dead. “You denied me – I’ll deny you. You’re no friend of mine!”

Jesus would have been perfectly justified in saying that. But he didn’t. Instead, he asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And each time, Jesus told Peter what he had to do.
“Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

It’s as though with each repetition, Jesus was erasing Peter’s denial. He was forgiving Peter for each time he denied him. Over and over, Jesus was saying, “You’re my friend. You’re forgiven. Now do what I told you.”

This story is all about the restoration of someone Jesus might not have ever wanted to see again. I mean, Judas betrayed Jesus. That was terrible. But Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Peter’s fear totally overcame his faith.

So, for each time that Peter denied Jesus, Jesus gave him another chance. For each time Peter said, “I don’t know this guy!”, Jesus said, “I love you.”

The other important thing about this story, is that it says that we can be forgiven.

So many times, I meet people who say, “Oh, I’ve done something terrible. God could never forgive me! I’m done for. God is never going to love me again!”

But look at this. If Jesus could forgive one of his best friends who denied even knowing him – don’t you think that he can forgive you? I mean, compared to what Peter did, anything we do is small potatoes. Nothing we have ever done is up there with Peter’s denial.

If Jesus can forgive Peter, and not just forgive him, but restore him – don’t you think that Jesus can forgive us? That’s the point of the story.

There are no sins, or failures, or mistakes, or breakdowns, that Jesus can’t forgive. Jesus doesn’t draw a line and say, “That’s it. You’re out!”

No. Jesus only asks, “Do you love me?” And if we say, “Yes,” then Jesus says, “Then here’s what you do. Get back on your feet. Go back to work. Look after my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

That’s it. Don’t let your mistakes destroy you. Don’t let your sins take away the rest of your life.

Jesus doesn’t hate you. Jesus doesn’t have it in for you. Jesus only wants to lift people up, not put them down. Come on, he’s the Savior, not the judge. He wants people to live, not die.
Jesus only wants us to follow him, not be cut off from him. Do you love him? Then come on back. You were forgiven a long time ago.

There’s still a little bit more to the end of John’s gospel.

First, there was a rumor, apparently because John or the beloved disciple was very old, that he wouldn’t die, before Jesus returned.

Jesus predicted that now Peter was restored, that he would be faithful for the rest of his life, and that like Jesus, he would die as a witness to his faith.

And he did. The tradition says that Peter was executed in Rome, many years later, after teaching and preaching everything he knew about Jesus.

But he said, “What about that other disciple? What about the beloved disciple, the one that’s so close to you? What about him?”

That’s a natural human tendency we have. Not, “What should I do to live my Christian faith?” but “What about that other person? What’s going to happen to them?”

Jesus said, “What’s that to you? You do your job. Follow me!”

And the very last part, is almost the part of John’s gospel that I love best. The writer says, “This is eyewitness testimony. It’s all true!”

But then the writer says, “There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were to be written down, I suppose that the world itself couldn’t contain all the books that would have to be written!”

There is so much more that’s going on. We only know a tiny piece of all the things that Jesus is doing.

The gospel is all that we need to know, for us to turn to God, and change our lives. We don’t need more information in order to make up our minds.

But Jesus is still alive! Jesus is lifting hearts, and opening eyes, and changing lives, in ways we can hardly imagine. The world isn’t big enough to hold all the stories of what Jesus is doing. He’s bigger than we are.

We have so much more to learn. And so many more things to do. When we follow Jesus, a whole new world opens up in front of us.

Thank you, Friends, for watching and listening to this. As I said, all these messages from John, and all of my other messages, are on the springfieldfriends.org web site.

May God bless you and keep you safe and faithful this week. Pray often, and open your eyes to what God is doing. We’re praying for you here. Please support us, and help everyone you can.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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