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Apr 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Easter 2011

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. John 21:7 (read Jn. 21:1-9)

INTRO: For many years, archeologists in the mid-east have been digging up mugs and cups with inscriptions on them

One frequent inscription in particular from the first century has captured the attention of biblical scholars
– four Greek words are inscribed on it that read, “Rejoice, that’s why you’re here”
(at least on scholar translated it as a question, “Why are you here? Rejoice!”)
– perhaps it was intended as a blessing or a first-century toast

What’s so special about these four Greek words?
– the same phrase is found in Matthew’s gospel (the Greek translation of Jesus’ response to Judas when he identified the Lord with a kiss)

Instead of: Rejoice, that is why you are here
Jesus said: Friend, this is why you are here

– so with the exception of one word, Jesus’ statement is identical to the inscription commonly found on drinking vessels

Some translators read the phrase as a statement and others as an imperative, “Friend, do what you have come for” (Mt. 26:48-50)
– that is because the phrase, in Jesus’ context, is missing something
– this incompleteness lends credibility to the idea that Jesus was using a well-known quotation

If Jesus did intentionally quote a familiar saying, it adds a layer of meaning to this dramatic encounter

A few verses prior to this moment, Jesus had passed a cup to his disciples and said,
Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins (Mt. 26:26)

Then, soon afterward, he prayed,
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will but as You will. (And again,) My father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done. (Mt. 26:39, 42)

Jesus remained mindful of the cup he had to drink
– he knew that Judas, who dipped bread in the same bowl as the Lord, also had a bitter cup to drink that night
– if Jesus was using the quote from a cup, it would add a sense of tenderness and compassion to their last meeting

After the resurrection, certain people had significant individual encounters with Jesus

Judas was not going to be around for that, so he had his significant moment in the garden

Individuals who encountered the risen Jesus include:

  • Mary Magdalene – she needed reassurance
  • Thomas – he needed proof
  • The two disciples on the road to Emmaus – they needed enlightenment, to have their eyes opened
  • Peter – he needed forgiveness and reconciliation
    – that is what we find in John 21, it is the main theme of this chapter and one of most beautiful and comforting stories in the Bible

Simon Peter gets the plot moving, with his, “I am going fishing”

With only one exception, he is “Simon Peter” from verse 2 until verse 17
– this closes a circle for Peter that began in chapter 1
– when Peter first the Lord, Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter) (Jn. 1:42)
– he came to Jesus as “Simon the son of John,” but from Jesus he learned his true identity

But now, in their last encounter, Jesus is calling him “Simon, son of John” (vv. 15, 16, 17)
– it is as if Jesus were testing him, “Are you going back to that old self? Simon the son of John, Simon the fisherman?”
– and the test is a test of love, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?

But in v. 17, when John describes Peter’s reaction to Jesus asking the same question for the third time, “Simon” is dropped and it is “Peter” that “was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?'”
– Peter finally rises to his true self; but he first had to be broken to get there

The breaking is necessary because we hang on to the false self even though it is damaged and constantly creates problems for us
– we’re attached to the old self; afraid that without it we will disappear
– Peter had to learn he wasn’t as brave and loyal as he thought
When stripped of his illusions, defenses, and ego, he was ultimately reduced to one raw piece of information
– he knew, and he was certain the Lord knew, that he loved Jesus
In that one core truth, he found his true identity
– it was the love of Jesus for Peter and Peter’s love for Jesus that defined him, that made him the Rock

Right at the end John showed up (Jn. 21:20-24) 

Peter and John make for an interesting comparison in the last few chapters of John, from the Last Supper to the end
– in each episode, their personalities emerge and we can see certain characteristics that are typical of them

  1. 13:23-25, The Last Supper – John was leaning against Jesus’ chest
    – Peter gestured to him, “Get Jesus to give-up the betrayer”
  2. 18:15-17, After Jesus’ arrest – John gets Peter into the courtyard where Jesus was being interrogated
    – Peter gets noticed, whereas John turns invisible
  3. 18:27, The last time we see Peter before the resurrection, “Peter then denied him again, and immediately a rooster crowed”
    19:26-27 The last time we see John is at the foot of Jesus’ cross
  4. 20:4-8, running to the tomb, John was faster that Peter and arrived first
    – but he hesitated and stopped at entrance
    – when Peter arrived, he rushed inside
    – however, when John followed Peter in, “he saw and believed
  5. 21:7-8, When they were on the lake, a stranger on the shore told them to throw net on right side of their boat and when they threw the net into water again, it filled with so many fish they could not hoist it into the boat
    – at that moment, John recognized Jesus, “It is the Lord,” while Peter, having thrown the net into the sea, now “threw himself into the sea”

Through these incidents
– John is quiet, observant and contemplative
– Peter is dynamic, impulsive and action-oriented
(for now, file this information – we’ll come back to it)

There’s a consistent pattern when people meet Jesus after the resurrection

They don’t recognize him at first (for example, v. 4)
– perhaps that is because:

  • they were so mentally unprepared for the resurrection
  • they were too preoccupied with their grief shattered hopes, as were the two disciples on the road to Emmaus
  • or maybe it was the nature of Jesus in how appeared to people after the resurrection
    – he is still Jesus, yet somehow different
    – he can be present, but unrecognized

The most difficult part of having this life with God, is as Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7)
– we enter each day knowing we won’t run into Jesus physically
– it is like the parables of the land owner and the master who were gone on a long journey or for a long time (Mt. 21:33; 25:14-19)
In the Lord’s absence, we have to go on believing and doing what is right

But that isn’t entirely accurate – it only seems like Jesus is not here
– his last words in Matthew are, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
The fact is, we do run into Jesus physically
– in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus predicted the separation of the righteous and the wicked at the final judgment
– the righteous are welcomed into eternal life for the kindness they showed Jesus
– the wicked are turned away for not showing compassion to Jesus
He was always there, but unrecognized – even the righteous had not recognized him, for they asked,

Lord,  when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You somethig to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked , and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me”

One of the goals of Christian spirituality is to develop sensitivity and discernment in recognizing Jesus everywhere that he appears
– until we perfect this skill, the safest strategy may be to treat all people we meet who are in need of something we can provide as if they were Jesus

On the lake, it was John–the contemplative–who recognized Jesus
– this is not surprising, for he had come to know Jesus differently than the others

  • they needed physical identifiers (20:20), whereas John knew Jesus in a way that was more than skin deep
    – perhaps that is why he was able to believe when he entered the tomb
    – Thomas, however, could not believe until he saw the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side
  • John knew him through laying his head against Jesus’ chest
  • John knew him through standing at the foot of his cross

The contemplative is the one who spends time with his head against the Lord’s heart
The contemplative is the one who sees Jesus, recognizes him, and points him out to others

CONC: The first message the church preached was Jesus’ resurrection

. . . this man . . . you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power (Acts 2:24)

Jesus’ resurrection is the germ of our spiritual life in God
– it is a quality of life we enjoy now–a life that is both abundant and eternal

I am going to close with a paragraph or two from one of my meditations in the book of Acts this last week

    By some technology known only to God, a trace of my DNA will be preserved when I die and it will be used like a seed from which God will cause my resurrected body to be formed and fashioned. But in saying this, even though I derive this notion from scripture (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:35-49), I have already said more than I know. So I will retreat to those basic facts of which I am certain. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Life and therefore “it was impossible for Him to be held” in death’s power (Acts 2:24).
   Life won!
   Life was too powerful to be lost in death. And because Jesus lives, we will live too.
   Like the poet who wrote Psalm 118, we too can declare,

I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the LORD.
. . .
Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
The righteous will enter through it.
I will give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation
(Ps. 118:17-21)

“Just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we will also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:49). Until then, we live in life and life lives in us.

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