Jesus The Merciful Shepherd


Sermon Notes and Audio

Scripture Focus- John 21

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Mercy is defined as compassionate forbearance shown toward an offender. When we receive mercy, it means even though we deserve punishment, we don’t receive it. We are blessed instead. This is how God deals with us when we look to Him. All of us have found ourselves in need of God’s mercy. Who among us has not failed God, or not lived up to our faith and commitment to Jesus??

Jesus predicted His disciple Peter would deny Him. Peter told Jesus even if everyone fell away he never would. Jesus said, I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times. Peter said, even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you. All the other disciples said the same.  After Jesus was betrayed and arrested Peter followed closely behind.

Just as predicted, three times Peter denied that he knew Jesus. The first denial was to a servant girl (Luke 22). Woman, I don’t know Him. The second denial was to the same girl (Mark 14). She said, this fellow is one of them. Again Peter denied it. The third time was to a number of people and this time he cursed. After the third time the Lord looked straight at Peter. Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken and he went outside and wept bitterly.

The account of Peter’s denial of Jesus is given to us as a reminder, a warning, and a promise.

There’s a reminder of the sinfulness of every child of God and of the Shepherd who extends mercy toward those who fail Him.

There’s a warning to take heed lest we fall.

There’s a promise that when we fall, God will forgive if we turn back to Him, and use us again for His glory.

What led up to Peter failing God?

Peter believed in his own commitment more than he believed Jesus (22:31-33). Peter believed he was more committed than the other disciples.

Peter was blind to his own pride and self-confidence. Alexander Maclaren- “Over-reliance on self leads us to put ourselves in the way of temptations which it were wiser to avoid.” (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], Luke 13-24, p. 267).

Peter was under attack from Satan. Satan had asked permission to sift Peter like wheat, and Jesus warned Peter of it. Peter would write later on- Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Failure, mercy, and restoration are before us today in John 21. After the resurrection, as Jesus said to do, the disciples had traveled eighty miles north to Galilee to sort things out in the wind, waters, and sky.

What does Jesus the Merciful Shepherd, expect from His sheep?

First- Jesus expects faith.

The majority of the disciples were together and Peter said- I’m going fishing. Literally- I go a fishing- maybe Peter was really Appalachian!  The others said we are going with you. So they went out in the boat, and caught nothing. Sounds like most of the fishing trips in my life. As believers, we are in the same boat, on the same waters. The present age is one of darkness, and the weather is often stormy. Everybody in the boat is supposed to be fishing and casting and recasting our nets.

Jesus made a powerful post-resurrection appearance to His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee. The designation of Tiberias is used only by John in his Gospel. Daybreak came, and Jesus was standing on the shore, but they did not know it was Jesus; it is early morning and maybe a bit foggy or misty.

Jesus said men (friends, little children), you don’t have any fish do you? No, they answered. Cast the net on the right hand side of the boat and you’ll find some. So they did, and were unable to haul it in because the number of fish.

This took faith to believe what was said to them. Many times we miss out on the blessing from God, because we fail to trust Him when He says to do something. The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter- It is the Lord! Peter tied his outer garment around him and plunged into the sea and apparently swam to Jesus. This is typical of his impulsive nature, he was the first one to run into the tomb. I’ve always appreciated the ability of Peter to make a decision. The problem is they were not always good ones. The rest of the disciples came to shore on the boat dragging the net full of fish. They got out of the boat, saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Breakfast is ready! They hauled the net ashore- full of large fish- 153 of them. Much has been made of the significance of the number of fish that they caught- 153. You know what the significance is? There were 153 fish in the net. That’s it. It was a haul! They were so big the net was torn from being overloaded.

Faith is defined as belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something. Hebrews 11:1 Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is such a big deal, because without faith, it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6

As believers, the most faith-focused words ever spoken may have been- I have caught nothing. Christianity, from Golgotha onwards, has been the sanctification of failure. Fundamental to faith is honesty about ourselves, honesty about our situation, and trust in God.

Second- Jesus expects obedience.

For a second time in this passage, Jesus is referred to as Lord.

The disciple whom Jesus loved said- It is the Lord! V7

Jesus told them to come and have breakfast. V12 None of the disciples dared ask Him, Who are You? Because they knew it was the Lord.

Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after He was raised from the dead. The first time without Thomas, the second time with Thomas and the third time with all of the disciples.

The designation of Jesus as Lord points to His authority, control, and power. In Jesus’ day, the title “lord” was used to honor or respect someone. Post-resurrection, saying Jesus is Lord, was a declaration of who He was, God in the flesh.

Thomas said, My Lord and my God! From then on when they said, Jesus is Lord, they meant Jesus is God. Peter’s sermon theme on the Day of Pentecost- Let all Israel be assured of this- God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36). In Cornelius’ house in Acts 10:36 Peter said Jesus is Lord of all. Paul wrote in Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Jesus as Lord is linked to the power of the resurrection. Jesus is Lord, and He is the Lord of lords.

When we say Jesus is Lord, we are making a commitment to obedience. Jesus said, Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46

Because Jesus is Lord, He has the right to tell us what to do. Now, a primary obligation of the church in the world is fishing for men, or evangelism. This is not what the disciples had in mind that night, but it is something John wants us to see.

There was a fishing miracle three years earlier when Jesus said, Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Mark 1:17)

In obedience to Jesus we are to fish for men and seek the lost. In obedience to Jesus we are to work hard. In obedience to Jesus we are completely dependent on Him. We can do nothing on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and not one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

Third- Jesus expects love.

Vv15ff represent the restoration of Peter after his denials of Jesus.

Peter had made the greatest confession in all of history- Matthew 16:16 You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter also denied Jesus three times just after the Savior’s arrest.

I’m thinking Peter doubted himself at this point. He failed the Lord, cursed, and even denied he knew Him. He probably doubted himself, and his ability to be used by Jesus. He needed a word from the Lord. This exchange can take you back to the foundation of your faith, and help you assess where you are in your walk with the Lord.

Jesus began to speak to Peter- his heart rate probably increased, his stomach began to lurch, maybe his eyes teared up. This was an important moment. Jesus addressed him as Simon son of John, his name before he met Christ. Do you remember what you were like before I met you?

After breakfast Jesus asked Peter, Simon, son of John, so you love Me more than these? Peter’s mind probably flashed back two weeks before in the upper room. Peter asked Him, Lord, where are you going? Jesus replied, Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later. Peter asked, Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you. John 13:36-37

One commentator said- This was a mercifully brutal question. Jesus challenged the superiority of Peter’s love.

Yes, Lord, he said to him, you know that I love you. The word Peter used can be translated affection or friendship. Feed my lambs- translated- then serve me, demonstrate your love.

A second time Jesus asked him- Simon, son of John, do you love Me? Really, do you really love me? Jesus challenged whether Peter had any love at all. Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Again he professed what amounts to an affection but not the fullness of love. Shepherd my sheep.

A third time Jesus asked him- Simon, son of John, do you love me? Do you really have the affection for me that you have claimed? Peter was grieved that He asked him a third time, do you love me? He was hurt. He said, Lord, you know everything! You know that I love you. Feed my sheep. The most important priority in life is your love for God. Before all things, including service to God, must be loving Him with all our hearts. Is loving God the highest priority in your life?

We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our lives, service, and good works mean nothing without a true love for God. Jesus prophesied the future difficulties awaiting Peter. Nobody ever said life was going to be easy. Peter would suffer and die for following Jesus. The church fathers, including Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and Cyprian all viewed the phrase “you will stretch out your hands” as a description of crucifixion.

The restoration of Peter was accomplished- Three denials, followed by three questions, and three confessions.  It was a custom of that day to say something three times before witness in order to formalize it.

Follow me. . .

The sum total of what it means to be a Christian- follow Jesus.

V24 We know that his testimony is true. V25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.        BELIEVE