Failure is not Forever

Posted: April 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

John 21:1-25, “Failure is not Forever”

Have you ever blown it?  Silly question – we all have.  The better question: when did you last blow it?  How long has it been since your last utter failure?  For some, you might have a difficult time remembering the exact date, although there’s no question you know the event.  For others, it might have been as recent as this morning.  All of us fail at some point – that’s simply a fact of life. 

Failure is inevitable.  Remaining a failure is not.  For some people, once they get a taste of failure, they think that’s all they’re good for.  They failed once & they’re destined to be a failure forever.  Especially when it comes to their relationship with God.  They started out well enough, but they (like all of us) screwed up in sin, and now they think it’s all over.  God doesn’t love them, doesn’t care for them, doesn’t have a plan for them – and why would He?  They don’t even think God could use them again if He wanted to.  Praise God that is not the case!  We do fail – no question about it.  But when we do, God can and does restore us.  God never stops loving us, and He never plans to stop using us for His glory, although our circumstances might change along the way.  The only way we’re taken out of the plan of God is when we choose to remove ourselves; God’s plan is to use us forever.

This is vividly illustrated through Peter (and all of the disciples) as the gospel of John comes to a close.  Peter had failed the Lord miserably.  Some people wipe out in sports; others wipe out spectacularly & those who watch never forget it.  Peter had a spectacular wipeout.  His failure was so public & profound, that it left a mark on all four of the written gospels.  Yet God had a plan to continue to use Peter, and thus Peter needed to be restored just as spectacularly as he had failed. 

Of course, that’s only part of the ending chapter of the gospel of John.  What we find in Ch. 21 is the epilogue – what the late great radio announcer Paul Harvey used to call, “the rest of the story.”  Historical movies often end with epilogues, with the stories being told of what happened to our favorite characters after the events of the movie concluded.  It’s the “what happened to Johnny” sort of section.  That’s what we find in John 21.  The major events of John’s gospel have happened – the climax of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has come & gone – now we get to the rest of the story.  What happened between Jesus’ resurrection and His physical ascension to heaven?  There were 40 days between the events, and the Bible doesn’t tell us too much about it.  But it does tell us some.  Part of what took place were sporadic appearances of the resurrected Jesus to various believers – sometimes with all the disciples assembled; sometimes not.  In the process, they would not only be repeatedly confronted with the physical proof of Jesus’ resurrection, they would also be consistently taught that Jesus’ post-crucifixion ministry was different than it was before.  Things were different, and the disciples would have to rely on their faith in Christ in a whole new way.  Their own lives were to be drastically different – they couldn’t simply go back to the way things were before.

That’s the way it is with all of us.  Once we know the Risen Jesus in faith, we’re no longer the same.  Not only has He made us new creations with a forgiven past, but we are new people altogether.  We can’t go back to the way we were before.  Once Jesus intervenes, everything is different…forever.  And like Peter and the other disciples discover, Jesus’ plan for us is truly wonderful, because our ‘forever’ is forever with Him.

John 21

  • Fishing (1-14)

1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself:

  • The scene is set.  At some point after Jesus’ two appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem (both without and with Thomas), the disciples head north to their home region of Galilee.  Jesus had given them instructions to meet Him there (Mt 28:10), although it’s unlikely they knew exactly when they would see the Lord.  How many days this took place after Jesus’ 2nd appearance to the disciples is uncertain – but there’s no doubt that there were many times that Jesus showed Himself to them either as individuals or as a whole.  Paul writes of one particular post-resurrection appearance to 500 people at once (1 Cor 15:6) – something of which the four gospels say nothing.  Of course the gospels make no pretense at providing a comprehensive biography of Jesus – which is something the apostle John emphasizes at the close of his own book.
  • FYI, the “Sea of Tiberias” is the same as the Sea of Galilee.  John is unique is using that name.  Perhaps it’s an indication of the lateness of his writing, or how removed he was from the region from Judea.  The people to whom John wrote knew the lake as Tiberias; not Galilee.

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 are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.

  • If you count, you’ll find that although the majority of the disciples are present, this is still only a partial count.  There are seven out of the remaining 11 listed here.  Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James & John (the sons of Zebedee…John is always silent regarding his own name), and then two unnamed men.  Considering that Philip and Andrew were also identified by John as having previously lived in the vicinity (1:43-45), they are likely candidates.  Where the other men were (or the ladies, for that matter), we don’t know.  It doesn’t seem reasonable to believe they remained in Jerusalem.  Perhaps it’s simply an indication that the only people who went fishing were the fishermen & the others stayed back at their residence in Galilee.
  • The reason why they went fishing has been a subject of much speculation.  Had Peter lost faith & gone back to secular employment?  Had all of them lost faith?  It’s highly doubtful.  They were all thoroughly convinced that Jesus rose from the dead, with Thomas verbally confessing their faith that Jesus was not only the Christ (Messiah King), but the Lord God Himself.  In all likelihood, the disciples simply didn’t know what to do.  For the past three years, they travelled with Jesus, and however they were financially supported, it came in as a result of the ministry.  Now that particular ministry was over, and they still needed to eat.  In Peter’s case, he even had a family (Mt 8:14).  Something had to be done to put bread on the table, so Peter probably did what came most naturally to him: fish.
    • We need to be careful when it comes to imparting motives to people (both in the Biblical text & in our day-to-day lives).  When the Bible is silent, be silent.  Assume the best.  Peter had a massive failure when he denied Jesus, but he wasn’t a bad guy, and he certainly wasn’t stupid.  If he was perhaps impulsive, at least he was resourceful and responsible.
  • For whatever reason Peter and the others fished that night, they weren’t successful.  Keep in mind, these men knew what they were doing.  This had been their full-time occupation prior to being called out by Jesus.  But everyone has an off-day every now & again, and the fisherman Peter & co., were no different.  They fished all night long, and “caught nothing.
    • Without imparting unknown motives to the disciples, there’s still some spiritual application to be seen here.  Whatever it was they were doing, they were doing without Jesus (because Jesus wasn’t physically with them), thus they struggled.  Any time we attempt to do something in our flesh, apart from the Lord, we’re going to struggle.  It doesn’t have to be sin – it could be something good & God-honoring, like our jobs.  But if we do it without faith – if we do it in our own strength – we’ve got to expect weakness.  Doing something with Jesus doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges – but He gives us the strength we need to work through those challenges.  In the case of the disciples on the boat that night, all they had the next morning was futility.  That’s us, without Jesus.  When Jesus is there, everything changes…

4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

  • Try to see things from the disciples’ perspective.  They’ve been on the boat all night.  They’re wet, weary, and discouraged.  As daylight breaks, they hear someone calling out to them.  They’re only 100 yards out from shore, but it’s still difficult to make out who’s speaking.  The man basically says, “Hey boys – catch anything?”  To which they honestly (and probably with a little irritation) answer “No.”  At that point, they receive instructions to cast again – specifically on the right side of the boat (starboard), with a promise that they’d actually find some fish this time.  The disciples could have had all kinds of reactions: (1) “Why don’t you cast the net?!  We’re tired!” (2) “Who do you think you are, stranger?!  We know what we’re doing!” (3) “We’ve tried everything else…why not?”  Obviously, they chose the latter.  Whether they thought the man on the shore had a perspective of the lake that they didn’t, or they just thought it couldn’t hurt to try one final time, they followed His instructions, and they were amazed at what they found.  After hitting zero all night long, they now have so many fish that they can’t pull the net into the boat.  Amazing!
  • So amazing in fact, that it would have sparked a few memories for the disciples on board.  A very similar event happened years earlier, back when they were first called into ministry.  Luke 5:4–6, "(4) When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (5) But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” (6) And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. – It was at that point that Peter realized in whose presence he was, confessed his sin to Jesus, and Jesus called him into ministry.  No longer would Peter fish for fish – now he would fish for men (Lk 5:10).  No doubt the events of that day were burned into the memory of Peter & those with him.  For something so similar to happen yet again made it perfectly obvious Who it was standing on shore.  It was Jesus…and Jesus made all of the difference.
    • Again, we don’t want to impart motives to Peter & the others that the Bible doesn’t tell us, but this much is clear: without Jesus, they caught nothing; with Jesus they caught much.  All night long the men struggled, but when morning broke & light began to dawn, the Light of the World called out to the disciples, and that’s when things changed.  Jesus makes all of the difference.  Anyone else could have called out to the disciples, and they would not have caught that many fish.  They could go out the same time the next day, cast their net on the starboard side of the boat, and still not catch that many fish.  The reason they had the catch was Jesus.  The Creator had come among them, and creation bowed to His will.
    • Whatever we do as believers – whatever power we might exercise or experiences we might have – 100% of it is due to Jesus.  Far too often, the Lord Jesus gets treated as a means to an end.  We invoke His name to try and get a blessing, or try to get our own will accomplished without first seeking His will.  That’s putting the power in us & using Jesus as a talisman / superstition / magic word.  When we do that, we miss the point.  Jesus has the power because Jesus is God.  What Jesus wants done, gets done.  We serve Him because He is the King.  And that’s why He makes the difference.  To do things without Him is to engage in futility.  It’s not a matter of spinning our own wheels (so to speak); it’s to be on the wrong vehicle in the 1st place.  If we’re doing things on our own, we’re putting ourselves in the drivers’ seat.  We need to be in the back & let Jesus take control.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.

  • Once John realized what was happening, he told Peter, and Peter (being Peter) jumped out of the boat.  He had stripped down to as much as was decent for work, so he wrapped his outer garment around himself (like tying a towel around his waist) and went straight for Jesus.  It’s possible he swam, but considering he was only 100 yards from shore & they were likely in shallow waters, he probably just waded as quickly as he could.  It would take time to get the boat to shore, especially with the weight of the fish dragging along in the water, and Peter didn’t want any delays.  He did what was necessary to be with Jesus as soon as possible.
  • His zeal might be commendable, but he ended up leaving his six buddies behind to do all the work.

9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

  • Jesus was ready for them when they got to shore.  He had a fire already going.  Apparently it had been going for a while, because it was already at the charcoal stage, perfect for broiling fish.  Jesus didn’t even need to wait on the disciples to provide Him breakfast, as He already had some fish and bread at hand.  He didn’t need the disciples’ help, but He certainly wanted it.
  • That’s the way it is with all of us.  God doesn’t need our help for anything.  To be honest, He could do what He wants to do a lot easier without us getting in the way & slowing things down.  But He wants our help.  Just like parents delight to have their kids help them in the kitchen or in the yard (despite how inefficient they are), God delights to have us participate with Him in His work.  He actually invites us to help Him.  (The only question is: will you do it?)

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.

  • Peter must have been quite strong to drag the net of fish by himself.  By some estimates, a fully loaded, wet fishing net of the day would have weighed around 300 pounds.  Peter may have initially left the hard work to the other disciples, but certainly came back to help them at the end.
  • Much speculation and imagination has gone into the number of 153 fish.  Theologians through the centuries have looked for deep spiritual meanings behind the numbers, and wondered what purpose John had in mind when he wrote it.  Actually, it’s fairly simple to know what John was thinking.  John (like Peter) was a fisherman by trade.  He was thinking of 153 fish. 🙂  It was a large catch, and any fisherman takes note of an unusual haul like that.  153 fish is a lot – and they weren’t little guppies to be thrown back…these were “large fish.”  Every single one was a keeper, and weighed enough that any net under normal circumstances would have busted.  But this wasn’t a normal circumstance by any measure!
    • About the number…be careful not to look for hidden meanings behind every little thing in the Bible.  Sometimes a fish is just a fish.  As has often been said in regards to Bible interpretation: “When the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.”  That’s just common sense.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

  • One of the more intriguing aspects about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances is that He so often was initially unrecognizable by those who knew Him.  The reason why is unknown.  At times, it seems that He purposefully clouded the eyes of people around Him (such as on the road to Emmaus – Lk 24:16).  Other times, there seems to have been extenuating circumstances for the people, such as Mary Magdalene at the garden tomb (20:14), and here when the disciples were offshore.  Once they are onshore, they know Him & have no question it’s Him, but apparently there was still a temptation to ask.  Why?  Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that they weren’t used to talking and eating with a person whose death they witnessed.  It may have been a wonderful miracle, but no matter how you slice it, resurrection is strange!  In any case, the seven disciples here knew it was Jesus, and the fact that John includes the note is meant only as certification.  They didn’t have to ask Him for ID when they got to shore; they already knew Who they were with.
  • Once they’re with Jesus, Jesus is simply being Jesus.  He’s serving them.  They brought the fish, but He’s the one cooking & serving breakfast.  Just as He did at the Last Supper in the Upper Room, He does with them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
  • John’s final certification here is regarding the number of appearances post-resurrection.  Strictly speaking, this is the 3rd that John recorded, and the 3rd in which Jesus appeared to the disciples as a group.  It was not the 3rd time the risen Jesus appeared to anyone.  By some counts, this was the 7th.  (Mary Magdalene, the group of women, the road to Emmaus, Simon Peter, the 10 on Resurrection Sunday, the 11 the following Sunday, and here.)  Considering that only 2-3 witnesses were required to establish fact, the list of witnesses & numbers of testimony are growing quickly!
  • Up to this point, Jesus interacted with all of the disciples who were present.  No doubt, His personal interaction with each of them was necessary.  After all, all of the disciples abandoned Jesus the night of His arrest.  Each of them had failed Jesus in some way.  They all needed to be reminded of God’s love for them, and His choice of each of them individually to be His ambassadors to the world of Jesus.  But there was one in particular who needed a bit more attention.  One had failed to a greater extent than all the rest: Peter…
  • Forgiveness (15-19)

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

  • Much has been made of the different words of love used here by Jesus and Peter, and it’s true that up until verse 17, different words are indeed recorded of them.  In vss. 15-16, Jesus is recorded using αγαπαω, while Peter uses φιλεω.  The first can sometimes be used to speak of a truly self-sacrificial form of love, while the second can speak of anything ranging from friendship to true affection.  The question/debate is whether or not these distinctions actually come into play here.  We need to remember that although John wrote in Greek, the conversations he records took place in Aramaic, a close cousin to Hebrew.  The most common word for love in Biblical Hebrew is אהב , and the ancient Greek translation of it (the LXX) uses both αγαπαω and φιλεω to translate it.  Many scholars believe the words to be somewhat interchangeable, depending on the context, and John’s account of this conversation seems to fit that criteria, in that John seems to use a lot of interchangeable language here (lambs vs sheep, feed vs tend).  On the flip side of the argument, although Jesus and Peter (and John) spoke Aramaic, the conversation was recorded in Greek, and the Holy Spirit specifically directed John to choose these words.  In addition, there is a change in the wording Jesus uses, in that at vs 17, Jesus uses the same word that Peter has been using the whole time, whereas Peter never strays from his use of the word φιλεω.  Perhaps John was recording an originally unspoken nuance in the conversation that was better captured in Greek rather than Aramaic.
  • With all of that in mind, the whole debate over the wording seems to miss the forest for the trees.  Although some great sermons have been preached on the differences between Jesus’ αγαπαω and Peter’s φιλεω, that’s not really the point of the passage.  The focus isn’t on the nuances of the love between them, but upon Jesus’ grace and restoration that He lovingly offers Peter.  Peter had denied Jesus three times, Jesus questions him three times, and directs him three times.  If there were any question among the other disciples, or within Peter himself, as to whether or not the Lord Jesus continued to desire Peter to minister as an apostle, all of that was laid to rest after this encounter.  Every single instance of Peter’s denial of Jesus was erased.  One by one, Peter’s mistakes were made right by the grace of God.  No matter how much Peter thought he had lost, or what he believed he had destroyed in his sin, the Lord Jesus loved him and brought him right back to where he needed to be.  What was done was done, but what lay ahead was given as an act of grace by Jesus.
  • How incredible is the love and grace of God!  Think of what Peter had done: not only did he abandon the Lord Jesus (like everyone else), but he denied even knowing the Lord Jesus.  And that was after he ferociously argued with Jesus that he would never do such a thing.  All the others might abandon Christ, but not Peter!  Peter wouldn’t do it…he was the Rock, called out by Jesus Himself.  Famous last words!  Peter did deny Jesus.  He failed in ways the others didn’t, which seems to be addressed by Jesus in His first question to Peter.  Did Peter love Jesus more than those others around him?  By this point, Simon was done boasting.  He couldn’t speak for anyone other than himself, and all he could do was humbly affirm his own love.  And if there is anything at all about the specific word he uses, perhaps it’s just that: humility.  Simon Peter had failed miserably when he claimed to love Jesus more than anyone else.  Now (perhaps) he wasn’t even bold enough to claim the same level of love that Jesus asked him about.  His confidence was shot.  His name wasn’t even the same.  Once Jesus called him the Rock; now he’s back to being Simon.  (Although not pictured here, it’s obvious that his name was restored; otherwise we wouldn’t know him as Peter at all.)
  • But it is from all of this that Peter is restored.  It is when he is at his lowest that Jesus reaches out to him, loves him, and offers him the chance of restoration.  Each and every time Peter affirms his (humble) love for Jesus, Jesus affirms Peter’s call to ministry. “Feed My lambs…Tend My sheep…Feed My sheep.”  IOW, serve My people.  Don’t boast over them, don’t lord over them – feed them, care for them, love them just like Jesus was loving him.  Don’t forget for one millisecond that these sheep belong to Jesus.  HE is the Good Shepherd, and He always will be.  Jesus was just entrusting His sheep to Peter & those with him.  They were under-shepherds, whereas Jesus is the Chief Shepherd.
  • What is Jesus doing here?  Cleansing.  Peter had been sullied by his sin.  He thought himself forever tainted from the service of God.  Yet the love and grace of Jesus restores!  1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  This is what is on display around the breakfast campfire on the shores of Tiberias: the cleansing of Christ!  Peter’s sin was confessed – it was known to Peter & known to God.  Peter knew it the minute he did it, and wept bitterly.  Now he’s so ashamed that he can barely answer the questions Jesus directly asks him.  But Jesus lovingly, patiently, washes Peter.  The grime of guilt is removed – the unbearable weight of a guilty conscience is lifted off.  Because of the grace and restoration of Jesus, Peter is free!
    • What guilt and grime holds you back?  What sin of the past keeps you burdened and bent over in pain?  What have you done as a Christian that you believe disqualifies you from Christ, and from which you believe there is no restoration?  Jesus restores!  Jesus cleanses!  Jesus forgives!  This is what He freely offers, but you’ve got to be willing to go to Him to receive it.  Peter could have stayed in the boat.  He could have stayed at the back, not daring to step foot by the campfire because of his shame.  And he would have remained in the state he was in.  Instead, he sat and supped with Jesus.  He didn’t know how to answer or what to say, but even in the boat, he knew he needed to be with Jesus.  Everything else in his life may have been haywire, but he knew that much was right.  It’s no different with us.  Don’t let your sin keep you from your Savior.  Don’t let your guilt keep you from grace.  Go to Jesus, confessing what need to be confessed, and receive the cleansing He offers!
  • Jesus wasn’t done talking with Peter…

18 Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

  • By most accounts, a prophecy concerning someone’s death is not a good thing.  After all, who wants to be told they will be killed?  Especially in the way Peter was killed!  To many Christians through the centuries, the phrase “stretch out your hands and…gird” is a reference to the practice of upside-down crucifixion, which according to tradition, is the kind of death that Peter was given.  Although Peter was martyred for his faith, there’s no solid historical evidence as to what form of martyrdom he received.  That said, none of the execution methods experienced by the apostles were good choices.  When beheading is the most humane out of all options, every option is bad!
  • Yet there’s more to this than just a prophecy of death.  After all, Jesus ties it directly in with Peter’s restoration.  There’s no break in the text between “Feed My sheep” of vs 17 and “most assuredly” of vs 18, and the reaffirmed call to discipleship of “follow Me” is what concludes it.  This prophecy is part of Peter’s restoration.  How so?  Is it punishment or vindictiveness?  Absolutely not – perish the thought!  After all, it was the love of Jesus that restored Peter.  His restoration was the very illustration of grace.  Peter’s death was not some kind of ongoing affliction or act of penance laid upon him because of his failure in the courtyard of Caiaphas.  This is an affirmation of Peter’s faithfulness.  Think about it: if Peter would be martyred for his faith, it means that he would never again abandon it.  If he would be crucified (or whatever) for his association with Jesus, it means that he would never again deny Jesus.  All of that was in the past.  As Peter looked forward to the future, Jesus could assure him that he would walk in victory over his past.  Would there be troubles?  Yes.  Jesus promises him that.  Troubles are by definition part of martyrdom.  But Peter wouldn’t be conquered by his troubles – he would endure them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
    • When God restores us and cleanses us through Jesus, He doesn’t expect us to live our lives forever in shame.  Are we to be humble?  Yes!  Are we to walk around whipping ourselves, forever feeling guilty over the things of the past?  No.  Grace is grace.  When He cleanses and restores, that is what He truly offers.  God doesn’t hold our past sins against us; neither should we.
  • Don’t miss the renewed call to discipleship: “follow Me.”  Those were the words Jesus spoke to each of the apostles in their initial callings, and those were repeated to Peter on the beach.  How far was Peter to follow Jesus?  All the way to his death.  Jesus’ description of discipleship proved to be absolutely true with Peter, as it did with all of His disciples: “Let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt 16:24).  Follow Jesus all the way.  All the way to death – all the way to resurrection and eternal life!
  • Follow up (20-25)

20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

  • Again, we don’t know why Peter asked the question.  Was he jealous of John?  Or was he simply curious as to what would happen to his friend?  If Peter was prophesied to die, perhaps all of them were – and Peter & John seemed to be especially close.  Whatever the reason was that Peter asked, Jesus shoots down the question pretty quick.  Peter didn’t need to worry about John; Peter’s concern was himself.  The Lord Jesus had plans for each of the apostles, and He would see them through.  What Peter needed to concern himself with were the plans God had for him.
  • The principle applies to more than just Peter.  We all too often concern ourselves with other Christians, and we ought not.  Obviously if we see a brother or sister in need, we’re to reach out to them with love and compassion.  We’re to serve one another as Jesus served us.  But beyond that, we’re not to get jealous of them – or impose our convictions upon them – or even impose our calling upon them.  Let the Lord care for them.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, “Who are you to judge another’s servant?  To his own master he stands or falls.” (Rom 14:4)  If they serve the Lord Jesus, than it is Jesus who is their Lord; not us.  We don’t have the right to impose upon them any personal convictions we might have regarding diet, holy days, habits, spiritual gifts, or anything else.  Let non-essentials be non-essentials.  If someone is caught up in sin, help them (Gal 6:1).  Otherwise, let them follow Jesus as Jesus leads them.  You pay attention to you; Jesus can take care of His own.

23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”

  • As with many things, people heard a portion of what Jesus said, and then ripped it out of context to make it mean something completely different.  Vs. 23 is probably the entire reason why John included these last few verses in his gospel in the first place.  Peter’s restoration needed to be known to all the church – but this was such a personal thing about John, and John made a habit not to draw attention to himself.  Yet this was also something that needed to be said.  Rumors were flying that John wouldn’t die, so he had to remind people of what Jesus actually said.  Jesus was using a hypothetical to make a point; He wasn’t declaring a prophecy. 
  • Pay attention to the words of the Bible, but pay attention to them in the context they are given.  It’s when we rip Scripture out of context that we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble.

24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

  • John wraps things up by affirming his testimony.  The plural “we” is interesting, and could refer to an amanuensis (scribe/secretary) used by John in actually writing the book.  Both of them knew what John said was true, and it was like them saying, “This is the truth & nothing but the truth.”
  • Yet it wasn’t the comprehensive truth.  It was the whole truth in regards to the essentials that needed to be written as a gospel, but it wasn’t an unabridged account of the life of Jesus.  John never claimed to take on that task, and wouldn’t have been able to do it if he tried.  No library is big enough to hold all of the books that could be written about Jesus.  What’s the proof?  2000 years have passed, and books are still being written about Him.  His earthly life was brief, but His work is infinite!

The gospel of John.  It set out to tell us of the Word of God who walked among men, yet was rejected by men.  And that’s exactly what it did.  Jesus was shown as He is, the I AM.  He is the great Creator God who humbled Himself in His incarnation, showed compassion upon the multitudes, showed sign after supernatural sign, and finally gave Himself over as a substitute sacrifice on our behalf.  God the Son became the Passover Lamb, and He was killed on our behalf, that the wrath of God the Father might pass over us.  Jesus accomplished His work, rose from the dead, and presented Himself with multiple proofs so that we could know He is the Lord.  John specifically told his readers that he wrote these things so that we might believe.  Do you?

As for the epilogue, John’s readers also needed to know that the men who proclaimed the gospel message had truly been sent out in the world by Jesus.  Each of them knew that Jesus was risen from the grave, and despite their past failures, the grace of Jesus covered all.  Especially Peter.  Peter was forgiven – Peter was restored – Peter was cleansed.  And if Peter could be forgiven, so could anyone else.

So can you.  Perhaps you’ve failed spectacularly, much like Peter.  Maybe you didn’t deny the Lord Jesus verbally, but you did in your actions.  The way you engaged in your sin was like you didn’t even know the Lord.  Or maybe you simply stumbled, but you did so in such a way that you believe you’re now “damaged goods,” unable to be used by the Lord.  Jesus restores!  Jesus forgives!  Jesus cleanses!  Let Him cleanse you.  Go to Him in humility, but also in confidence, knowing that Jesus is good to His word.  He promised to forgive and cleanse you, and He will.  Trust Him to do it, and believe Him that He does.


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