John 21:1-19 JESUS: THE SINNER’S FRIEND

          So, it has been a while, we have listened to 22 sermons on the gospel of John. Today we come to the end of our journey through John's pictures of Who Jesus is. As far as I am concerned, I feel like the Lord has spoken through His Word as we have tried to make Jesus the focal point of these sermons. As we have now read this part of the final chapter, I want to show you one last picture of Jesus as John reveals Him to us as THE SINNER’S FRIEND.

          This picture of Jesus has become very familiar to me personally over the 30 plus years since I became a Christian. That’s right I was not born a Christian, my parents were not Christians. In fact, none of us are born Christians. There is an old saying that reveals a lot about our misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian. It is, “God has no grandchildren”. Each of is called and adopted into his family. Of course, in one sense we are all God’s children because He created us. But we only really become His adopted children through salvation and for that we need to be born again with a new nature.

          There have been many times during my Christian life, and there will probably be many more, when I have found myself going to the Lord to confess my sins and my failure to obey His commands. At those times He has never failed to forgive me and restore me back to fellowship with Him. He has always proven faithful to his promise in 1 John 1:9 that, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. In other words, Jesus has never failed to be a faithful friend to a sinner who has fallen down and returns to Him.

          Now of course the emphasis of this and every chapter in this gospel has been on the Lord Jesus. However, this morning I would like us to pay attention to the interaction between Jesus and His disciple Peter in this passage. As we do, this message will speak directly to those who aren’t as close to the Lord today as perhaps they should be.   

          Maybe some of you feel that your focus on God has been slipping. Maybe your worship isn’t as joyful as it used to be. Maybe you don’t experience the hot, burning love for the Lord, His House, His Word and His People that you used to. Maybe even your church attendance has become like a chore, something that doesn’t fill you with a sense of expectation and excitement.

          What I want to do this morning, through this sermon, is tell you that it does not have to be that way or even stay that way. Jesus Christ is still the same yesterday, today, and forever. And that means He is just as much a friend to sinners now as He was a friend to His disciple Peter. As we consider what the Lord did for Peter, I want you to know that He can and will do the same for you if you will respond in the same way that Peter did.

          So, first we need to understand what happened to Peter and how he came to be ‘fallen’ and out of the close fellowship with Jesus. To get the complete picture we need to look at the whole context which is found through the other gospel records in the Bible.

          Let’s do a quick recap of Peter’s story especially the part where he sinned against the Lord and finally denied Him denied him. It all begins in Luke 22:33-34 when Peter made the boastful claim that he would never abandon the Lord. However, in the gospel of Matthew in chapter 26 we read of how he did just that as all the disciples fled when Jesus’ was arrested.

          But that is not all. We see Peter fall further in verse 58 of Matthew chapter 26 where it says that “he followed from a distance”. Jesus was being led to the first of His trials, do you remember how many trials Jesus had endure in total before He was convicted? That’s right, six! It took six trials to convict this innocent man.  

          So, Peter “follows from distance” but then when he found himself in the midst of the Lord’s enemies it becomes difficult for him to stand by his boast. When confronted, he decides to take the easy way out and he denies even knowing the Lord. His fall is complete.

          This is the same process that we find ourselves going through from time to time. We do not stay as close to Jesus as we should, and we start to follow Him “at a distance”. For us it might start with missing a few church services now and again. Maybe we stop praying as we said we would. Maybe we don’t read and study our Bible as much anymore.

          It doesn’t matter how it starts because in the end it all leads to the same place. You will find your faith becoming weaker and your relationship colder. This is what happened to Peter. Let me be very clear and frank with you all, some of you are in this wrong place right now. You aren’t as close to the Lord as you used to be. You need to reignite the fire that was once in you because if you don’t, you will find yourself in a place you don’t want to be.                                                           We also read in Luke 22:6 that when Peter denied the Lord that night he went to a place and, “wept bitterly”. The sense that we get is that Peter became aware of the fact that he had violated something very precious. The result was he became miserable.           

          When the child of God sins and walks away from the will of God then pain, suffering, and misery soon follow. Because the peace and presence you once enjoyed with God, which is more precious than gold, will be gone. Sin is a thief, and it has the ability to make you into a miserable person. Think about the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-17. Do you imagine he was happy when he found himself alone and poor in a pig pen? No! At that time his only thought was how much better things had been when he lived with his father.

          Sin will make you miserable, and if it doesn’t, then, according to Hebrews 12:8 that says, “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” That’s right if sin doesn’t make you miserable then you probably aren’t saved.

          What probably made it all worse for Peter is that after he had sinned, he felt an immediate loss of fellowship with the Lord and the peace and joy that accompanies it. Peter was very aware that things were different. He knew he had failed.

          If you are a child of God and you decide to ignore His commands and disobey Him, then you need to know, that decision comes with a very high cost. Of course, you can never lose your salvation, but you will definitely feel like you have. You will lose many things, including the close fellowship with God, peace, joy, and contentment. You will also lose any blessings and rewards. Sin is a very deceitful and cruel boss, and it will beat you down.

          I know for certain that there are some of you here this morning that need to return to the Lord in confession and repentance. But know, that if you do, you will find the open arms of a friend!

 

          After we read about Peter’s fall we can easily think that after the resurrection he would have assumed that his ministry was over. Maybe, he decided that he would just return to His former life as a fisherman and just look after his family. But that was the wrong choice as he had been called to give up everything and follow Jesus. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus had called Peter to be a fisher of men.

          That’s what people do. When they are far from God, they make wrong choices. They base their decisions on fleshy motives rather than on spiritual ones. You may have started back towards your old life, your old way of doing things. You may even be able to justify your actions or at least satisfy yourself that your decisions are the right ones. However, you really need to know that when you are outside of God’s will, when you are not loving Him or obeying Him as you should then you are going in the wrong direction.

          One thing we notice here in our passage is that as Peter returned to his old life of being a fisherman is that he took others with him. Maybe these other disciples where also not as confident in the Lord as they should have been. After all, if they had been more faithful, we would have read about them awaiting their Lord in Galilee as He told them to. Remember what Jesus said to the two Mary’s who had discovered His empty tomb in Matthew 28:10, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.

          We are prone to do the same thing. People who sin, love company. They are not content to fall into the pit of foolishness by themselves, and they feel the need to drag others down with them. Why is it like that? Because who doesn’t like to surround themselves with people who think and act like they do. It is unfortunate that the sinner will try creating the same spiritual condition in others who are around them in an effort to feel more comfortable. The day you start to feel comfortable with your spiritual life is the day you should start to be worried. Then there is the fact that, the lives of those, who are living for God, stand as a judgement against those who are not.

          We can also see in this passage the effect on the life that is lived outside of God’s will. Peter and his friends had been fishing all night long and still had caught nothing. This must have hurt the pride of these professional fishermen. People who are caught up in a sinful lifestyle likewise cannot produce anything of lasting value in their lives.

          Of course, some may argue that they have been living a very slack Christian lifestyle, but they still experience material success, and they are still healthy. But I need to remind you, if that is what you are thinking, that those things are only temporary and will soon pass away. Only those things that you do through Jesus will last as we are told in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames,” This passage describes perfectly, the Christian who is not living their life as they should according to the Bible. Many lazy Christians will see all that they have built go up in flames before their eyes. Think about what will happen when you see Jesus.

 

          We just saw how far Peter and even we can wander from the life that God wants His children to live. And like Peter we should also realize that we can never stray too far from God’s love. We see the big turnaround in Peter’s life when Jesus stepped into the picture. Even after the sin, and the return to the old way of life, and even the long night of failure, Jesus made things the way they ought to be.

          Let’s learn from the three things that had to take place before Peter could return to a right relationship with God again. The first thing is there must be a recognition of the sin and wrongdoing. 1 John 1:9 says we must confess our sins first before His faithfulness and justice will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

          In verse 6 we see how, when Peter started to obey Jesus again this brought success where there had only been a failure before.

          Then in verse 7, when Peter saw that it was Jesus standing on the shore he immediately wanted to be with the Lord. He didn’t wait for a more convenient time; his desire was to be near His Lord as quickly as possible.

          No matter how far you have wandered as a child of God, Jesus still loves you and is waiting for you to return. He hasn’t forgotten you and He hasn’t forsaken you. He is waiting for you to come to the same realization that Peter did. He wants you to be willing to confess your sins and begin to love Him and follow Him again. Knowing this, why don’t you go to Him right now before things get really difficult. Return to serve Him while you still can.

          When Peter and his friends got to the shore, they found Jesus had not only started the fire, but He was already cooking some fish. The Lord was able to supply all their needs after they had been working in the boat all night long. Jesus provided food, warmth, and fellowship. The disciples found everything they had been missing out on the boat when they came to Jesus.

            No matter how long you have been away from the Lord, suffering and miserable, with no peace or joy in your life. Understand that even this morning you can return to Him. You will experience His love once again because He has been waiting to give you all the things you missed while you were away from Him. For an example of this just look to the parable of the prodigal son told by Jesus in Luke 15:11-32.

          When the young man who had wasted the family fortune, disgraced his family name, and had been living in the depths of sin, returned home. He found his father who had everything waiting for him that he had lacked in the ‘far-off country’. In verses 20-23 of Luke 15 we read that his father was waiting for him to return and the son received compassion, love, and forgiveness. We see that he also received cleansing, complete restoration and then he was given food for his hunger.

          Let me tell you this morning that if you repent and return to the Lord today you will find Him waiting with all these things and more. Jesus wants to have a close fellowship with you. You will return to find that you have a friend in Jesus as we have already sung.

          Then Jesus will restore you back to useful service. I’m sure there are those of us who feel that, due to our sin, our work and ministry are gone. When you confess and repent Jesus puts you right back into the action. We see in verses 15-17 the way that Jesus uniquely restored Peter. Let’s read that Passage once more and see this restoration, 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “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.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

In these few verses we see how Jesus not only freed Peter from the sin that held him in chains, but how he also restored him to the business of serving God and the Church. This will be the experience of every child of God who returns to the Lord today. Not only will your sins be forgiven as He has also promised but here, we see that He will restore you to the place of service you once had. Again, you should know that Jesus is still your friend no matter how far you have fallen.

            The final verses of our passage tell us what the future holds for the person who has been restored by God. The apostle Peter would eventually give his life in service to the Lord who had saved him. Tradition has it that Peter was actually crucified also but upside down. Amazingly this was at his own personal request because he did not feel worthy to die like his Lord.

          You should be aware that if you do decide to return to the Lord today and renew your commitment to Him that this is serious. God expects you to take your relationship with Him seriously and follow Him in a sacrificial way that puts His will before and above your own. This is the only way that you can successfully live the Christian life. This was the life of service that we see Peter being restored to. He was, and we are expected to live for the Glory of God!

          The last command that Jesus gives to Peter in our passage is to, “Follow Me”. This was the same call the Lord gave when they first met. Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Come, follow me,” Jesus hadn’t changed His mind about what Peter needed to do. This should encourage those of us here today who feel that they need to repent and return to Him. Maybe what is preventing you from doing just that, is you are scared you will then become some kind of second-class Christian. But remember the Lord hasn’t changed His mind about you either. Regardless of how deep you have fallen back into sin, His call is still “follow me” The only thing Jesus wants is your surrendered life. A life that is sold out to live for His glory, that exalts Him and lives according to His will and in service to Him. Jesus simply wants you to follow Him!

          Let me ask you a question before we conclude this message. “What do you think your future will be like?” Do you think it will be a future of misery, difficulty, and punishment? Or do you think it will be one that is full of peace, joy, and blessings as you serve the Lord? The answer all depends on what you do with this message.

          Some of you here may be like Peter and you may be suffering under the enormous weight of Guilt while Jesus calls to you. The good news of this message is that you don’t have to remain at a distance from Him. Some of you may be lost and, on your way, to and eternal Hell. Know that Jesus loves you and wants to save your soul. Do not let your future be one of no hope, forever lost, forever doomed. If you hear Him calling to you this morning do not ignore Him. We don’t know when His patience with this world and its people may end.

          This morning’s message has mainly been given to those who are children of God through faith. They need to know that what they will face will be bad if they do not repent. If this message has found you wandering from the family of God then this message invites you to return at this moment. Jesus is ready to receive, to forgive, and restore just as he did with Peter. For those who are already saved the final decision is yours. What will it be? Blessing or cursing? You decide.

Let’s Pray, Father we thank You that no matter what we have done as believers, when we confess and repent you will forgive and restore because that is what gives you the most glory. Lord, you also stand ready to forgive and accept into your family those who will come to you for the first time in response to your call. Lord your Word is able to break down the barriers of hostility that exist between You and the people you created. We are thankful because you have done just that, through your precious Son Jesus. Who being 100% God is the only one who could break the power of sin and death and at the same time being 100% human could stand as our substitute before You a Holy and Righteous God. Lord, we ask You to please give your adopted children the strength to repent and return to You in humility.  Break through the barriers that we have erected due to our pride in our own thinking and the self-righteous attitudes of our own ways. Lord may all our lives be lived for your Glory. This we pray through the name of Jesus, Amen.