Aston Presbyterian Church

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Rev. Christine Callaway

Do You Love Me?


Deuteronomy 6:4-9   4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.  5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,  9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

John 21:1-25 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.  2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.  3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”  6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.  7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.  8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.  9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.  10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”  11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.  12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.  13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.  14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.  15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”  19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”  20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”  22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!”  23 So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”  24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.  25 But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Do You Love Me?

Have you ever gone down a zip line?  I have always wanted to go down one so when I got a chance to at a Carlisle Presbytery retreat I jumped at it.  I put on a special type of climbing harness, climbed a long spiral staircase up the fifty-two foot tower.  I was hooked onto the zip line which is a metal wire attached to a tree five hundred feet away from the tower.  I sat down on a small wooden platform and then came the moment.  I leaned out into space off the platform and flew down the zip line!  It was fantastic!  One of the best experiences of my life!  So what does this have to do with anything?  Why am I telling you this story?  That moment of decision on the platform is one we come to in our Christian life.  Will we trust in Jesus, will we lean forward into space without any other support and trust Jesus to catch us?

You could say this is the moment Peter faced in the final chapter in John’s gospel.  We are back at the Sea of Galilee, it is called Tiberius in John’s gospel but that is simply the Latin name for Galilee, this is the same sea where Jesus first called Peter to become a fisher of men.  After the resurrection, after Jesus has appeared twice to the disciples, He has given them a mission but Peter decides to go back to fishing.  Why he does this we are not told.  Thomas, Nathanael, John, James and two of the other disciples go with him.  The disciples are right back where Jesus found most of them.  Back to being fishers of fish, not the fishers of men that Jesus promised Peter they would be.  They have fished all night but caught nothing.  We can’t help but be reminded of the first time Peter met Jesus after a long night of fishing without a catch.  Jesus is on the shore although they don’t recognize him. He tells them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they will find fish.  As on the first occasion, they find so many fish it is difficult to haul in the net.  Fishing without Jesus, there was no catch.  Empowered by Jesus, they have a huge catch.

Peter knows only one person could have caused this abundant catch.  Still impulsive after everything that has happened, Peter leaps over the side of the boat to greet Jesus.  Once the catch is hauled in and brought to shore the disciples gather to eat the breakfast Jesus has prepared for them.

After breakfast comes a serious conversation between Jesus and Peter.  When Jesus had first appeared to the disciples after He rose from the dead He said to them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” What did they do in response to this? Apparently the disciples hadn’t understood what Jesus meant or where they were to go since Peter decides to return to fishing and seven of the eleven disciples went with him. They have traveled from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee. They attempt to return to the life they knew before Jesus. Life does not remain the same once we meet Jesus.

Jesus said to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asked His question again, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” Peter again answered him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt, some translations say grieved because Jesus asked him yet a third time, “Do you love me?” And Peter said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Why did Jesus ask Peter the same question three times? Think back to when Jesus was arrested. Peter had sworn to go to prison and death with Jesus but instead he denied Him three times.  This morning we have heard Jesus ask Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  One time for each time Peter denied Him.  Jesus forgives Peter for denying Him.  Think about it.  Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  Jesus loves Peter and He asks Peter to affirm his own love of Jesus.

The theologian John Barclay said, “Jesus, in his gracious forgiveness, gave Peter the chance to wipe out the memory of the threefold denial by a threefold declaration of love.”

I want each of us here today to hear two things from this sermon.  First, Jesus loves you.  Just as Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him Jesus also forgives us and loves us. Jesus’ love covers all our sin, all our mistakes, all the ways we deny Jesus in our lives.  Everything we do and say, every way we give and serve needs to flow from the knowledge that we are loved by Jesus Christ.  Everything begins and ends in Christ.

The book of Romans tells us that nothing we can ever do can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus, there is no sin too dark, no length of time spent apart from Christ that can separate us or prevent our return.  The only force in the universe that could ever keep us apart from Christ is our own free will.  We can choose to be separate, we can turn away and reject Jesus’ love but why would we want to turn from His love?  Jesus’ love is the foundation for our life.

Each time Jesus asks, Peter affirms his love of Jesus.  Each time Jesus tells Peter to care for His people.  This is the second thing to hear this morning.  Jesus is telling Peter if you love me, show that love to others.  Notice that each time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Jesus gives him an instruction.  If you love me, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.  Not as an order but as something done out of love.  Jesus doesn’t give us orders or commands.  He asks us first to love Him.  If we truly love Him, these things will result.  If we are focused on Jesus and love Him, they will be automatic.  They will flow out of our relationship with Jesus.  Love me, love my people.  Love me, love those whom I love. Jesus tells us to go out into the world and demonstrate His love to others.

Think of when we have children.  I know I didn’t care for my children because someone ordered me to; I did it because I loved them.  I wanted them to be warm and fed and clothed.  I wanted them to feel loved.  It comes from relationship.  As we grow in our relationship with Christ so do we also grow in our ability to love His people.  We do not tell people about Jesus because Jesus told us to but because we are so overwhelmed by His love that it overflows us and spills out onto others and we want them to know the same truth, love and joy that we do.

Our reading from Deuteronomy is a Jewish prayer that is recited twice daily by faithful Jews. Jesus would have done this every day of His life. When asked what was the greatest commandment Jesus said that the greatest commandment was this passage from Deuteronomy. ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ From the beginning God wants our love, our devotion. We are to live our lives focused on God. Love is a verb, an action word. It is far more than an emotion. Out of our love will flow action.

After this conversation with Jesus Peter became the shepherd of Christ’s people. While He was on earth Jesus called Himself the great Shepherd. Now He has turned this over to Peter. Peter has affirmed his love for Jesus. As a result of his love, flowing out of his love Peter becomes the shepherd who will feed and tend the lambs and sheep that belong to Jesus.

We can follow in the steps of Peter, we too can feed the lambs of Christ with the food of the word of God.

Christ calls Peter and us, as individuals and as a congregation, to follow him. These times are times that call for the best love of God, friends, neighbors, and enemies that we can muster. Or, better yet, these times cry out for the love to which God calls us and that God will bring to life within us for the sake of others.

Remember my experience on the zip line?  Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Jesus so deeply and so personally that he will faithfully obey Him in the mission which Jesus is giving him.  Jesus is asking Peter if he will step out into space, take a leap of faith, trusting in Jesus alone to lead him and guide him.  Peter took that step.  He became the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem.

Jesus loves each one of us and He is asking each of us as individuals and all of us together as a congregation if we love Him, if we will trust Him, if we will allow Him to guide us into the future.  Take that step, lean out into the future and fly down the zip line of faith.  Let us pray.