140. Deeply and fully covered in love.

[John 21]

You had to know the fishermen of Galilee to write this account.  Nighttime was the best for fishing.  The catch described here is something that often happened on the lake.  The man with the net relied on the call or bell of someone who sat at a higher place to see where the shoals of fish were moving.  Jesus was acting as guide to the fishermen that day.

Jesus is only recognized when He reveals Himself to people.  Maybe the grey of dawn was still too dark for them to see Him clearly.  Again, love brought sight.  John saw and when Peter saw, he ran.  Peter was only in a loincloth like all fishermen when they worked.  He put on his tunic.  To greet somebody was holy (a religious act) and he clothed himself for it.

The chapter was obviously added to emphasize the reality of the resurrection.  Many would say that some of Jesus’ appearances were visions of the disciples, even hallucinations.  The Gospels all insisted that the risen Christ was a real person.  The tomb was empty and Christ had the wounds in His hands and side to prove it.

A vision was unlikely to point out the shoal of fish to the fishermen.  A vision was not likely to make a fire and fry fish on it for a meal to share.  John tells us in the previous chapter how Jesus showed His hands and side.  Jesus insisted that they touch Him to make His resurrection real and undisputed.

Jesus conquered death.  He made sure they had no doubt.

John names the number of fish for a reason.  A catch of 153 fishes had to be divided between the partners on the boat.  It was an exceptionally large catch but there is more.

According to the numbers and words of the ancient world hundred represented the fullness of the flock (Matthew 18:12).  The good seed in fertile ground was hundred-fold.  The number fifty represented the remnant of the Jews and the three is for the Trinity that does it all.

The net is the church, no exclusiveness or selectiveness.  It is big enough for all.  The church should embrace like Jesus did.

For the three times Peter denied the Lord, Jesus gave him three times to confirm his love for the Lord.  He most certainly knew Peter was full of guilt and shame about the denial, and He made sure to bring Peter to a place where love is the topic and not shameful failure.

With each declaration of love Peter received a task.  His declaration was to equip him for the task ahead.  Love is privilege but also responsibility.  In the end his love for Jesus had him die on a cross as well.  He was crucified upside down, because he did not feel worthy to die the same way Jesus did.  Incredibly the Romans obliged.  What courage Peter displayed that day, after the equipping of love on this day and the touch of fire to empower on the day of Pentecost.

Peter’s role in the early church was forever established.  He was a shepherd and he cared deeply for the flock of Jesus.

Jesus asked: Peter do you agapé Me?  Peter answered: Lord I phileo you.

Agapé is the amazing love of God for humankind.
It is defined like this: Unconditional love, love by choice and not by chance. Love by an act of the will. The word denotes unconquerable benevolence and undefeatable goodwill.  Agape will never seek anything but the highest good for fellow mankind.  Agapé (noun) is the word for God’s unconditional love.  It does not need an affinity, chemistry or feeling.  It is a word that exclusively belongs to the Christian community.  It is virtually unknown to writers outside the New Testament.  It is as if the word existed in Greek and waited for Jesus to give content to its full meaning.

God loves unconditionally.  Jesus on the cross was proving God’s love in the deepest and most glorious way possible.

Peter knew he was not capable to love that way.  His uncertainty is reflected in the word he uses for love – phileo, which means brotherly love.

The second time Jesus asks: Peter, do you agapé Me? Peter answers: Lord I phileo you.

The third time Jesus asks: Peter, do you phileo Me? Peter answers: Lord, You know all things. You know that I phileo You.

Peter acknowledges his deficient love, very real and very truthful.  He acknowledges that Jesus knows this and there is no point in pretending.

One can almost feel the raw heart to heart communication that cuts to the bone of the matter.  Peter is restored and forgiven.  His relationship with Jesus is cemented in the love he experiences in the words of Jesus.  Jesus puts the whole burden of love for the church that will be birthed on the day of Pentecost on Peter.  He knows Peter is forever changed.  He knows just how deeply this man loves Him.

In the next passage (20:20-24) John says something of words spoken about himself.  Peter was already concerned for his fellow disciples and John was young.  Some say John was only 15 or 16 when he met Jesus.  Jesus tells Peter not to worry about his brethren.  Jesus will look after His own.

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.(John 10:28)

John, while writing this Gospel, bears witness to all this.  He was the one to write in his old age in Ephesus.  He was also the one looking after Mary.

Christianity is sealed in experience.  Meeting Jesus is the foundation of the Christian life.

Jesus says here: Do not worry about the task given to someone else. Your job is to follow me and do what I have given you to do.  Jesus is the perfect shepherd over His church and us.  He will manage our ministry.  If we venture out to minister like others or try to be something else than he ordained us to be, we are set up for failure and disappointment.  We cannot manage the whole church, big trends or doctrine.  We must do what the Holy Spirit gives us to do.

Christ is limitless.   His resurrection is real.  His church is universal.  No one competes in the Kingdom.  Peter is the shepherd and John is the witness.

John thinks upon the splendour of Jesus and knows that he could write to us so that we could only grasp a fragment of who Jesus really is.  He will reveal Himself.  The world can never fully comprehend.

When you think you know, then know that He is much, much more.

Our mind and our books fail miserably when we have to describe the indescribable.

John ends with the innumerable triumphs, the inexhaustible power, and the limitless grace of Jesus Christ. [William Barclay]

 

This brings us to the end of the study of John.  I hope that the many months we studied Revelation and the Gospel of John will serve as an inspiration for more deep diving into  the powerful Word of God.

 

 

 

 

 

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134. A lonely man, a dark night.

[John 18]

Everything that takes place in the dark is different from anything in daylight. People getting together during the day are working or visiting for a quick word or two. Lunch parties are so essentially unlike dinner parties. The evening brings a certain relaxation, a time frame that could be stretched. These days dressing for occasions like lunch and dinner parties might not be so contrasting, but true evening wear is never right for middle of the day events. Activities of the light, taking place in the dark, like feasts for the celebration of love and life are full of joy and merriment with a delightful spread of good food and drink to indulge the participants.

Then there is another kind of activity reserved for darkness; more for the cover and camouflage that darkness gives. Robberies, housebreaking and other criminal activities generally take place in the night. Nighttime can be used in positive and negative ways. Darkness is often a metaphor for dark deeds and dark thoughts. God is usually not associated with darkness, although we have to know that God is everywhere, even in the thickest darkness where one would expect only the most evil presence.

 And the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.(Exodus 20:21)

Praise God that He is everywhere. He will never leave us, even if our night is darker and more evil than ever. Jesus also had a very dark night when the authorities arrested Him and took Him to face the leaders of His beloved people for whom He came to earth. Most of the disciples fled when the soldiers recovered from their powerful meeting with Jesus and grabbed Him to deliver Him to Annas and Caiaphas as they were ordered to do.

PETER ‘s role in this night of darkness, which is metaphoric as it should have been a night with a full moon close to the Passover, is discussed in two passages. (18:15-18 and 18:25-27)

 Peter did not flee with the other disciples. He followed Jesus even after the arrest. He followed to the house of Caiaphas in the company of another disciple. It was an extremely brave thing to do.

Many speculations exist about the “other” disciple. The most likely possibility is that it is John himself. How could an ordinary fisherman be known to the High Priest?

It is possible that because John’s father had a flourishing fishing business, he could afford to employ hired servants (Mark 1:20). One of the great Galilean industries was salt fish. It was almost impossible to transport fresh fish in the heat. Salted fish was a staple article in the diet of the time. It has been suggested that John’s father was in the salted fish industry and that he was the supplier to the High Priest. John could have been well known to the household of the High Priest as he often carried the supplies. So it could have been through John that Peter got access into the courtyard where he could observe Jesus from a distance.

It is here in this courtyard that Peter is confronted and associated with Jesus. It was casual confrontations because of his accent, one from a slave girl, not even from anyone in authority. He denies that he even knows Jesus – three times. (Luke 22:55-60)

According to Jewish ritual law it was unlawful to keep cocks in Jerusalem, although it is not certain whether this law has been upheld at this stage. The Romans had a military practice. The night was divided into four watches of three hours each. After the third watch the guard was changed and to mark this, the trumpet was sound at 3am. The sounding of the trumpet was called the cockcrow. Everyone in Jerusalem heard that, and when Peter heard, he remembered the words of Jesus.

Peter’s denial has been the subject of many sermons and comments over the years. Peter’s desire to support Jesus is undeniable. He drew his sword in the garden and he was present in a situation where he could have been dragged off and imprisoned just for being where he was. Yes, he failed in courage, but only because he was in a situation which the others did not even face.

Peter loved Jesus – that is a fact. He was in that courtyard because of love and loyalty.

Peter was redeemed. One must realize that the story of his denial would get around and he would suffer great humiliation with a sense of profound failure. But Peter did not flee from his family in Jesus, the other disciples. He found refuge in their company and somehow found his way back behind the closed doors where the disciples waited in fear after the crucifixion.

Jesus saw his courage, his loyalty, his love. Jesus looked at him there across the courtyard, not in reproach, but in love. The eyes of Jesus that night preserved Peter’s soul. Jesus saw his dear friend buckle under the pressure of vicious judgment and the overwhelming odds of heartless and brutal authority. He communicated His love and redemption to Peter and that preserved Peter in a night of bitter regret and breakdown.

Jesus loves us in spite of what we do. Jesus keeps us safe even in our defeat. He restores our hearts. He forgives our sins – always.

In our darkest hour of defeat, we can look up and find the eyes of Jesus. It will preserve our souls. Peter turned to look at Jesus expecting to find the “I told you so”- stare of censure, but in stead he looked into the Source of love that saved him.

Here is one interesting lesson that stays with me as an encouragement in overwhelming situations. Jesus warned Peter that this is going to happen. Don’t we often feel that a situation in which we have reacted so shoddily would have been better if it were not so unexpected? We might think that a little warning could have alerted us to the circumstances and helped us to prepare and consequently respond more faithful and wise.

Peter had ample warning just shortly before the event. He brushed it off in his zeal and loyalty towards Jesus. All the warning that Jesus felt necessary did not enable Peter to avoid the situation. He stepped into the words in mindless alarm and answered in the fear and panic that engulfed the moment.

Sing the old song:

 Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Keep in mind that Peter had the revelation from the Father that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13-20). Revelation knowledge conserved him to overcome his lowest moment. His courage is amazing; his defeat diminishes in the light of his leadership in the church later on.

 

 

Here begins the trial of Jesus. Here in John is a most dramatic account of these events. It runs from John 18:28-40 through 19:1-16.