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News for Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sunday School Lesson — Explore the Bible
Feb. 23: Follow With Renewed Purpose
By David R. Dean

Focal Passage: John 21:1-25

 This lesson is the last in our study of John’s Gospel. I have enjoyed this opportunity to share with you the privilege of such a study. Thank you for kind words. John 21 is remembered for the reaffirmation of Peter after his denial of Christ. The chapter begins with the word, “afterward” indicating a definite time had passed since chapter 20. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two other disciples were all together. Peter says, “I am going fishing!” They all join in, “We’ll go with you.” This does not mean that they are abandoning their commitment to Jesus. They were taking time to sort things out — to get their minds around the events of the week. 

Jesus appears to many different people but this appearance is to His closest followers. Christ, from the shore, asked: “Catch anything?” “Not yet, they reply.” Jesus then gives them a brief lesson in actual fishing.

Knowing where to fish is vital for success. Following the advice of an expert makes your prospects much better. Their large catch of fish caused Peter to say, “It is the Lord!” And he jumps in and makes for the shore while the others drag the net bursting with 153 large fish (no significance to this number). Jesus invites them to bring some fish and have breakfast. They had a great intimate time with their Lord. I wonder how many intimate times we miss with the Lord because we do not recognize Him, or are just too busy with our own activity to break bread with Him?

Of course the main teaching of this lesson is the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter. Three times Christ asks him, “Do you love me?” First he says, “Do you love me more than these” (v. 15)? Why did Jesus single out Peter? I believe it was to assure him and encourage him that even though he had denied Christ, he was still a valued disciple. “More than these” may refer to the other disciples, or more than the fish caught, or more than his former occupation as a fisherman. Jesus was giving him opportunity to declare his allegiance to his Lord. How do we prove our love for Christ? By obeying Him: Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep. Jesus has poured Himself into Peter and Peter is renewed by showing Christ’s love to all his followers. 

Some commentators make much of the words used for “Do you love me?” Jesus wanted Peter to declare his love as more than a brotherly love he had for his fishing companions. He may have implied in the second question, “Do you even like me?” He gave Peter a chance to declare his love by his actions.

Peter was hurt when Christ asked him the third time. Do we love Christ with the kind of love God has for us? Agape love is love not to get something back, but just because it is Christ’s nature in us. Can we then, like Peter, declare, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you!” The most important thing we can do to demonstrate our love for Christ is to “feed His sheep!”

We must be sure that we have made the effort to take the risen Christ into our hearts and minds and are filled with His Spirit. We are called to love others with the love with which Christ has loved us.

When Jesus warns Peter about how he would die and says to him, “Follow me” (v. 19), Peter looks around at John and asks what about him? Was he trying to divert the piercing gaze into his own soul by asking about John? Do we try to escape Christ’s demands upon us by wondering what about others? Do we sometimes feel that we deserve special honor for all we have done? 

Each one of us is responsible for how we respond to the command “follow me.” Earlier in Peter’s discipleship when he declared Jesus to be “the Christ of God,” Jesus said those really challenging words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Peter was willing and so must we be to follow with renewed purpose. Words are cheap. Action and obedience are costly.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (II Thessalonians 2:16-17).

— Dean lives in Orlinda. He is the retired executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.

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