More Than These

Posted on 09/15/2013 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)

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I love to be in Your presence
with Your people singing praises
I love to stand and rejoice
lift my hands and raise my voice

You set my feet to dancing
You fill my heart with song
You give me reason to rejoice


Bless the Lord O my soul
and all that is within me
bless his holy name

For he has done great things
he has done great things
he has done great things
He's so good to me

He saved my soul
he saved my soul
he saved my soul
He's so good to me

He is coming soon
he is coming soon
he is coming soon
Bless his holy name


Hide me now, under Your wings
Cover me, within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You, above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God

Find rest my soul, in Christ alone
Know His power, in quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You, above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God

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Let's open up the Scriptures today, and turn to the Gospel According to John, and chapter 21.

Jesus had already been crucified and had already risen bodily from the dead. He had already visited the disciples twice, and in John chapter 21, he makes his third appearance to them.

At first glace, what happens in this chapter doesn't seem very significant. It seems somewhat like the end of a movie, after the great action and emotional climax has taken place, and you see a warm, comfortable ending in which life simply goes on.

But this isn't a movie. The Bible is, among other things, a record of history. The Gospel narratives are not written with the flare of a writer of fiction. Instead, they are careful accounts of what really happened.

In addition to that, John chapter 21 is about Jesus, and nothing about Jesus or anything he did is insignificant.

You're probably familiar with the time Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, and each time told him to feed or shepherd his sheep.

And this is part of what happens in chapter 21, along with a miracle and the start of a rumor.

There are only 25 verses in John chapter 21, so let's go ahead and read those together, then we'll talk about it.

John chapter 21, beginning with verse 1:

1 After these things, Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and this is how He showed Himself.
2 Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples, were together.
3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will go with you." They went out, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night, they caught nothing.
4 When the morning had come, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered Him, "No."
6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you will find." So they cast, and were not able to draw it in for the multitude of fish.
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 fisher's coat (for he had laid his clothes aside), and cast himself into the sea.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship (for they were not far from land, about two hundred cubits) dragging the net with fish.
9 As soon as they had reached land, they saw a fire of coals there, with fish laid on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, "Bring of the fish which you have now caught."
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and dine." And none of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then came, and took bread, and gave it to them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He had risen from the dead.

So here we see yet another miracle performed by Jesus. The men had been fishing all night, and had caught nothing. Then Jesus comes on the scene. And as he so often does with us today, he told them to do something that seemed rediculous -- absurd. It just didn't make sense.

Cast the net on the other side of the boat. What difference would that make? Absolutely none. That is, absolutely none by itself. But when God tells you to do something, what he tells you to do is, in itself, often not really the point. And if you had come up with it on your own, instead of God, then it very well might have been a total waste of time.

Suppose the disciples had been out on their fishing boat acting like worldly men out on a boat might, and getting drunk. Bear with me now. Just imagine. And then Peter, feeling super clever as most drunk people do, comes up with a brilliant idea. "Hey guys..." (slurring) "I figured it out... Why don't we pull in the net.... and put it on the other side of the boat..."

Well, except for someone falling in the water and drowning, nothing would have come of it. They still wouldn't have caught any fish.

But it wasn't their own brilliance that came up with this seemingly foolish idea, and it certainly wasn't the mind-blurring effects of drugs or too much alcohol. Instead, it was a direct order from the one who created the fish and the sea in the first place.

And so, they obeyed. And since it was God who gave the order, something happened that only God could do. Even though the net was, for all intents and purposes, in the same place as it had been all night, they went from catching absolutely nothing to having their net so full of fish that they couldn't pull it out of the water.

I think sometimes, at least I've done this myself, we tend to judge whether something is really God by how much sense it makes. "Well, this couldn't be God, because that's absolutely stupid. God wouldn't tell me to waste my time and make a fool of myself."

But we forget that if God tells us to do something, it's NEVER a waste of time; and we're only foolish if we don't obey.

Take for example the story in the Old Testament about the widow who had an only son. In 1st Kings chapter twelve, it says she was about to cook their last meal with the last bit of food they had. And then the prophet Elijah stopped by.

The widow told him they had only enough crumbs to make their last meal. I'm sure Elijah would have prefered to let her and her son eat their last bit of food. But God had something else in mind. So, Elijah obeyed the voice of God.

And instead of feeding herself and her son, she honored God by giving to the prophet. And what happened? Her flour bin and oil jar did not run dry. God miraculously provided for her until the drout was over.

Then in 2nd Kings chapter 4, a woman's husband had just died, and had left a great debt. Their creditor was coming to take her two sons to be his slaves, as payment for the debt.

This woman cried out to Elisha. And when he asked her what she had, she told him she had nothing but a jar of oil.

I think most of us haven't had to give our children up as slaves to pay for our debts, right after our spouse dies. But most if not all of us have been in really tough situations. Maybe it's looked hopeless. Maybe it looks that way right now.

And we look at what we have, or don't have, and so often it's just not enough.

If this lady's creditor was going to take her sons as slaves, then the debt must have been huge. What could she do with a jar of oil? Maybe spill it in his path hoping he'd slip and get knocked unconscious long enough for them to run away. She certainly couldn't pay off the debt with it, that would be a joke.

But that's just the way things were in the natural. She was incredibly poor, her debt was incredibly large, and she was without hope. But in crying out to the prophet of God, she was crying out to God himself. And that made all the difference in the world.

Maybe if she had more, she wouldn't have turned to God for help. She might have tried to work it out herself. But she knew that if God didn't do something miraculous, her ship was sunk.

So Elisha asked her what she had. And he said, in verse 3, "Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors -- empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones."

I guess she really was desperate, because she went right away and did exactly what he said. Think about it. What was she supposed to say to her neighbors? "Ummm, excuse me, but I need to borrow all the largest containers you have." "Oh? What for?" "Well, I have this little jar of oil, and I need to fill up your containers with it. God told me to."

Oh yeah, that would certainly raise some eyebrows. And I think you and I might be tempted to make up some other explination. But she did exactly what she was told to do.

And what happened? Her little jar of oil filled up every single container she had gathered, and she was able to sell the oil. It was enough to pay her debt, with enough left over for them to live on.

And an interesting thing to notice here is that, as soon as she had filled up all the containers she'd borrowed, the oil stopped. What if she had ignored the little detail of God's instructions to gather "not just a few," and had only gotten two or three small containers? Well, the oil would have run out when they were filled, and she wouldn't have had enough to pay her debt, much less to live on.

This reminds me of a story in which the prophet Elisha told the king of Israel to strike the ground, and the king struck it only three times and stopped. Elisha was angry with him, and said, "You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria til you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times."

You see, he had just told the king that he must strike Syria until he had destroyed it. Striking the ground represented striking Syria. But something was missing in the king's response. He struck it three times. Then he stopped.

You know, we don't like to look silly. Well, not unless we're trying to entertain someone. The king was dignified. It didn't make sense to get all caught up in Elisha's symbolic emotionalism and start striking the ground like a mad man. And It just didn't make any sense to do so.

I'm sure he would have thought it more sensible to save his passion for the battle. But the result? His enemies were not destroyed.

I've done the same thing. I've obeyed God in a reserved way to avoid looking rediculous. How about you? But I wonder how many things I've had to face as a result. I wonder how many enemies have been free to bring destruction because I didn't passionately obey God with my whole heart, and with every ounce of my strength.

Now, here's something I think can save us from going off on some fruitless pursuit. Suppose you are trying to get a job at some company, and they keep turning you down. You COULD look at the example of Jericho, and decide you're going to walk around the building and then blow a trumpet until they give you a job. But unless God has definitely told you to do that, you might just end up on their permanent black list at best, or maybe even in a padded cell on heavy anti-psychotic drugs.

Maybe you have a large debt to pay, perhaps you're about to lose your house, or maybe worse. You COULD borrow a bunch of buckets, barrels, bottles, and such, and start pouring crisco oil into them. But unless God really told you to do that, you'll just end up messing up someone's empty pickle jar, and you'll look and feel like a real idiot.

So before you go beating the ground or borrowing jars or trying to walk on water, stop and remember: it's not WHAT God told these people to do that got the job done; rather, it was the fact that God had told them to do it. And when they obeyed exactly what he said, down to the last detail, and did it with their whole hearts, THEN the miracluous happened.

So, the disciples cast their net on the other side of the boat, and the net was filled with so many fish that these strong, experienced fishermen could not pull in the net.

Peter had taken off his outer clothing, since working in your under garments made his kind of work a lot easier. And you gotta love Peter. When he saw that it was Jesus on the shore, he put on his outer garments, his fisherman's coat, and jumped into the water!

Usually people take their coat OFF before diving in, but not Peter. And in verse 8, it says the other disciples came to land in a little ship. What about Peter? Did he swim? Probably. They were about 100 yards out, and Peter didn't want to wait. I guess he didn't want to walk up to Jesus in his Fruit of the Loom, so he threw on his coat and swam to shore.

When the disciples all got to the shore, they saw that Jesus had a fire going, and was cooking some fish. Where did the fish come from?

Let's take another look, in verses 9 and 10:

9 As soon as they had reached land, they saw a fire of coals there, with fish laid on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, "Bring of the fish which you have now caught."

Why did Jesus tell them to "bring of the fish" they had caught, when he already had fish cooking? He obviously didn't need their fish, and there's no telling where he got the fish he already had on the fire.

But I'm going to risk sounding like a goofy, crafty politician and go ahead and say it: Let's define the meaning of the word "of."

Jesus said, "Bring of the fish which you have now caught." Most modern translations say something like "Bring SOME of the fish..." But that may or may not be what this is really saying here. The King James Version and the KMV say "Bring OF the fish." So I looked up that word "of" in the concordance.

In the original Greek, it means this:

"Any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed."

Jesus didn't need the fish. He had food for them already. But perhaps he was talking about something else. When he said this, Peter pulled in the net. But just maybe Jesus was saying, "Bring a separation of the fish you have caught; break the union, the fellowship. And then come and dine with me."

Let's read a little father, and then I think you'll see what this could mean.

Starting with verse 15:

15 So when they had dined, 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 the 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, "Feed 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.

You see, when Jesus had called them just three short years before, they were fishermen. He told them to come and follow him, and he would make them fishers of men. And what did they do? They "left their nets" and followed him.

Now Jesus has died and rose again, and the ministry they had known for three years has dramatically changed, at least as far as they knew it. So Peter says, "I'm going fishing." He had left his nets to follow Jesus, and perhaps had been so wrapped up in all the miracles and the teachings of Jesus that he hadn't thought of fishing in a very long time.

But things were different now. And he picked up his net once again. This must have sounded like a pretty good idea, because the other disciples said, "Okay, we're coming too!"

And now Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" Do you suppose he was asking Peter if he loved him more than the other disciples did? Or perhaps he was asking Peter if he loved him more than he loved the other disciples.

But let's consider the context. Peter, who had left his net to follow Jesus, had gone back to fishing. And now Jesus is asking him, "Peter, do you love me more than these?" Another way to translate the word used here for "these" could be "these things."

Where was Peter's true love? Where was his life-long commitment? He had been made a fisher of men, but not knowing what to do next, he went back to the life he had always known.

I don't think Jesus was rebuking him. After all, it was Jesus who had caused the huge catch of fish. And I think there is an important lesson to learn here.

They were doing what they knew best, fishing. But they caught nothing. Hadn't Jesus told them, "Without me, you can do nothing?" And they had fished all night and caught absolutely nothing.

But here comes Jesus, telling them to do something that, in itself, wouldn't make even the smallest bit of difference. And when they obeyed, their efforts produced more success than they could handle.

"Without me, you can do nothing."

So here they are, on the dry land, eating fish they hadn't caught and bread they hadn't baked. And Jesus asks Peter, "Peter, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" or, "more than these things?"

I don't think Peter got it. His head was probably still swimming with what had just happened. And he said, "You know that I love you." That word for "love" means "brotherly love." So Peter said to Jesus, "You know that I love you like a brother."

And Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

Peter, without direction and ready to go back to the livelihood he had always known, is being given a new direction. His calling is being revealed to him by God. But I don't think he got it right away.

Instead, his feelings were hurt. Jesus asked him, not once, not twice, but three times, "Peter, do you love me?" And each time, when Peter replied that he loved him like a brother, Jesus replied, "Then feed my sheep."

You see, without Jesus, Peter could do nothing. He didn't need to go fishing for food, because as long as he followed Jesus and obeyed his voice, God would meet his needs.

Is God telling you to fish? Then throw in your net wherever he leads, and he will cause your efforts to prosper.

But Peter's life was about to change. And if God points you in a direction that is different from what you've always known, then just remember Peter, and rest in the assurance that Jesus is waiting for you in the place he is calling you to go, and the fire is lit and warm, and he has already made provision for your every need.

And in this place where Jesus is, in this place where he is calling you to be, you will hear his voice. And it might grieve you. "Do you love me?" he might ask. "Do you love me more than these?"

Let's continue reading, pickup up where we left off in verse 18:

18 Truly, truly, I say to you (Peter), when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted; but when you are old, you will stretch forth your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you do not want to go."
19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow me."
20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, "Lord, which one is he who will betray you?"
21 Peter, seeing Him, said to Jesus, "Lord, and what will this man do?"
22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me."
23 Then this saying went abroad among the brethren, that this disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him, "He will not die," but, "If I want him to stay until I come, what is that to you?"
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 which Jesus did, which, if every one of them were to be written, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

Just maybe Jesus was saying to Peter, "If you obey my voice and do what I have called you to do, there will be a price to pay. You will be led away captive, and will be put to death because of me."

But his question remained: "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep."

Peter wasn't going to see the overthrow of the opressive Roman government in his lifetime on earth and rule the nations from a throne of luxury and ease. But Jesus was there with him until the very end, calling him to sit with him by the fire, and feeding both his body and his soul.

Wherever God is calling you to go and whatever God is calling you to do, you can be sure of this: Jesus is there. And he is inviting you to come sit with him by the fire and dine.

He might ask you to "bring of your fish," to separate yourself from the comfort of life as you've always known it. But the truth is, without Jesus, you can do nothing anyway. And when you take the time to lay aside all your own plans, your own responsibilities, and all the cares of this world, and just spend that time sitting with Jesus by the fire, he will speak to you. He will give you purpose and direction. He will not leave you wondering where to go and what to do. He will meet your needs and feed your soul. And he will be with you until the very end.

*** begin altar call ***

You know, sometimes we get so busy with life, that we don't recognize Jesus standing on the shore. But he's there, so many times on the other side of our comfort zone, standing where he wants us to be, leading us in the direction of God's path for our lives.

Have you ever felt as though you've been out on the sea all night, and have caught nothing? Peter was there because he didn't have clear direction. He didn't know what God wanted him to do next. And until he heard and obeyed the voice of the Lord, his wheels were just spinning, and things just weren't turning out right.

Maybe you've been there. Maybe you're there right now. But listen for the voice of the Lord. And then do exactly what he says. It might take an act of obedience. And he just might tell you to "Bring of the fish," to separate yourself from what you've always known. But most assuredly, he will invite you to "come and dine" with him. To sit with him by the warm fire, as he feeds your soul with his bread of life.

I'd like to close today by opening this altar for a time of prayer and ministry. Just as He did on that day, so Jesus is inviting you to "come and dine." To separate yourself from your net, from your work, from the direction in which you think your life is going, and to just sit with Him by the fire.

Maybe you've been too busy to listen for His voice, or maybe you've thought He was speaking to you, but you thought what you heard didn't make any sense or would take you too far away from what you've always known.

Today, get a little crazy like Peter. Throw on your clothes and jump in the water, and swim to the shore. When you hear the voice of the Lord, run in that direction! He has something for you. He has some direction. He has some clear purpose for your life.

And He just might have a challenge. The call of God won't always be easy. But that's where Jesus is. And with Him, you can do all things.

You're all invited to get out of your seat and come gather at the front for a time of prayer, worship, and ministry. If you'd like someone to pray or talk with you, you can instant message one of us.

Whenever you need to leave, you're free to go, and if you can stay for this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way up the steps to the room on your left, whenever you're ready, for a time of fellowship.

Come, and let's answer the invitation of Jesus, as we answer His question to us all, and as, with our lives, we love Him "More Than These."