Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. But, as His followers we share the good news, care for His sheep, and follow Him unto death.
- Apart From Jesus We can do nothing (John 21:1-8)
- As Shepherds… We Care for His Sheep (John 21: 9-18)
- As Disciples… We Follow Him (John 21:19)
If you have your Bibles this morning, I’m excited to open to the last chapter of John. Those of you who’ve been heavy laden and trodden with this journey with me, welcome to John 21. Actually it hadn’t been that difficult, it’s just been fun for me and it has been long but God has taught us who much from this wonderful book. Now we’re in the last chapter, we get to see the disciples having an intimate and personal breakfast with Jesus. And what I wanna do today is I wanna help you put your feet in the sand. I wanna put you into this story so that you can place yourself on the boat with the disciples and walking onto the beach with the disciples and see and read into the imagery and the words that Jesus gives them so that you can go out like they did and accomplish things that they accomplished and what God wants you to accomplish.
If you remember John chapter 21 is in these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. A couple of weeks ago, we saw Jesus appear to his disciples while the room was locked. He resurrected from the dead, some women had already seen him but the disciples weren’t exactly believing it. And immediately Jesus manifested himself in their presence and they were in shock and awe, like literally minds blown. Think about being them in that room, we have all these fantasy movies that we watch and we think about miraculous things all the time and we have books and movies and all this kind of stuff about ghosts and ghost stories and all, they had none of that. They may have had some stories passed down through the years but a miracle of Jesus showing himself to them when he wasn’t there would have blown their minds and caused them to listen.
And when they saw the scars in the hands and in his side, they knew it was no ghost, no story, it was their savior resurrected and they were ready. A week later, there was another appearance. The first time, Thomas wasn’t with them. The second time, Jesus appears, again, like he did the first time. This time Thomas and remember last week? He kinda had an eyeball to eyeball conversation with Thomas to encourage him to stop doubting and to start believing. And I hope that God overcame some of your doubt through that message as well. Today we come to what John records is the third post-resurrection appearance of their savior. This time it is in no room, it’s on a beach. And I just kinda wanna walk through this story with you. You can read it on your own.
The disciples are told to go to the Sea of Galilee and they show up, probably expecting Jesus to appear out of nowhere again. But they wait and they wait and he doesn’t show. Even in his coming, and we don’t know exactly why, Peter with these other six disciples, they decide to go fishing. Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” I don’t know if he was tired of waiting, he was hungry, needed to make some money. He was a master fisherman and he was the leader so he says, “I’m going fishing.” And like a good leader, he influenced his friends obviously and they said, “We don’t wanna stay here by ourselves. We will follow you.” So they followed Peter, they get in the boat and they go fishing and they fish all night long. Now guys, if you’re like me, sometimes this happens to you when you’re fishing, they fished all night long, maybe 6, 7, 8 hours and they caught exactly how many fish? Zero fish.
Those of you who fish, gals and guys alike, what do we call that? Getting skunked, right? They got skunked all night long but I want you to see it as far more than a fishing story. Jesus was not there. They had not waited for him. They fished all night on their own and accomplished nothing. So Jesus comes strolling by on the beach as darkness is turning into day. They don’t recognize him but they hear a voice calling from the shoreline and he says, “Hey guys! Did y’all catch any fish out there?” They don’t know it’s Jesus and their response was kinda like mine sometimes when that guy comes driving by me in the boat and I haven’t caught anything for a couple hours, “How’s it going?” “How do you think it’s going?” “Have you caught anything?” “No.” That just their answer, one word, “No.”
So he goes on to give them some advice. I want you to have Matthew 4, write that down. Luke chapter 5 in your mind because these are similar stories, that it’d already happened before. Jesus says, “Hey, why don’t you all try casting your net on the right side of the boat? See what happens then.” I don’t know why they listened to him, they didn’t know it was Jesus just yet. They’re like, “Well, I guess what we’ve done hasn’t worked so far let’s just try this.” They cast their nets at the direction of Jesus and because they obeyed, the net went down and when they went to pick it back up, it has been light all night long. Suddenly it’s like, “Hm, okay.” Peter’s a big strong guy, he gets down there, it was so heavy they couldn’t even bring it into the boat. Immediately, I believe the story of this fishing miracle that they’d already experienced came to the mind of John, he was there the first time.
John looks out and he says, “That’s the Lord.” As soon as Peter hears that, he does this most beautiful thing. In his raw, passionate nature, Peter puts on his outer garment that he’d taken off because he’d been fishing all night, he guards it around himself and he dives into the water. Now they’re about 100 yards off shore and he just gets in. He wanted to see Jesus more than he wanted to fish. He wanted to see Jesus more than he wanted to be with his friends. He dove in, he headed to the shoreline and what is Jesus doing? He’s cooking breakfast. There’s a fish and some bread there. He’s like, “Peter, have some breakfast with me.” The disciples who were left out there with the fish, there’s 6 of them now and they’re trying to get to the shore with all the fish, they weren’t gonna let it go. They come to the shore, Peter grabs the fish himself, must have been a strapping young lad and he takes the fish to Jesus.
Jesus says, “Give me some of that fish. We’ll make breakfast.” They have breakfast and after breakfast the conversation gets very interesting. This is the passage of Scripture, after breakfast when Jesus looked right at Peter and he says, “Peter, do you love me?” What kind of question is that? He says, “Of course you know that I love you.” Actually, Jesus said the first time, “Do you love me more than these?” Meaning, is your love greater than your love for me? Like, why would Jesus ask that? We’re gonna talk about it. Because of what Jesus had already seen in Peter life is why he says that. So Peter says, “Of course I love you.” And then Jesus says the first time, “Tend my sheep.” He asks him the question, do you love me? Peter again like, “Yes, I love you.”
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus says back to him and a third time, three times, Jesus says, “Do you love me?” Peter says, “Of course, you know that I love you.” And Jesus turns Peter attention from his love for Jesus back to the sheep. I wanna take your mind back to when Peter was so bold in the Garden of Gethsemane and they were coming to take Jesus. Was Peter not the one who drew the sword and cut off the ear? Took action and when Jesus is talking about who loves him, Peter’s always the first to say, “I love you.” What had Peter already said? I would rather die than deny you. But what did he do? Three times. There’s a coincidence here, right? Nah, I don’t think so. It’s the plan and the providence of God at work. Three times Peter denied Jesus.
I believe what’s going on here in this passage of Scripture is this three fold restoration of Peter coming back to Jesus and Jesus reinstating to his full position as disciple to mirror the three times he denied him. I think it’s a beautiful thing that’s going on between Peter and Jesus and Peter eventually gets it. He understands this restoration process and following Jesus and then Jesus does something interesting. In verses 18 and 19, you’ll notice Jesus changes the trajectory of the conversation from being a Shepherd to being a follower. The last words he says here in verse 19 are, “Follow me.” But it comes in the context of verse 18 when Jesus is talking about the kind of death that Peter would die. A little bit morbid is it not? He says, “When you were young, you were strong and you guarded yourself, you guided yourself but when you get old, you’re gonna stretch out your hand and somebody is gonna guide you the way you do not wanna go.”
And after he says that, he says, “Follow me.” Church, this is a beautiful passage of Scripture full of imagery that is useful for the disciples 2000 years ago and useful for you, his disciples today. I want you to see that, apart from Jesus, that’s what we’ll see in these first 8 verse, apart from Jesus, you can do nothing but with Jesus as a follower you can be a fisher of men, you can share the Gospel. You can be Shepherd who cares for his sheep and you can be a follower like Peter was who will follow Jesus even unto death. These are practical principles for you as a disciple today. Let’s start with the first one. Look at the first 8 verses, Church, I want you to know, just like he wanted Peter to know and these other disciples to know that apart from Jesus you can do nothing.
You might respond, “Well, pastor, I can do some things.” Yeah, I’m not saying you literally, practically can’t do anything but you can do nothing, meaning nothing that’s worth doing. You can find no satisfaction in your success apart from Jesus. Everything else that you do in your life without Jesus, I would say it could relate to a word, meaningless. If it’s not through him and for his glory. Doesn’t it strike you as interesting that a professional fisherman was fishing all night long and caught nothing? How embarrassed was Peter? I mean, he was the fisherman. He was the one that went out and caught fish, that was his job, that was his career, that is what he did. He did it all night long but what did he catch? Nothing. This is Jesus going out of his way, I believe, to give the imagery that apart from me you can do nothing.
And it wasn’t until who showed up? Till Jesus showed up and gave direction. Don’t miss this, this is huge. Not only did he give direction but when they followed his direction, did they cast the net and find success. This is not just a message for the disciples, this is a message for you. Apart from Jesus, you can accomplish nothing. It’s with him that you will find success, in him and through him and for his glory. It’s also interesting to note the disciples had gone back to their old way of life a little bit. They were waiting on Jesus at the Sea of Galilee, he didn’t show up and what’s the first thing that goes to Peter’s mind, the natural thing that he’s always done? Let’s go fishing. And I’m not telling fishing’s the problem, it’s not the problem. The lesson is doing it without Jesus is the problem. See, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the shoreline of life, you may be waiting for Jesus to call you into the mission field or into the ministry.
Stop waiting. Take Jesus with you wherever you go. Jesus wanted to be with Peter, he wanted to be with the disciples and I think he’s trying to teach him for the rest of your life. I don’t want you to do anything, whether it’s fishing, whether it’s a hobby or even if it’s your career if it’s apart from me. Church, this is the point. Wherever you are now. Whatever you’re doing today, do it with Jesus not without Jesus. This goes whether you’re a stay at home mom. Maybe you’re a student in school or maybe you are consumed by your career. We do this far too often, we come to church in our Christianity on Sunday and we sing the songs and we praise his name and we pray the prayers. We even give and may even listen to the Scripture and then we leave Jesus on the shoreline here on Sunday and we go out fishing the rest of the week in our career by ourselves.
Why are we doing that? Jesus is here with us now and he’s with you there then. Let’s say you are that stay at home mom and you have a toddler or maybe even you’re home schooling your children. You can do nothing apart from Christ. Maybe your primary job right now is your children. That’s okay. Show your children Christ. You’ll never teach them what they need to know apart from Christ. You’ll never give them what they really want apart from Christ. Show them Christ. Now I’m gonna branch paths, the stay at home and maybe the home school or the mom with toddlers at home and I wanna go into the life of a dad and mom, anybody who’s a parent here today. Show your children Christ, number one and start with Christ in you. It’s hard to take your children to a place you never go. It’s hard to tell your children where to go without showing them how to get there.
You can tell them all you want. You need to go this way and do this for Jesus. They can hear it but they might not learn it unless they see it in you. Show them Christ in you. Show them Christ in his word. Spend time with them, with him, in his word and let the spirit work in him. Show them Christ at home as their leader. Let’s say you’re a student at school, that’s the same thing. You can accomplish nothing without Christ. Apart from Christ, you can accomplish nothing. I guess I should say it another way for everybody here today. In everything that you do, do it through and for Christ. Some people would say, “Well then that means I live for Christ.” Well, that’s one way to look at it but I think better, instead of you doing something for him, it’s surrendering to him instead of doing something with his name attached to it, letting him do that through you.
At school, let’s say it’s your grades, let’s say it’s your effort, Christ is gonna give you the desire to give the effort. Maybe there’s a certain capacity for learning that you have. Well, you’ll never get there apart from Christ. But most importantly, kind of speaking to students and a lot of em are right here but you may be all around the room, surrender to Christ and how you represent him at school. How you represent him with your friends. It’s not just enough to have your own effort, you have to have Christ guiding you so you can share the Gospel with your friends in the environment where it’s trying to detract from you wherever you go. Lastly, if you have a career, I wanna speak to you for a second. You need to cling to Christ to find your success in your career.
Don’t leave him on Sunday, take him there with you. And if you do, you’ll find success and the greatest satisfaction you’ll ever have is finding success with and through Christ and I’m not talking about a promotion and I’m not talking about more money. That may or not come, I’m talking about true satisfaction that comes through obedience in him. But you don’t, I believe you’re gonna have a hard time in your career. If you’re not surrendering to Christ and his will at your work, you’re gonna have a hard time with the decisions that you cannot control. Let’s say you have an unGodly boss and I’m not talking about if they’re doing things that are illegal or immoral, I’m just talking about decisions that they make for you and your direction in your life that you don’t get to make for yourself. If you’re not trusting Christ in his sovereignty in each and every one of those decisions that you may or may not agree with that you didn’t make, they’re gonna send you spinning out of control.
It’s gonna cause doubt to enter your mind and you’re gonna have a hard time following them. I wanna say this, you’re gonna have a hard time following anybody because you’re gonna trust in yourself and what you can control instead of trusting him and where he’s leading you to go. It’s gonna cause what Thomas had last week, doubt. You know what doubt causes? Irrational fear about your present state and your future state and that irrational fear’s gonna come out through anger and a multitude of other bad decisions because you’re not trusting in the sovereignty of Christ in your life. But if you’ll take Christ with you in your career, he’s gonna help you trust in his sovereignty even when you can’t control the decisions or the decisions that are being made for you and your company.
This is gonna help somebody here today. You can do nothing apart from Christ. Would you surrender the stress? Would you surrender the worry? Would you surrender the control to Christ and let him lead you and guide you where you are? Don’t wait for him to call you to the mission field to serve him. Don’t wait for him to call you into the ministry to serve him. Serve him now. Take him fishing if you will. And you’ll find success in him. There’s another application that I believe that’s more particular here. There’s another instance of Jesus showing his disciples that apart from him they can do nothing. It comes in Luke chapter 5 and Luke chapter 5 we see this fishing miracle in another way. And that particular chapter, Peter’s there again like he is now. James and John, the sons of Zebedi, they’re there again.
Jesus is not on the shoreline, he’s in the boat and he’s not fishing, he’s teaching. And when he finished teaching, he tells them, “Okay, now cast your nets and see what you catch.” And the same kinda thing happened, their nets were so full and overloaded that the nets even started to break. What does Peter do? In Luke chapter, you’ll see it, he falls on his face. He calls Jesus Lord. He says, “I’m a sinful man, depart from me.” And he gets up and see Jesus in a new and fresh kind of way. Jesus did that miracle then to show them that not only is he with them and apart from him they can accomplish nothing but he did it to show them that they’re not just fishers of fish but there’s fishers of men. This is why I believe this passage of Scripture is for every single part of your life, apart from Jesus you can do nothing but especially as it deals with evangelism.
You can do nothing in sharing the Gospel apart from Christ. But if you will listen to him as we gives direction, he will show you where to cast your net, where to share the Gospel and who to share the Gospel with. And then once you cast your net, you let him worry about and being in control of how many fish, how many souls that he saves. Apart from Christ you can do nothing in sharing the Gospel. And when we go out and share the message of Christ at work, at home and anywhere, don’t go on your own power. So many of you prevent yourselves from even sharing the Gospel because you doubt yourself. Well, study up, get ready for it. I’m not saying don’t do that but then trust Christ with it. Let it be in his power and for his power and his name. He does the catching anyway. I believe this is a honed in focus on trusting Christ with the power in evangelism.
There’s number here that sticks out. In Luke chapter 5, it just says they caught a whole bunch of fish but once they bring the fish to the shore in John chapter 21, it’s not about 100 fish, it’s not give or take 150. How many fish did they catch? 153. It’s like very good fishermen, they knew exactly how many fish they caught. They counted em. Sometimes I go fishing and my wife will ask me when I get home, “How many fish did you catch?” Sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh, just a few.” I know exactly how many I caught, okay? And I know where I caught so I can go back there next time. It’s the power of Jesus in evangelism and I believe this is gonna help you in evangelism. There’s lots of questions. What is this number 153 mean? You can go back to Ezekiel and I wanna tell you there’s lots of good guesses but the reality is Jesus does not tell us what the number 153 means here. So rather than lead your mind to a bunch of guessing, I wanna tell you at the very base understanding of what this number 53 is, it’ll tell you this.
Jesus knows how many fish you will catch. He is sovereign over salvation and he is sovereign over your efforts in evangelism. It also makes evangelism personal. When you go out and you cast your net, you go out and share the Gospel, you’re not just sharing with some random person. That random person is not just another notch on your evangelism belt. Jesus has numbered them. He knows them by name just as he knows you. You can trust him with them. You cast the net. What does it mean to cast the net in sharing the Gospel? Well, it’s just telling the message of Jesus. Tell people as much as you can and whenever you can. That before Christ, you were dead in your trespasses and your sins. Tell them that you were lost and hopeless without Jesus. And then tell them how God revealed your need of Jesus to you and showed you that you were a sinner bearing the weight of your sin on your own and how Jesus came and lived a perfect life for you so at the end of his life he could bear all the wrath that you deserve for every single one of those sins on the Cross as your substitute, in your place.
Tell them how Jesus Christ gave you hope, not only ’cause he died but he rose from the dead and because you repented of your sin and you believed upon Jesus Christ you have been forgiven of your sin. Heaven is your home. Hope is in your heart and obedience is your calling. Tell them the message of the Gospel and then lead them to make that decision for themselves. And as you wait for a decision, realize the decision is not earned by you or manipulated by you. He knows them, he called them and he’s the one that’s gonna save them. Not you. Here’s the deal. You don’t know the number. You don’t know the number of souls you will see saved by your sharing of the Gospel. It may be 153. I hope it’s more like 1053 but here’s the deal. It’s not up to you. Your responsibility is to cast the net when Jesus says, “Throw it over there.”
It’s not a random person at Walmart, it’s a direction or a random person, whatever part of your life, a random family member, a random friend. No, they’re not a random friend, Jesus says, “This is someone that I’ve numbered and this is someone that I know.” And when he says, “Cast the net, share the Gospel,” what do you do? You obey. And he knows who they are. And he’ll bring them in. Church, would we realize today that we can accomplish nothing, especially in sharing the Gospel without Christ? I pray that we would but that’s not all that’s here. If we start here in verse 9 again, we can see not only are we fishers of men that trust in Jesus but also we’re Shepherds. I think there’s two meanings of the word Shepherd here or two applications at least and as Shepherds, what do we do? We care for this sheep. It was three times that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
It was three times Peter answered with an affirmative and it was three times that Jesus turns Peter’s love for him back to them, back to the sheep. Like we said earlier, I believe this is a process of restoration for Peter. Each time that Jesus asked him the question and he affirmed his love for Jesus, I believe it was the love of Christ washing over him and restoring him from the position that he had fallen from when he denied Jesus three times. Peter goes out on the boat, maybe for practical purposes, maybe his stomach was grumbling, maybe he needed a little money but I also believe that maybe he went out into the boast and started his old life again because he was struggling with this ability and his right to serve his savior. Don’t think for a second that the denial of Jesus wasn’t still on his mind.
“Am I good enough? Do I deserve to follow Jesus? Do I deserve to be one of his disciples? Do I deserve to take his message to the world?” And over this conversation of do you love me? Of course I love you. Then feed my sheep. Jesus is showing Peter absolutely you’re not good enough but I’m good enough through you now go out and do it through me. Church, that’s a great message for you today. Maybe you need to be restored like Peter was restored. But I want you know what he was restored to. Not only is he confirming his love for Jesus but Jesus turns his love to the sheep. He says, “Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. Care for my sheep.” You could also translate it, “Shepherd my sheep.” And there’s two levels of pastoral application here. Number one, is with me and that’s a little hard to read a passage of Scripture and realize that the application, first and foremost, is directed right at you but it is.
He’s talking about Peter’s position of being an elder, an overseeing. Another word for that is pastor. Pastor is my favorite. If I prefer you call me anything, I prefer it being pastor. Why? Because pastor means shepherd and by shepherd I’m following the example of the Shepherd. See, here’s the deal, Church. I’m not the Shepherd. I’m the Under Shepherd. He’s the Shepherd. You follow me only as I follow him. And how did he led us and how does he lead us? With tender love, mercy and direction, comfort, peace and grace. That’s how I want to lead you as your Under Shepherd. Notice whose sheep you are. When he’s speaking to Peter, does he say, “Feed your sheep?” When Jesus is talking to Peter and he says, “Do you love me? And Peter says, “Of course I love you”, what does Jesus say? He says, “Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. Care for my sheep.” You’re not my sheep. You’re his sheep.
I’m simply a steward until you move on to another Under Shepherd as God moves you in this life, until he calls you home or until he comes again. I may Steward of the Shepherd as your Under Shepherd and I have a task. Jesus’ task is to lead us to these still waters, lead us to paths of righteousness for his namesake, to lead us, to like we talked about in Psalm 23, these toughs of grass that give us nourishment and daily satisfaction. I embody that when I do that for you. We can go to other parts of the Scripture to give you the job of the pastor of a flock or the Under Shepherd of the flock, we can go to Ephesians chapter 4 for example. Paul makes it very clear. In Ephesians chapter 4, my job as your elder, as your overseer, as your pastor, is to equip you the saints. To do what? The work of the ministry. What do I equip you with? We only got one option.
As guided by the Spirit, I equip you with and from the word of God. I’m not just up here to share a bunch of sweet stories with you. I love to share stories but only when they point back to the Scripture. I’m not here to teach you my pet theological themes. I’m here to teach you from the whole council of God’s word. This is my tool. This is your nourishment. My main job is to teach you God’s word, is what I’m telling you. We see it in Ephesians chapter 4 when Paul is talking to the young pastor Timothy and Second Timothy chapter 4, he gives him a command. He gives him a lot of setup for this but then finally in Second Timothy chapter 4 he tells young Timothy, “Preach the word.” That’s my main call, to preach the word and Paul says, “You do it in season and out of season. You do it when they wanna hear it and when they don’t. You do it when they like it and when they don’t like it.”
My job is to preach the word or we can go to Acts chapter 6 to see the primary job of the Shepherds of God’s sheep. Acts chapter 6, it was getting busy, the disciples brought deacons on to help serve in the pastoral ministry of the church because their primary job was what? Pray and the ministry of the word. Or we can hear it from Peter himself as Jesus is talking to him in John chapter 21, he talks to the pastor in First Peter chapter 5 verse 1. He says, “Therefore I exhort the elders among you, the pastors among you, as your fellow pastor and witness to the sufferings of Christ and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, Shepherd the flock of God among you.” Exercise in oversight not under compulsion but voluntarily according to the will of God, not for dishonest or sordid gain but with eagerness and Church, I wanna tell you, I’m eager to do it.
He goes on in verse 3 to say, “Not yet as for Lording it over those allotted to your charge but proving to be an example to the flock.” When I read passages of Scripture like that, not only do I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in preaching the word and teaching you the Scriptures so you can do the work of the ministry, you know what I also feel? A heavy burden. It’s serious business teaching the word of God to his people. It’s serious business casting vision from the word of God to his people but this is what you should expect from me. An eagerness and a hunger to teach God’s word to you while being an example for you. This is what you must expect from me. This is the standard you must hold me to and this is what you must look for if you ever do have another pastor. But Church, I need your prayer in this. It’s not easy, I need you to pray for me.
Here’s your number one prayer if you’re gonna pray for me. Pray that I follow Jesus. If you prayed this every day for me I’d be thankful. Pray that I follow the Shepherd. And this parts kinda hard. As I follow him and as I’m teaching you from his word, I really can only ask one thing from you, that you follow me. And that’s a hard task to ask somebody, that you follow me. That didn’t even sound right but as I follow him, you follow me. This is how he set it up to work. This is the call of the pastor. But there’s more pastoral responsibilities that we see for sheep than just teaching and preaching the word of God. There are spiritual need, there are physical needs and they occur daily amongst the people. As I take you to God’s word spiritually, this shepherding responsibility for pastoral care is not shared by the pastor alone.
It’s shared by all of us here today. The deacons help but you help each other. The responsibility of pastoral care is shared by us all. As I see a need, I met a need primarily with the word of God but as you see a need among you, what do you do? You need and care for that need amongst yourselves. Church, this is why groups are so important. The primary place that I see pastoral care responsibilities being fulfilled is through the relationships that you establish in smaller groups. You go to a Bible Study and you need some care, they’re gonna know about that care and need long before I know about it. If I know about it, we’re gonna find so that it can meet it, I’m gonna meet it myself but they know about it before I do. If you’re in need of giving somebody some pastoral care, join a group. If you need pastoral care, join a group, a life group, a Bible Study class. Get involved, share your life with others and share other people’s lives with you and your family.
I know it’ll work. You say, “Pastor, how can you know it’ll work?” ‘Cause I see it happening. This is where I wanna encourage you. I’m not only admonishing you to do this, to share the pastoral care responsibilities amongst each other but I wanna encourage you today ’cause I know it works because I see you doing it. You do it already. I see you when a family, for example, recently has a baby and they’re celebrating or maybe they’re tired and I see you going and visiting them and taking them mills and caring for them. This weekend, personally, I’ll be honest with you, I felt it myself. There’s a need that came up in my life and since I’m not the Shepherd I couldn’t meet it for myself. God showed you that need and one of you met that need. I felt it. I’m also in need of ministry and I felt it from you and I feel it from my group all the time. I’ve seen you caring for the pastoral needs of those in your groups.
I’ve seen you help families walk through death and since I don’t see her in here today, I can mention Lucille Wardlaw. Every time I talk to her, this is what she says to me, she grabs my hand, she has this sweet look in her eye and she goes, “Pastor,” she calls me Under Shepherd, “Under Shepherd.” She’s just so biblical. “Under Shepherd, let me tell you about your sheep.” She tels me stories about how these last 7 weeks of Joe’s life as he crossed from this life into the next, how he loved her one of the sheep of this God’s flock. I see you and other families’ lives, I see you mowing lawns, I see you washing cars, I see you doing things I don’t even know about, bringing food, making visits, sometimes just sending an encouraging text message and above all praying for each other. Church, you’re doing it. My pleading with you is continue to do it.
Shepherd God’s sheep among yourselves. Continue to do that, care for each other. This is what makes church amazing. And we need it from you. There’s another level to this, it’s why. Why do we shepherd the sheep of God’s flock? Now your initial answer maybe like mine, “Well, because I love the sheep.” As you should but I think there’s a better answer that’s longer lasting. You do this because you love the Shepherd. Jesus says, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter says, “I do love you.” And then what does Jesus do? He redirects his love to the sheep. If you wanna better love the sheep of God that are around you start by loving the Shepherd more. That’s why I asked you when you pray for me, help me to love him and what he will do, he’ll give me the same as he’ll give you, a supernatural love for the sheep that surrounds you.
This happens to me all the time. It’s happening to me through my ministry and here’s why it’s helpful. Because sheep aren’t always lovable. Some of you are laughing like, “Wait a second. That’s me. I’m not lovable.” I don’t know if it’s you or not but not all sheep are always lovable for all times. I can speak from experience and so can you. Here’s the deal. Some, not all, but some of the deepest pain I’ve ever experienced from other people has come from the sheep that God has called me to shepherd. Sheep aren’t always lovable. Yes, I know when I see a sheep in danger and someone’s trying to kill them, I want to protect them. When I see a sheep in danger from someone else, I want to protect them but sometimes as you’re guiding the sheep, here’s what they’ll do, they’ll turn right around and bite you.
What do you do with that sheep? You just kick him a couple times and kick him out of the flock? No. If you love Christ first, here’s what he’ll do. He’ll give you love for them even though they’re not being lovable at the time and though I’ve been hurt some of the worst in my entire life by people God has called me to shepherd, you would think in your mind right now, “Well, that’s not good. I feel sorry for Pastor John, there’s a little bitterness that’s probably growing in his heart.” No there’s not. I’ll tell you why, hatred has a hard time entering my heart when I love him first. That’s why I want to pray for me that I love him first. What he does for me, he’ll for you. Love Christ first, foremost and above all and that supernatural love for the sheep will come out of you.
It’ll come out of you when they’re not teachable or it’ll come out of you when they try to bite you on the hand, it’ll come out of you when they lash out at you, it’ll come out of you when they want to stray from you and yes, even when they wanna stay around you. This love starts with Jesus and then because we love Jesus we love the sheep that he has given to us. Galatians 6 says that we must bear each other burdens and Galatian 6 verse 9 says, “Do not grow weary in doing good for one another.” Church, I praise God that I go not see you growing weary in sharing each other’s burdens and loving Christ through each other. Please, continue to do it. Love his sheep and then follow his will. Look at verse 19, we’ve gotta end today.
As disciples, not only do we tend the sheep that Jesus has given us but we must also follow him wherever that leads. It’s not complicated. A disciple is a follower and a follower follows Jesus. That’s sounds easy doesn’t it? I’m a disciple therefore I’m a follower and I’m excited to say, I can even have a little bounce in my step, I will follow Jesus wherever he leads me to go. But it’s not always that easy when you consider the context of what that might mean for you or the path that he may have you walk down. He says to Peter here in verse 19, “Follow me.” And like, that’s easy Peter, just follow him. But look what the context was in verse 18. Before he says, “Follow me,” he says, “You will die in your old age by the hands of men who will basically martyr you for my namesake.” Church history tells us that this prophecy by Jesus came true.
Peter died as a martyr representing Jesus. There are several stories. One story goes that Peter was crucified and he says, “Don’t crucify me like my Lord. Crucify me upside down. I don’t deserve the same honor as he.” I don’t know if that’s true and it doesn’t matter how Peter died. What matters is that Jesus says, “You’re gonna die following me.” And then he says, “Follow me,” and Jesus was walking and Peter was a following. But we live in a world that frustrates me. We live in a world where modern Christianity is selling Jesus to people in ways that they only want to hear. It’s like an infomercial sometimes when I listen to it and it makes me sick. “For a limited time only, come and follow Jesus and he’ll take you everywhere you’ve never been and everywhere you wanna go. You don’t like being sick? Good news. Jesus didn’t want you to be sick. You don’t like being poor? Great news. Jesus didn’t want you to be poor either.”
“Oh, wait a second. You’re unhappy. I got good news for you. Jesus doesn’t want you to be unhappy either so for a limited time, if you’ll trust in Jesus, all your problems will go away.” Yeah, it was terrible, wasn’t it? I’m not a very good salesman because I don’t believe it. Here’s the problem with that. There’s just enough truth in that for you to buy it. Jesus does care about your happiness. Turns out, he wants you to be blissfully happy but here’s what he knows, here’s the truth. It doesn’t come by you seeking yourself. It only comes from obeying him and following his will in your life. He knows how to make you happy more than you do. I wish we’d start being honest with people the way Jesus is honest with Peter here. That if you come to follow Jesus, it may take you down a path that you don’t wanna go in your flesh. You may lose some friends over it because they don’t understand how you can trust the Jesus that allows such pain in the world.
They may call his love words hate speech. You may lose a family member. You may lose a job for following Jesus and yes, Church, if I were to be honest with you today, you just might lose your life just like Peter did. But I’ll tell you the greatest news you’ll ever hear, it’s worth it. All of it, whatever you lose, even if it’s everything, it’s completely worth it. The greatest feeling a sheep will ever know is following the path that Jesus told them to go. If you would believe that, there’s great things awaiting you. I pray that this imagery’s powerful for you today. I pray that you see Jesus and that you can accomplish without him, especially sharing the Gospel. I pray that you would see your call as a Shepherd, as my call is to Shepherd, is to care for his sheep.
So follow him and yes, maybe even that means for you to follow me as I follow him. I pray that you would also see the path that he’s called you to follow as a path maybe full of sacrifice but also great satisfaction knowing that you’re following exactly where he’s called you to go.