living the resurrection: MOVING FROM DENIAL TO DENIAL

John 21:1-19

It was time for the annual cake sale at a Presbyterian church not much different than our own. Ms. Billings always made the most beautiful cakes...she was expected to make another one this year. However, Ms. Billings was a very busy woman with the time she spent with her family and the time she gave to her community. She put off making the cake this year thinking she could put it all together at the last minute.

When the cake came out of the oven, Ms. Billings was horrified to see that the cake had fallen. She didn’t have the time or the ingredients to make another one...she panicked. Frantically, she devised an ingenious plan. She would find a way to "fix" the cake...then she would be the first one to the sale and buy her own cake back.

She looked around the room, trying to find something that she could use to "prop" the cake back up, and then she found it. A roll of toilet paper was the perfect size. So she put it under the center of the cake and the cake looked perfect. She decorated it bright yellow and took it to the bake sale. Then she stuck around until the bake sale started.

She was the first in line when the doors opened; she smiled to herself about how clever she was. But then there was a terrifying horror crawling up from within her. She looked at every single table; no yellow cake! Someone had snuck in before the sale and purchased it. The helpers couldn’t remember who had purchased it either; there was so much going on.

She went home and felt absolutely horrible. That was it: they would find the toilet paper in the cake, trace it back to her, and ban her from ever cooking ever again, except for potlucks.

Well, she didn’t have a whole lot of time to dwell on it, like I said she was a very busy woman. She was going to a reception that the Mayor’s wife was holding, and she was already a little late.

When she got there, she almost died right where she stood… because there, at the center of a brilliantly decorated table, was a bright yellow cake. She debated all of her options: grab the cake and run, changing her name and moving to Tahiti, calling in a bomb threat, or telling the hostess. It was a dead tie between calling in a bomb threat and telling the hostess, when she decided to muster up the courage to tell the Mayor’s wife of the horrors that awaited inside the yellow cake.

But as she got up to tell the hostess about the cake, she overheard someone complementing her. "That is simply the most beautiful cake I have ever seen!" To which the Mayor’s wife replied, "Thank you, I made it myself." Ms. Billings then sat down and enjoyed her fruit salad.

(From a sermon by Spencer Homan, The Cover Up - Prison Break 1, 11/19/2009)
There really is no worse feeling than knowing that you are not what everybody thinks you are. There are always a certain percentage of people in every church that are living with the burden of some secret or hidden sin. It is a burden. It is extremely hard to balance one’s life between what is real and what is fake.

In our continuing series looking at conversations Jesus had after the resurrection we find Him on the shore of a lake. He is focused on a mission that I think might be very encouraging to some of us in this room today.

The apostle Peter was a deserter!  He deserted Jesus in his hour of crisis – he was a coward!  He did the opposite of what he had promised. Just a few hours before Christ was taken captive prior to the crucifixion, Peter declared his resolve to never deny the Lord. And in fact when the Roman soldiers came to take Jesus away, Peter acted on adrenaline without thinking and grabbed a sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears. Jesus put it back on and within a few hours, Peter denied ever knowing Jesus and cowered in the face of a woman’s accusations about him being a disciple.

Often there are people that make really poor choices and then live to regret them!  Without an understanding of God’s mercy and grace they may spend the rest of their lives wallowing in guilt and self pity.

In this encounter, Jesus goes looking for his scattered disciples.  It is the story of restoration and forgiveness.  It is a personal glimpse of who Jesus Christ really is.

Last week Thomas moved from doubt to devotion – This week Peter moves from denial to denial. (From denial to self-denial)

There are three things you need to know about Jesus today if you are carrying some hidden sin or hypocrisy in your life.

1. Jesus always reaches out to us

 4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. 5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”
   “No,” they replied. 

 6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. 

 7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. 9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. 

 10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. 

 12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said
.  John 21:4-11 NLT

It is really interesting that we find these disciples fishing. It is what several of them did prior to answering the call to follow Jesus Christ. It was Peter that suggested they go fishing and so they fall back on what they knew to do.

It is critical that you hear today how much Jesus cares about you and your relationship with Him.

In Mark 16, following the resurrection but before anyone had seen Him, the angel at the tomb says something very interesting regarding Peter.

“7 Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” Mark 16:7 NLT

Some of you could read that today and insert your name right there in place of Peter. Even in these moments after His resurrection the angel includes Peter knowing that he is a marked man because of his lying denial of the Lord.

Jesus shows up. He was waiting for the disciples.  He helped them fish.  He made them breakfast. Everything in this story should be a message of how much Jesus loves you and to what lengths He will go to restore those that have fallen away from faith.

While he shows up looking for his disciples and fixes them breakfast on the beach and even helps them catch some fish He really has a focused attention on one person that is really in need of His mercy and forgiveness.

Lest you don’t think Peter was feeling guilty and burdened about his sin look again at his actions following the resurrection. When they went out to see if the tomb was empty it was Peter that ran ahead of everyone else. When he hears that it is Jesus standing on the shore we read these words. 

 7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. 9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

Jesus is always pursing and reaching out to those who think they have let Him down or are in desperate need of forgiveness. 

2. Jesus is always ready to restore us.

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

   “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”   “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 

 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”  “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
 Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17 NLT

In the Greek language that the New Testament was written in, there are three words for our word love. The first is Eros which is a physical love, and is where we get our word erotic from. We can compare it to lust. The second kind of love is known as Phileo; which means brotherly love. Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love. We can compare it to the word “like”. The final kind of love is known as Agape love, and this is the unconditional, self-sacrificing love. It means the complete devotion to someone.

Here in the text, Jesus says, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me.” And the word He uses for love there is the word Agape. Well, Peter responded in an honest fashion. He knew that his actions didn’t match that kind of devotion, and that he wasn’t quite there; so Peter responds by saying, “Lord, you know that I love you.” But the word he uses for love there is Phileo. So to paraphrase this text, “Peter, do you love Me 100%, more than anything else?” “Lord, you know I like you.”

Peter was simply being honest here. He knew that if he really loved the Lord he wouldn’t have denied Him so he is trying to be honest. The absence of honesty is detrimental to a relationship. If a person fails to acknowledge that everything is not okay, then trouble is a brewing. Sometimes one person may be ignorant that a problem exists within the relationship.

An aged farmer and his wife were leaning against the edge of their pig-pen when the old woman wistfully recalled that the next week would mark their golden wedding anniversary. “Let’s have a party, Homer," she suggested. "Let’s kill a pig." The farmer scratched his grizzled head. "Gee, Ethel," he finally answered, "I don’t see why the pig should take the blame for something that happened fifty years ago."

Honesty about the strength and health of the relationship is important, but how often are we truly honest about our condition. Ask a person how they are doing and rarely will you get an honest response. A woman sits at home while her husband is busy at work. She is surrounded by three screaming children in a house that even after a full day of cleaning is still in shambles. Her husband rarely is home and when he is he rarely often speaks. He has his career and she has her home, and though she would never complain about the wonderful family God has blessed with, she secretly fills unfilled, unmotivated, and unappreciated. When her husband arrives home and says, “Honey, how are you doing?” Her response is…“Fine, just fine.”

A man sits talking to his friend from out of town. His has been passed over for a promotion for the third time, his career has stalled and with the company downsizing, he fears a layoff at any moment. Yet when his friend asks, “So, Frank, how are things at work?” Frank responds by saying, “Fine, just fine.”

A Christian arrives for church on Sunday morning and even as he enters the church, he feels that God is a million miles away. He no longer has the urge to pray and he no longer hungers for God’s word. He has for weeks now known that the cancer is eating away at his body and inside he feels as though God has betrayed him. He is mad and at times a stray thought or two has crossed his mind that maybe, just maybe there is no God. Yet on Sunday morning, when the pastor asks the question, “How is it with your soul this morning?” the man replies, “…Fine…just fine.”

Let me ask you, how is it with your soul this morning? Is it “fine”? Don’t pretend your relationship with Christ is fine when it’s not.

The church is not a pretty place of fine people; it’s a place of hurting people in need of grace and assistance. And we come together to help each other grow in the faith and grow closer to God, but we need to admit that we need that help.

“Do you Agape Me?” No, I’m not there yet, but I want to be. I want to be there, but I have a lack of desire, I still feel attached to doing wrong, and I need help.” And when we do that, God says, “Good, now we can work on fixing it.” 3 times Peter had failed, and 3 times He is restored; and done so in full view of all the others. Now they all knew that Peter had been restored.

3. Jesus always reminds us of our responsibility.

 “Then Jesus told him, ‘Follow Me.’” John 21:19b NLT

These two simple words call to us today. To obey them is to see your life transformed. To follow Christ is to allow Him to shape and mold your everyday conversations, relationships, actions and commitments.

To follow Christ means that you will engage in the most important work on this earth and that is to share the message of Jesus Christ.

I am wondering today what following Christ would look like for some of you. I am really thankful that you are here today. We are extremely pleased to see you each Sunday when you come through the door. But what would your life look like if you really were following Christ.

What would happen tomorrow at work if you put Christ first?
What would happen in your family today if you put Christ first?

What would the rest of your day look like if you were to follow Christ?

Many of you struggle with it because you know you are not perfect and you’re not strong in our faith. Some of us may have some secret struggle that we are going through that keeps us from claiming to really love the Lord and allow Him to have our hearts minds and souls.

I want you watch and hear the testimony of a man that discovered the grace of God. Listen to him describe his parents and you will hear about what Jesus is like today.
Video: I Am Second: David McKenna

He is looking for some of you today. He is standing on the shore of your life. He is waiting for you to come home. Jesus loves you more than you love yourself today.


Benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”  (Romans 16:24)