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04.10.16 Do Over John 21:15-23 Sermon Summary

by on April 11, 2016

Part of our hope for the future, and motivation for the present, is remembering the moment in our past when we first fell in love with Jesus.

Summary Points

  • The significance of a name
  • God always does us better by one
  • Leading others by following Jesus

From very early on, the nascent Christian community knew that Simon was “the Rock.” The Gospels variously refer to him as Simon, “also known as” Peter, as Simon “whom Jesus named Peter,” and even Paul who wrote fifteen years before the Gospels referred to Simon as “Cephas,” the original Aramaic name translated into Greek as “Peter”—the Rock.

So the New Testament refers to this person sometimes as Simon Peter, sometimes just Simon, sometimes just Peter, and sometimes Cephas. But it’s only in the Gospel of John that we read about “Simon, son of John,” and that only in two episodes.

The first scene is when Andrew brings Simon to Jesus in chapter one. Then Jesus says to him, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas.” Through the rest of the Gospel he is referred to as “Simon Peter” or “Peter.” But then, in chapter twenty-one, this original designation returns.

In the meantime, during Jesus’ arrest, Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus the servant of the high priest. In doing so, he denies the whole of Jesus’ teaching and example. And then during Jesus’ questioning, Peter is also questioned about Jesus. And he denies even knowing Jesus—three times. Eventually, the Gospel writers tell us, Peter breaks down, leaves, and weeps bitterly.

Now in chapter twenty-one the resurrected Jesus is the one who questions Peter. And it’s not whether Peter knows him, but whether Peter loves him. And he questions three times, once for every one of Peter’s previous denials.

No matter how many times you’ve let Jesus down, he’s going to come and pick you back up. No matter how many times you get yourself lost, one more time, Jesus is going to come find you. No matter how far your sin takes you away from God, God’s grace is going to go farther and bring you back.

This is why Jesus calls Simon Peter “Simon, son of John.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Do you remember when I first found you? When I changed your name? When I changed you—the first time? Every time I call you it’s a new beginning. We start fresh. And my first question will always be the same: Do you love me?”

And so Peter is reinstated, but more, Peter is made the new shepherd. Jesus tells him, “Tend my lambs; feed my sheep.”

Like Peter, Jesus calls us to be shepherds. But also like Peter, we have first to follow the Good Shepherd. It’s a call to grow past our younger ways. Earlier Peter had bragged about his faithfulness to Jesus. Then he resorted to violence. This led to his becoming lost—like denying Jesus three times. This is what results when we rely solely on our own strength and wisdom.

Eventually we have to mature. We have to grow older, stretch out our hands, and let someone else lead us. And it doesn’t matter what God calls others to do—even the other disciple “whom Jesus loved.” We do have our own job to do. Jesus calls each of us again and again. We are the new shepherds. And we start as we always start, like Peter had to, by following Jesus because we love him.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • Do you remember the first time Jesus called you? Or a time when God’s claim upon your life was undeniable? Or do you remember when you first came to love God in Christ? How did these times change you? How have you changed since then?
  • For whom are you charged to be a shepherd? Whom are you called to feed? How do you first look to Jesus before you attempt to feed others?


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