BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday June 1, 2014
FOLLOWING JESUS WITH RENEWED PURPOSE
(Returning to faithful Christian discipleship)
In the epilogue to this gospel account of the Apostle John, he seeks to show us how JESUS re-instated Peter, following his latest bout with failure, namely, his blatant denial of even knowing our LORD and SAVIOR, during HIS “passion” hours in Jerusalem. JESUS had already promised to meet with HIS disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:7), and so, here we are in a scene at the Sea of Galilee, otherwise known as the Sea of Tiberias.
Here in John 21, we find that Peter had led many of the disciples back into the trade from which JESUS had called them some three years earlier. However, their lack of success in their old profession stands as evidence as to why we should not try and return to a place where the LORD has already removed us from so that HE can better use us for HIS purpose. JESUS tells us too, that, apart from HIM, we can do nothing anyway.
When JESUS calls us, not only does that often call for a change of occupation, it also always calls for us to change our ways, and our thinking completely, and, we will no longer feel any real satisfaction in the old lifestyle. Peter must have, no doubt, been feeling pretty low about his denial of CHRIST JESUS, and was desperately seeking to find acceptance back in his old fishing career. We should never allow our sin to drive us away from the LORD, but rather, one should let their sins stand as proof that we cannot live life correctly apart from the LORD.
After Peter and the other disciples had been out all night fishing without catching a single fish, JESUS instructs them to cast their nets on the “right side” of the boat (v.6), where they would catch many fish. The disciples were obedient and did as the LORD said, and as a result, they were overwhelmed with success.
This incident prompted the men to recognize that the LORD was still with them. HE had given them a commission to obey and their old style of fishing was not going to work for them anymore. They were to now lay down their old nets, that were used to catch fish for physical food, and pick up their new “spiritual nets”, and become fishers of men.
JESUS had shown them during HIS three-year ministry, how to fish from the “right side” of the boat, and now, it was time for them to implement those teachings, and the whole world would serve as their new fishing waters, where their harvest would be exceedingly great.
WE ARE CALLED TO BE SHEPHERDS: LOVE THE LORD
In John 18:27, Peter denied JESUS for the third and final time. It was H.G. Welles who said, “A man can be a bad musician, and yet, be passionately in love with music”. And so, for whatever Peter did, and no matter how terrible his failure was, there was never truly any doubt that he was passionately devoted to JESUS. He may have been overconfident at times, as he was when he told JESUS that he would never deny HIM. However, sometimes when a man says, “That’s the one thing I will never do”, then, that’s the very thing that he needs to carefully guard against doing.
Satan often attacks a person at a point where they are most sure of themselves, because he knows that it is there, where they are most likely to be unprepared. The shame of failure and disloyalty is not altogether a lost, because it often gives us a feeling of sympathy and understanding, that, otherwise, we may have never had.
“Do you love ME?” is what JESUS asked Peter, three times, here in John 21, and I guess, the only way that we can prove our love for JESUS is by loving others. Love is the greatest privilege in the world, yet, it brings with it, the greatest responsibility. For Peter, it brought, a cross, and he did die for the LORD, because he too eventually died on a cross, and as Jewish tradition has it, he requested to be nailed upside down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as CHRIST.
Love always involves responsibility, and it always involves a sacrifice. We don’t really love JESUS, unless we are willing to take on HIS task, and, to take up our own cross. We may never be able to write, or think, like the Apostle John, and in fact, we may never even be able to travel to the ends of the earth and preach like Paul. But here’s where we can all follow in the footsteps of Peter. If we love JESUS, each of us can help someone else guard against going astray. And if we love JESUS, each of us can love one another. And finally, if we love JESUS, each of us has an open opportunity to feed JESUS’ sheep, with the loving and nourishing food, of the “Word of GOD”.
WE ARE CALLED TO BE DISCIPLES: FOLLOW THE LORD
Obedience to JESUS’ command to “Follow ME” is the key issue in every Christian life. We must follow the LORD’s path wherever it leads us personally, whether it leads to a cross, or, to some other difficult undertaking in life. The important thing is that we concentrate on following where JESUS leads us as individuals. And at the same time, we must be careful that we don’t interfere with where GOD is leading other Christians in the Church.
Remember, the church is not a hierarchy like the one that was established by the Sanhedrin in New Testament biblical times. It is not a place where the overseers can tell others what GOD’s plan is for them. The church is an organism of living believers who are directly connected to JESUS CHRIST, the LIVING HEAD of the Church, and each member is responsible to love and follow HIM in the form of a personal experiential relationship.
After being informed by JESUS how he would personally glorify GOD in death, Peter immediately became curious as to what fate the apostle John would encounter. Here we see JESUS sharply rebukes HIS newly reinstated lead disciple, as HE, in effect, tells him to only be concerned with his own personal calling, and to not concern himself with the calling of others.
GOD has a personal plan for each of us, and the only way we can successfully do GOD’s will, is by staying focused on our own calling or task. In order to fulfill the role of a disciple, we must be willing to take up our own cross and follow JESUS where HE leads us, personally. We can’t afford to become distracted by someone else’s ministry, or become envious of what GOD is doing in someone else’s life, just because it may seem to be more glamorous than our own task.
GOD chooses us for ministries that HE has already equipped us to do, personally, and HE expects us to be obedient in carrying out that mission, HIS way, not ours. HIS plans for us will always vary, and HIS reasons are seldom revealed to anyone.
The apostle John witnessed all of the events written about in his book, and he wrote all of these things under the influence and power of the HOLY SPIRIT. His book ends showing us a picture of himself and Peter following our LORD and SAVIOR into the unknown. They were walking out and following JESUS on faith, right into the pages of the Book of Acts. They now had their own personal special assignments, and they were ready to carry them out together, yet in different ways, to each, his own.
And this now obscure, little sect of followers called “Adherents of the Way” was about to explode into the first century and quickly become the most important offering the world has ever known. They would become known, the world over, as “Christians”, and their organization would carry, as its greatest perk, “the gift of Salvation”.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander