Jesus’ love is more than words. John 21.1-19 by Revd Amanda Denniss

I know that my husband Oliver loves me.  He tells me that he loves me.  But if his love was only words, it wouldn’t mean much.  Love involves the things we do and say that express the desire of our heart that wants the best for the other person.  Most of us know the song that goes, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so.’  This morning we are looking at one of the passages in the bible that tell us something of what Jesus’ love for us looks like.  Jesus’ love is more than words.  It’s a love that desires the best for us.

Our reading comes from chapter 21 of John’s gospel where John describes one of the most significant encounters that the disciples had with Jesus after the resurrection.  Peter and a small group of the disciples had decided to go fishing.  It was a strange thing for them to chose to do.  Most of the disciples had been fishermen, but Jesus had called them to leave this way of life and join with him in inviting people into a relationship with God.  Probably the disciples were feeling at a loose end.  They had had three full-on years of being with Jesus and being trained by him.   Now it seemed he was no longer with them.  So they decided to go back to what they knew.  Maybe they were under pressure from their families to earn some money.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that they went out fishing all night but caught nothing.

Then as dawn broke, they saw a man standing on the shore of the lake.  The man called to them to throw their nets out on the right side of the boat.  They did so and caught so many fish that they were unable to haul the catch into the boat.

One of the disciples recognised that the man was Jesus and Peter was so excited that he jumped into the water to get to Jesus as quickly as he could.

Jesus had a fire going on the beach.  On it he was cooking fish and bread.  He invited them to bring along some of the fish they had just caught to cook too.

  1. Jesus is alive

The most important thing about this encounter is that the disciples see that Jesus is alive.  Jesus had been put to death on the cross which we remembered a few weeks ago on Good Friday.   Then three days later-miraculously, wonderfully-Jesus was raised from the dead.

The risen Jesus stood on the beach with the disciples.  He was a very physical Jesus.  He had a body.  He was cooking bread and fish on a fire.  He gave some to the disciples.  After the resurrection, Jesus didn’t just float up to heaven as a spirit.  Jesus was alive and had a physical body.  The disciples recognised him, but there was clearly something different about him.  John writes in verse 12, ‘None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.’  The resurrection body of Jesus is recognizable, but some things about him were different.  In the previous chapter of John’s gospel, John writes of the time that Jesus suddenly appeared to a group of disciples who were meeting in a locked room.  Physical walls and locked doors were no barrier to the risen Jesus.  The resurrection body of Jesus gives us a foretaste of what our resurrection bodies will be like.

For us, the most important thing is that the resurrection encounters of the disciples with Jesus show that Jesus is alive.  He is alive today.  Just in the same way that

  • he loved the disciples
  • he cared for the disciples
  • he spoke to the disciples

That same Jesus is alive today and

  • loves us
  • cares for us
  • speaks to us.

We can know the presence of the living Jesus in our lives.

How does Jesus love us, care for us, speak to us?

  1. Jesus cares for our needs

The disciples had gone fishing and although they fished all night, they caught no fish.

Jesus could have stood on the beach and looked at them and said, ‘What are you doing?  Why have you gone fishing?  I’ve invested three years of my life loving you, living with you, training and equipping you to tell and show others how wonderful it is to have a relationship with God through me.  Why aren’t you doing the things I’ve called you to do?’

But instead Jesus looks at them and loves them.  He sees a group of tired, hungry, disappointed friends.  Jesus love for them is very practical.  He says, ‘Put your nets on the other side.’   Jesus knew that when they did that they would catch an extraordinary amount of fish.

Jesus cared for the disciples very physical needs.  He knew they were hungry and tired.  He fed them.

Jesus cares for our needs.  Nothing is too small for Jesus to care about.  Nothing is too small for us to speak to Jesus about as we pray.

  • Jesus cares for our physical bodies
  • Jesus cares for our relationships-with our parents, with our children, with our families and friends, our neighbours and work colleagues

Nothing is too small to speak to Jesus about in prayer.

Jesus sees us exactly as we are.  With all our needs.  All our imperfections.  He meets us where we are.  He delights to provide for us.

Jesus also sees below the surface.  He sees his friends are unsuccessful at fishing, tired and hungry and he provides for them.  But in love Jesus also sees their deeper needs.  John records his conversation with one of the disciples as Jesus speaks to Peter to bring forgiveness, healing and a new start.

  1. Jesus’ love brings us forgiveness, healing and a new start

The disciples gathered around the fire that Jesus had made to cook the fish and bread for their breakfast on the beach.

Peter had stood around a very similar fire outside the house of the High Priest just before the crucifixion when Peter had denied that he even knew Jesus.  The cock had crowed.  We can only imagine how Peter felt as he stood with Jesus on the beach.  Guilty.  A failure.  Full of regret that he couldn’t turn the clocks back and act differently.  He had let down the person that he loved the most.

Most of us-all of us-are going to have felt that way.  We know that we’ve done something that has hurt someone.  Maybe we’ve let them down.  Rejected them.  Said things that we regret.  Done something.  Most of all-we know in doing these things we have let God down.

After breakfast, Jesus walked along the beach with the disciples.  Jesus took Peter aside.  Jesus could see Peter’s heart.  He could see the guilt. The regret.  The pain.  Jesus didn’t say, ‘There, there.  That’s alright.  No harm done.’  Or any other platitude.  Jesus asks Peter a question.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  He says, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’  Actually Jesus asks the question three times.  He uses slightly different words, but the question is always the same, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

Each time Peter replies with increasing urgency, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you.’  After each of Peter’s replies, Jesus says to him, ‘Take care of my sheep.  Feed my lambs.’

At the heart of this encounter is the love that Jesus has for Peter.  Jesus offers Peter, forgiveness, healing and a fresh start.  This is the gift of repentance.  Peter had gone off on his own path away from Jesus when he had denied even knowing him outside the High Priest’s house.  Jesus is now inviting Peter back into a relationship where Peter will once again walk closely with Jesus.

The way back is made possible by Jesus free offer of forgiveness.  Peter doesn’t have to earn that forgiveness.  Jesus paid the price for that forgiveness on Peter’s behalf at the cross.  Now Peter is set free to once again walk closely with Jesus.  And the invitation is to join in with the work of Jesus.  Peter is given a fresh commission.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He came to gather his sheep into the family of God through relationship with him.  Jesus says to his disciples in his High Priestly prayer which John records in chapter 20, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’

As we read through the book of Acts, we see that Peter faithfully joined in with this work of Jesus.  He faithfully told people how they too could accept Jesus free offer of forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God through Jesus.  When Jesus spoke to the crowds on the day of Pentecost, Luke the writer of Acts tells us that 3,000 people became Christians that day.

What about us?  Maybe you know that have hurt someone, let them down, said things that you regret.  Maybe you know that you have denied Jesus in some way because it was too costly to speak of your faith in Jesus.

For us, like Peter, the way is always open for us to return to Jesus.  The way back is to accept the free and precious gift of repentance.  To do this we need to turn away from doing or saying the things which we know are wrong, and turn back to walking with Jesus.  When we do this, Jesus always offers us his forgiveness and a fresh start.  Walking with Jesus is not passive though.  Jesus called Peter to share in with his work.  Jesus calls each one of us to join in with his work.

Jesus says to us as he said to those first disciples, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’  Like Peter we are each called to care for God’s sheep and lambs.  We have different personalities.  We have different gifts.  But if you are a Christian here this morning, you are on God’s team and have a part of play.  God’s heart of love is to invite everybody into a relationship with him through Jesus.  Jesus calls us to speak to the people we know about him.

It may be that you feel that this is a really difficult thing to do because there are so many questions that you have about the Christian faith and you don’t feel equipped to answer anybody else questions.

We are going to run a five week course on Tuesday evenings from 26th April to explore some of the questions people have about faith.  Please do come along.  We’re exploring:

  • Is there any solid evidence for our faith?
  • Do all paths lead to God?
  • What about evil and suffering?
  • Should we trust the bible?
  • What about prayer?

We’ll have a talk and an opportunity to discuss the topics.

This morning, the most important thing for us to know is Jesus is alive today.  He

  • loves us
  • cares for us
  • speaks to us.

We can know the presence of the living Jesus in our lives.

Jesus cares for our needs.  Nothing is too small for Jesus to care about.  Nothing is too small for us to speak to Jesus about as we pray.

Jesus’ love brings us forgiveness, healing and a new start.




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