Easter Sunday Message
The 800 lb. Gorilla
Matt. 26: 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock
shall be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You,
I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter said to Him,
“Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
Luke 22: 54 then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had
kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She
looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.58 A little later someone else saw him and said,
“You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter
replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter
remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
John 21: 15; So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord;
You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him,
“Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was
grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him,
“Tend My sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will
stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he
would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
Wow, what do you think that was like? Let me rephrase it for you; one morning you’re lying in bed and you hear a knock at the door. You stand up and to put on
your robe, but it’s too late. You hear someone smash through your front door and voices screaming “Get on the ground, get on the ground and put your hands
behind your head!” A dozen men jump on your back and throw you to the ground and start beating you mercilessly. They drag you out the front door and throw
you in a car, drive you to the station and advise you that you’ve been found guilty of a crime, but you know you’re innocent. They say; “Do you have an alibi?”
You say; “Yes, just ask me best friend. I was with him all night”. They march your friend into the interrogation room and ask; “you mean him?” You say, “Yes, that’s
him!” And then he looks you straight in the eye and says; “I’ve never seen that man before in my life.” You say; “Peter, tell them the truth. I’m innocent!” He
shakes his head and says; “No idea who that guy is.”
How do you think Jesus felt just at that moment? Has something like that ever happened to you? It has to me, and you know what; it hurt like hell. Have you ever
been betrayed by someone you loved? Oh, what a terrible feeling.
I know that most of us look forward to Easter so we can celebrate the risen Savior, but something tells me that Peter had a different take. Peter, oh Peter, what
have you done? Peter was the first disciple that Jesus called. He was the one that Jesus called “the Rock”, upon which I will build my church. He was with Jesus
at the mount of transfiguration and the one who walked on water in the midst of the storm. He was there when Jesus healed his mother and he was the one who
raised his sword to fight off the soldiers when they came to arrest his Rabbi. He made the loudest boasts and the most outrageous claims. He was the first one to
enter the empty tomb, and according to the Apostle Paul he was the first disciple that Jesus appeared to. What a terrifying moment that must have been. He
knew what he’d done.
Jesus appeared to Peter on the eve of the day he rose. He appeared to Peter on the second day, and again on the eighth. Our last passage from today
happened “sometime later”, but this time was different. Jesus had told him to throw his net over the other side, and when Peter realized who it was, he jumped
into the water and swam all the way back to the shore. Peter and Jesus were there on the shore, along with some of the other disciples, and an 800 lb. Gorilla in
the corner of the room.
After breakfast Jesus looks Peter right in the eye and asked; “Simon, do you love me more than these?” I imagine all of the air left Peter when he heard that
question. His heart began to beat a little faster, sweat started beading upon his brow and he began ringing his hands. His gaze turned away and he found himself
staring at the ground. The day of reckoning had come. Peter timidly replied; “Yes Lord, you know that I do”.
There are a few things worth noting in that discourse. First, what did Jesus mean when He asked do you love me more than “these”? Exactly what were “these”?
Secondly, why did Jesus call him Simon, and not Peter? And finally, Jesus asked Peter if he loved (agapao) him, but Peter replied “Yes, I love (filio) you.” Is
there a difference?
First, we saw that Jesus asked him if he loved Him more than “these”. Some have tried to make the case that He was asking Peter if Peter loved Jesus more
than the other disciples loved Jesus. I could imagine that if you were burdened by the shame of knowing you had made greater boasts than all the others, you
might conclude that this was Jesus’ way of humbling Peter, putting him in his place. But when we consider Peter’s response I don’t think that interpretation holds
water. Peter replied too quickly. We’ll come back to this, but I don’t believe that Peter would have had the confidence to say yes, knowing that he had just fallen
flat on his face.
Another interpretation is that Jesus may have been holding fishing nets in His hand, and was asking Peter if he loved Jesus more than those. Although it
sounds possible, and would make the story more palatable, I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence for this position, and it doesn’t make sense that Jesus
would have had to ask Peter 3 times.
With that in mind I’d like to propose a different take. I think Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him more than Peter loved the other disciples. I think Jesus was
asking Peter if he was going to go back to the life he’d had before Jesus called. He had just spent three years following Jesus every step of the way, and only a
few days later, there he was back at his old job again, hanging around with all of his old friends. Let’s consider the evidence.
Jesus called Peter “Simon”, but why? I believe Jesus was trying to communicate a message. I think by the time we finish today that you’ll probably agree. I
think Jesus was saying to Peter; “Peter, I’ve known you all of these years. I remember the day that I called you. I remember the day that I gave you your new
name. I saw you growing in love and wisdom, and before it happened, I saw your fall. Remember, I told you that you would betray me. You were so sure of
yourself. It wasn’t me who was surprised by your failure Peter, it was you.” I know that some would see Jesus calling Peter “Simon” as some kind of demotion, but
don’t ignore what Jesus said next; “Feed My sheep”. Oh church, if you only understood… somebody would have praised His name. Don’t go anywhere, it gets
better; I promise!
Thirdly, Jesus asked Peter; “Do you agapao me, and Peter replied; Yes, I filio you.” If you don’t know, agapao means “a divine sacrificial love”, but filio means
a “brotherly love”. They’re not the same. Peter knew what Jesus was asking, “Do you love me as much as I love you, will you follow me wherever I go?” Peter
would have said “Yes Lord, Yes!” only a few short days ago, but now he knew better. Peter remembered what happened the last time. Jesus asked again: “Do you
agapao me?”, but Peter said “Sure, like a brother”. Jesus was asking Peter; “Go deeper brother, go deeper”, but once again, Peter knew better. He was still
agonizing over those things that had taken place just a few days ago. Peter had lost his faith, but I need you to know something today church; an unshakable
faith is the product of a shaken faith. Oh, I think there might be some of you that are starting to catch on this morning, but there’s still a few of you left that haven’
t figured out where we’re going. Don’t turn back now, we’re almost home!
In our text Jesus asks a third time; “Peter, do you love me?”, but this time he changed the question. What He actually says is; “Peter, do you filio me?” Some
might conclude that Jesus gave up, that he settled for less, but what about what comes next? Jesus foretells of the death of Peter as “signifying by what kind of
death he would glorify God.” How could Jesus know how, when and why Peter would die, but not be able to tell if Peter really loved Him or not? The answer is
that Jesus already knew. Jesus wasn’t asking Peter so that Jesus could know the truth; He was asking Peter so that Peter would know the truth!
Jesus already knew that Peter was going to be the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He already knew that Peter would lead the church at Antioch. He
already knew that he would preside over the day of Pentecost and He already knew that Peter would hang on a cross at the hand of Nero! Jesus knew, and Jesus
knew that 30 years later Peter would write in 1 Peter 1:8; “Although you have not seen him, you love (agapao) Him.”
Jesus asked the third time and Peter throws up his hands and cries out; “Lord, only YOU know all things!” I thought I loved you, but I failed. I thought I loved
you but I stumbled. I thought I loved you but I betrayed you, even unto death. Lord, the truth is…”I DON’T KNOW!” “I don’t know if I love You as much as You’re
asking me. I want to say yes; I want to believe that this time around things will be different, but Lord, I just don’t know. Only You know the answer Lord, only You.”
Jesus called Simon “Peter, the Rock” knowing full well that one day that rock would fall. He knew that rock would betray Him and that He would find him
weeping harshly, with overwhelming grief and shattered faith. Jesus didn’t call him the rock because of who he was, or because of who he’d been. Jesus called
him the rock because He knew what he would become.
All three times Jesus responded by saying; “Feed My sheep”. He’s saying; “Peter, I trust you. I trust you with My most prized possession. I trust you with the souls
that I laid down My very life for. I trust you with the highest calling. Peter, I know that with you they’re in good hands. I’m not concerned with your past and your
failures because I already know all of your tomorrows.” Church, I have a question for you today; what do you think Peter was supposed to feed them? It wasn’t for
Peter to feed their stomachs; it was for Peter to feed their hearts and their minds. Jesus was saying; “Peter, tell them about me. Remember this day. Let them
know that my burden is light and My yoke is easy. Tell them how I found you in this broken place, and instead of condemnation and judgment, I extended to you
My hand of grace. Tell them Peter; tell them the gospel; tell them the Good News.”
46 days ago many of you committed to following me on a fast. You were inspired and motivated. You wrote down on the cards we passed out a list of all of
those things you were going to give up so that we could draw closer to the God we serve. How’d that work out for you? I know, if you’re like me, you probably
found yourself frustrated and defeated.
Some of you here can remember a time in your life when you first entered into the Christian experience, full of hope and inspiration, with a commitment to live
a holy life and to put your sins behind you. Yeah, how’d that work out for you? Did you fall on your face? We’ve tried so many times, time and time again, and
we think “this time things are going to be different”, but then we look around and find ourselves back at our old jobs, hanging out with our old friends and back to
our old routine.
And then comes that dreadful day, Easter. We know what’s coming; we’re going to have to sit at the table with the same Jesus that we’ve so often betrayed. And
what are we going to do when He asks that question; “Do you love Me?” What can we say? We already know how many times we’ve tried this before and it never
seems to work out. Have you given up? Listen to Jesus; He’s saying; “Don’t you give up on Me, I haven’t given up on you.”
Friends, today I want to share a verse of scripture with you. Romans 8:29 says; “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the
image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” Now I know that we don’t hear that passage used very often in a Nazarene church,
but rest assured that this too is the word of God. God “predestined” those He foreknew. Did you get that? Do you not know that He knows everything about you?
Don’t you know that He knows the number of hairs on your head, that He knows the number of your days; that He knew you before He formed you in your mother’s
womb? And yes, He knew all of your failures from before the foundations of the earth, yet He still called you anyway. That’s why you’re here today. He called
you, not because of your past or because of your present, but because He knows all of your tomorrows, and even knowing that, if you listen closely, you can hear
Him say; “Come, follow Me!”