Just Say Yes, Part 5

Martin Luther King famously said this:

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.

Of course, he’s right about that. And what is true about forgiveness is also true of our ongoing commitment to God. Our faith must be lived daily, wherever we may be. Every day, in many small and big ways, we need to be manifesting our commitment to God before an unbelieving world. Being in a committed relationship with God is not unlike being in a committed relationship with our spouse. When I think about my marriage, it’s obvious that when the minister asked me to say, “I do,” he should have said, “Say I do, I did, and I will! All the time!”

Part of that commitment to God is learning to say “yes” to Him. I say “learning to say ‘yes’” because it’s not natural for us. And it’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes saying “yes” to God means saying to “no” to ourselves or other people, and most of us are not predisposed to do that. It takes a lot of practice to get it right, but developing the godly habit of saying “yes” to God does two very important things in our lives:

• It reaffirms our commitment to Him.

If I as a Christian husband always said “no” to my wife, what kind husband would that make me? What if I always did what I wanted to do at the expense of doing what my wife wanted? How would that make her feel? The more we say “yes” to God, the more we are telling Him and showing the world how seriously we take our commitment to Him. It demonstrates to God that He is important to us and that our relationship with Him is more than just a “word-only” relationship.

• It shows that we are available to Him.

If you’ve invited somebody to some important event and they never showed even though they said they would, you know how most Christians treat the Lord. We declare our love for Him and we promise Him the world, but then we don’t bother to show up when He needs us the most. What does that tell God? That we have better things to do? That other people are more important than He? Before you say, “I’d never do that,” stop and think about how many times you’ve skipped church lately. Can you imagine? You’re too busy to give God an hour or two one day a week! That’s despicable. But a lot of Christians do that without giving it a second thought.

Saying “yes” to God is part of the faith that we claim to possess. And living in obedience to God’s Word is saying “yes” to Him. So far, we have looked at four people in the Bible who said “yes” to Jesus:

• In Matthew 9:28, two blind men said “yes” to Christ’s mercy and they were healed.
• In Matthew 13:51, some disciples said “yes” to the teachings of Jesus.
• In Matthew 15:17, the Syrophoenician woman said “yes” to being a dog; a sinner in need of the kind of help only the Savior could give.
• In John 11:27, Martha said “yes” to Jesus being the Resurrection.

In each and every case, the people saying “yes” to Jesus were manifesting their faith to Him and to others.

Peter is our fourth example of somebody who said “yes” to Jesus:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15 | NIV84)

In fact, in the story, Peter said “yes” to Jesus three times. Let’s take a closer look at why Jesus asked Peter what appeared to have been the same question three times and why Peter said “yes” three times.

An odd chapter

John chapter 21 is an odd chapter. Some Bible scholars don’t even think John wrote it. It seems almost out of place. These “scholars” point to chapter 20 as being a more fitting end to the Gospel.

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30, 31 | NIV84)

Well, they may have a point; a slender one, no doubt. Those verses do seem like a good way to end a story – a biography of Jesus. But do they really? There is a handful of threads of “unfinished business” in the life and afterlife of Jesus that chapter 21 ties up.

Seven of the disciples had returned to their previous lives. That’s almost anticlimactic when compared to what came before.

Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:2, 3 | NIV84)

Why wouldn’t they go fishing? These men who had been through so much in recent weeks needed time to think; time to work things out. Sure, Jesus rose from the dead; that worked out good for Him. Sure doubting Thomas isn’t doubting any more. But what do they do next? It’s human nature to do what’s comfortable when you don’t know what you should be doing. That’s why people eat to feel better. Or they crank up the heat when it’s drizzling outside even if it isn’t all that cold. These men knew fishing. They understood fish. So, with Peter as the default leader, they all went fishing. How familiar were these guys with fishing? How comfortable were they with going back to their former lives? John refers to “the boat,” not “a boat.” This is the boat they used, perhaps, dozens and dozens of times before.

So that sets the scene. After the incredible events of the death and especially the resurrection of their Lord and after fellowshipping with Jesus after He rose from the dead, these men beat it back to the boat to catch some fish.

A long night

They fished all night and caught exactly no fish. It’s not that they were bad fishermen. Henry David Thoreau hit the nail on the head:

Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.

These men weren’t looking for fish. They were looking for some direction. Maybe they forgot something Jesus had mentioned earlier, or took it the wrong way:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 | NIV84)

Perhaps they thought they were apart from Jesus, or He was apart from them. They, like a lot of Christians, weren’t bad guys or rebellious men. All they needed was a nudge to get them moving. Well, here comes the nudge:

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:5, 6 | NIV84)

Jesus showed up, giving them the direction they needed. John was the first to recognize the Man on the beach, but impetuous Peter was the first to get out of the boat:

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (John 21:7 | NIV84)

It would have been so cool if Peter had actually walked on the water to get to Jesus this time, but apparently he didn’t. No doubt Peter was excited to see Jesus, as all the disciples would have been, but maybe Peter was hoping for something. He’d let his Lord down badly. Maybe he was looking for some kind redemption.

Instead of that, Jesus made breakfast for the boys. A careful reading of the story reveals something fascinating:

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. (John 15:9 – 12 | NIV84)

There are all kinds of allegorical interpretations of this passage floating around. Early Church Father Jerome taught that this was truly a miracle catch. At that time, there were only 153 varieties of fish in the world, and these fellows caught one of each. The net remained intact, symbolizing the unity that must characterize the church as they fish for men. But to me, the most interesting part of the story is that Jesus had cooked breakfast for them before they brought Him the fish. In other words, He didn’t use their fish. He fed His friends the way He fed the hungry crowds. He did it His way, with His own resources.

Redemption and Restoration

As soon as breakfast was over, it was time for Jesus to finish some unfinished business; to tie up some dangling threads. Turning to Peter, our Lord asked Peter some questions.

• First Question

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15 | NIV)

To this first question, Peter answered “yes.” But I have a question about the question: What did Jesus mean by “these?” Did He have in mind the disciples (“Do you love me more than these disciples?”) or did He have in mind the fish, the boats, the nets, and life in general? Perhaps Jesus was being ambiguous for a reason. What our Lord was looking for from Peter was complete consecration and dedication. That’s what Jesus wants from all His people.

• Second Question

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16 | NIV84)

Jesus wanted Peter to know the seriousness of the question. Not just love, “true love” is what Jesus demands of Peter.

• Third Question

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17 | NIV84)

This last question did it for Peter. He was “hurt.” Wouldn’t you be, too? Jesus did indeed know the man; He knew Peter’s heart but He also knew Peter by he did: He had actually denied Jesus three times. Therefore Peter’s restoration needed to be complete, hence the three denials demanded the three affirmations of love and service. Peter declared his love and loyalty and Jesus accepted his confession.

But a positive confession of faith is not enough. Following each affirmation of love, or confession of faith, Jesus gave Peter a commission:

• Feed my sheep
• Take care of my sheep
• Feed my sheep

Part of Peter’s redemption and restoration involved his doing something for His Lord that had nothing to do with fishing for fish! Henceforth, Peter would care for of Jesus’ sheep: feeding the young ones, shepherding the stubborn ones, and caring for the old ones.

Peter’s healing was complete when each time he said “yes” to Jesus.

And your healing will be complete when you learn to say “yes” to Jesus, too.

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