Welcome, friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth, El Paso, Phoenix, Nashville, Austin, Houston, wherever you are listening in from tonight. We are wrapping up this series Jesus Walks. Anybody live in the M Streets in this area? Good. Three of you. Awesome. The epicenter of young adults. When my wife and I got married, we moved into a duplex in the M Streets, which, if you're listening, is just an area of Dallas that has a lot of young adults, families. It's kind of South Dallas by Mockingbird.
The point being, we moved into this duplex, and it was the first home we lived in together. We got ready to move everything in. We met the guy who was living there before us, and while he was moving, he said, "Hey, this TV is attached to the wall. I don't really want to take it down. I'm moving to Chicago. I'm going to be in a place where I can't really use it. I'll give you guys a great deal." This was when smart TVs were brand new. It was not just a smart TV; it was the nicest TV I'd ever seen. He gave it to us at basically half off. I was like, "Sold."
It had this feature to it that I'd never seen before and still haven't seen to this day. You could watch any show you wanted in 3-D. Have you guys seen this before? Some of you have. I don't even know if this is a thing, but on this TV, you could watch any TV show you wanted to in 3-D, but there was one catch to it. In order to watch it, you had to put on the 3-D glasses. These weren't like the 3-D glasses from the 1990s when you were in the IMAX theater. These were next level. You had to turn them on. They basically looked like they came from NASA or something.
They allow you to watch any TV show you want in total 3-D. So you sit there. You're watching The Office or Parks and Recreation, whatever your thing is, and it's like they're coming out of the TV at you. You can watch these shows, and it's all in three dimensions. The funny thing is it's not that practical, because as great as it sounds on the surface… As a dude and someone who likes tech stuff, I was like, "Babe, this is going to be amazing. We're going to watch everything in 3-D. We're going to watch the news. It's going to be coming out at us."
It's very impractical, because you'd be shocked how often your wife is not like, "All right. I'm ready. Go." We used it like three times, but those three times we did use it… I was more of a buyer than she was. She would come in, and I would be watching something in 3-D, and she'd be like, "What are you watching right now?" She wouldn't put the glasses on, and she would begin to try to make out exactly what's happening.
You can kind of see it. It's fuzzy, if you remember seeing things in 3-D, but until you put those glasses on, everything is out of focus. It's hard to make out exactly what's going on. If you're watching a movie and you don't have the glasses on, it's hard to exactly see what's happening, because most things are not in focus. It's a fuzzier perspective on what's taking place.
The reason I start there is because in that same way, without having the ability or without putting on the lenses of the 3-D glasses to see on a 3-D TV… In this series Jesus Walks, what we've been attempting to do is look at what the gospel writers inside of the New Testament (the "gospel writers" means Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) essentially were attempting to do, and as we've collectively looked together, and to see or to find in focus Jesus.
In other words, when we read the stories and lives and the different things we've been going through the past six weeks, what we've been attempting to do is help the image of who Jesus is…his character, his characteristics, all of those things…go from this fuzzy, abstract, "I kind of know who Jesus is" to putting him in front of you and me and us looking and seeing, "Man, this is actually what Jesus is like. When he walked on this planet, when Jesus walked, this is what he was like."
There are few tragedies that could be worse than someone who spends time in church, maybe grew up in church, maybe claims to be a Christian, and has a fuzzy or flawed or warped view of what Jesus is like. A lot of us came into the room tonight, and it's as though you have some idea of what Jesus is like. You may have grown up in church. You know some of the Bible stories. You know kind of what he's like, but you have a fuzzy picture of him.
Like, for you, you may not describe it this way, but when you think about God, when you think about Jesus, you think of some sheriff up in the sky who's just waiting to pull you over if you get too much out of line. He's waiting to send down lightning bolts. It's almost like a referee who's there to call you out and punish you whenever you go out of bounds or step offsides. Others of you may think of God…. This is a really common one.
The perspective you have is fuzzy and flawed, and you think of God almost like this hippie God up in the sky who's like, "Dude, love is love. It's all chill. Do whatever you want in whatever windmill. It's all cool." That's how you think of God. Regardless, all of us came into the room, and to the degree that we do not see Jesus as he is, our life, our experience of where meaning is found, our experience of what is important in this life and what matters in the end, is going to be flawed.
Your ability to experience joy, your experience of anxiety is all directly connected to your ability and my ability to see Jesus, to know who he is, to know what he's like, because in knowing what he is like, it puts everything else in life into focus. It begins to bring all the fuzziness of what life is about into focus, just like putting 3-D glasses on.
So, tonight, we're going to look at three interactions the resurrected Jesus has as we finish this series. We're going to be in John 20 and 21. I'm going to hammer home this idea of 3-D, because we're going to look at three D adjectives, or three words that start with the letter D, that showcase his interactions with these three men and women on Jesus' resurrection day.
Specifically, we're going to look at how Jesus welcomes the desperate, he welcomes the doubting, and how the God who's there is a God who welcomes the disgraced. We're going to look at these three adjectives, and hopefully, by the end of the night, all of us have a little bit clearer perspective as we open and read from John, one of Jesus' best friends. This is what God in the flesh is really like, and if you come to know him, this is who you're going to get to come to know.
We're going to look at the first one that comes from John, chapter 20. This is one of my favorite stories in this whole series that we're covering. It's honestly one of those stories that, for whatever reason, emotionally connects with me in a way that I don't even know I can put into words. There's just something so powerful as we look at Jesus' interaction with this desperate woman.
Let me set up what's happening. We'll pick it up in verse 11, but here's what happened. Jesus dies. He goes to the cross. He's crucified. He's buried inside of a tomb. We read the story, and we think in light of the ending, because we all know the ending. "Yeah, guys. Sunday is coming. That's it." When they were experiencing the story, the disciples, the followers of Jesus, the woman we're about to look at who was a follower of Jesus… They don't think like we think.
In other words, sometimes I think we think the disciples… Jesus is dead, but they're like, "It's going to be great. He's coming back. Sunday is coming." They gathered outside of the tomb for a big tailgate, and they're waiting for Sunday, and all of a sudden the ground is rumbling and they're like, "It's coming! Ten, nine…" as though Jesus is going to bust out and they're like, "He's here!" They didn't see it that way. They thought it was over.
The guy they had been following for the last three years, the guy they had seen raise dead people to life, give sight to blind eyes is dead. "He was the guy who was going to conquer the Roman Empire. He was the guy who was going to turn everything around for our country, for our people, for us, and if we followed him, we'd live forever. Now he doesn't even live forever." I mean, their world is shattered.
So, early on the first day of the week, which is Sunday (that's the third day), we're told that Mary goes to the tomb. She's going to the burial site. This is essentially akin to somebody going to the burial place of someone they love. You know, you go and you bring flowers. It's a place where you have closure. She goes to the tomb. It's early in the morning on Sunday. She gets to the tomb and sees what all of us know she sees, but she didn't see it coming. The stone is rolled away. The tomb where they buried Jesus is empty.
She takes off running. She goes and gets John and Peter, and she brings both of them, and all of them come back to the tomb. We're told Peter and John look in, and they're all confused on what happened. We think, "Of course you know what happened. He rose from the dead." That's not what they thought. She begins to explain frantically. "Somebody has stolen the body of Jesus, the one thing in this life I had. I just lost the guy I banked everything on, and now I don't even have a place where I can come bring flowers at his grave because they stole the body."
She begins to weep. Let's pick it up in verse 11. "Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying." The word crying there is klaio in Greek. It's not the ordinary crying. It's literally translated sobbing or wailing out loud. She's full-blown ugly crying right now. She's just losing it. She thinks the body of Jesus is gone, the one last thing she had.
"As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?' 'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don't know where they have put him.' At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?' Thinking he was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means 'Teacher')."
Jesus says her name, and she realizes it's Jesus, and she throws her arms around him and holds on to him. Jesus says, "I have to go ascend. Go tell other people. Don't hold on to me." We're given a glimpse into how God deals with the desperate. We're given a parallel into your story, if you're a Christian, and my story as a Christian. What do I mean by that?
Mary Magdalene… There are a lot of Marys in the Bible. I don't know if you know this. There's Mary the mother of Jesus, there's Mary the mother of Cleopas, whoever that was. There are different Marys who played roles. There's Mary in Luke 7 who breaks the perfume and rubs it on Jesus' feet, but Mary Magdalene… This girl had a story. What do I mean?
In Luke, chapter 8, we're told Mary Magdalene became a follower of Jesus, and it was after Jesus healed her from being possessed by seven demons. Now, when you're possessed by one demon, that's a bad day. When you have seven, you have a Holiday Inn of demons running out of your house, that can't be good. Yet Jesus shows up to this woman.
We're not even told the story of how it all went down, but she shows up and she meets Jesus one day, and we're told he cast out the demons. He healed this woman. Her whole world changed. Everything changed. She followed him for the few years he was around on this planet, and she believed he was the Messiah. He was everything. She banked everything on this guy, and now he's dead. It's over and it's gone, and who she thought Jesus was… She's thinking, "I was wrong." She's confused. We're told she's so desperate, it almost reads…
What we're told is that Peter and John go to the tomb and they're like, "Man, what happened? I guess let's go back to our lives." Mary doesn't go anywhere. It's like she doesn't have a life to go back to. She's just weeping and bawling. Do you know who the last people at the cross were? Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The power of the story almost makes me emotional. He was everything, and now she's weeping because everything she thought about the world, reality, where life is found, has all been shattered.
In a moment, with a word, everything changes. Jesus says, "Mary." She realizes who is speaking to her. "He's alive! He rose from the dead just like he said he would, though I didn't fully understand it." Everything changes in a moment. The reason it's such a parallel to the Christian experience is the Bible says that Jesus is the Good Shepherd in John, chapter 10, and it says he calls his sheep by name and they know his voice and follow him.
Mary did what every Christian who has ever lived did in that moment where Jesus speaks their name and in doing so awakens their eyes to see. "He's alive. He's who he said he was. He's the Messiah, the Savior of my sins." Mary was desperate. By definition what does desperate mean? It means I'll go to great extremes because I have great need. I have nowhere else to turn, nowhere else to look to. In similar parallel fashion, the Christian life begins by you understanding that you are desperate.
Jesus welcomes the desperate into having a relationship with him. What do I mean by desperate? I mean, like Mary, those who realize they have a great need. We're desperate in our own way. If you're ever going to become a Christian, it comes by you starting to realize, "Man, I am desperate and in need of a God to save me. If I'm going to have a relationship with God, it is not by me doing a bunch of good things. It is by God, in his mercy, in an unexplained, undeserving way, calling my name and allowing me to see he's alive."
That's what Christians believe. You know that, right? The fuzzy view, if you will, to use that illustration of 3D stuff… The fuzzy dimension is the perspective that many people in our world have, where they kind of think they can see what's going on. Here's what that looks like as it relates to desperate: they think the God who's there doesn't welcome the desperate, which is the first point; that he's a God who welcomes those who have it all together, who kind of live pretty good lives, and that's the type of person God welcomes into his arms.
The Bible says the only ones who have a relationship with Jesus are those who say, "I am in need. I bring nothing to the table, yet God accepts me." No matter how good of a person I think I am, no matter how bad I am, none of that matters in terms of having a relationship with Jesus. He goes and welcomes the desperate. It is only those who see themselves as desperate who will have a relationship with him.
In so many ways, he operates distinctly opposite of how most of us interact with someone we perceive to be desperate as it relates to having a relationship. You know what I mean? Whenever you're dating somebody… A lot of us have been in this experience where you sit down and in two seconds you're like, "Dude, this person is desperate." Is there anything less attractive?
They're like, "Okay. I have a note on my phone with the names of our children if this ended up working out together. I'm just hoping this will be great. Really, whatever you think about life, I'm great. I'm looking to get boo'd up. If this is something you're open to…" Is there anything less attractive than someone who's like, "Look, I have no other options"?
They're texting you every five seconds. You've been on one date, and they're showing up to your work, like, "Hey, I'm just changing things in your office. This is going to be great." You're like, "Oh man, that girl… She has seven kinds of crazy going on." It's unattractive. It's weird. Be honest, dude. Some of you guys don't text back immediately even though you see the text. When it's someone of the opposite sex, you're like, "Look. I don't want to come off too intense, so I'm going to let it lie for a second. Maybe I'll cause the dots to leave them wanting a little bit." Am I right?
If somebody is desperate, we're like… We know people don't want to have a relationship if somebody is desperate. The only type of people Jesus will have a relationship with are those who are desperate, those who see their need for a Savior, those who don't say, "Man, I bring a lot to the table. God, I've been doing a lot of good things, know a lot of Bible verses, go to church a lot. I'm here at The Porch. That should earn me a relationship with you."
That is not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that the God who's there welcomes those who see, "God, you alone are the only hope I have of eternal life. If I'm going to have access to knowing and walking with you, it's not going to be by how good of a person I am." Jesus shows us the first D, which is that he's a God who welcomes the desperate.
The second story is probably more familiar. It's related to a guy who ended up getting a nickname, and that was around the idea of doubting. That is Doubting Thomas. Thomas brings us our second D. We're told that later on this day… So, that morning he appears to Mary, and then later that night Jesus goes to see the disciples, and they're hanging out in what's called the upper room. They were just up there. They didn't know what was happening.
They didn't know what to do now. Jesus, the one they banked their life on, is dead, so they think. They're hanging out, and it says they have the doors locked because they're afraid of what the religious leaders are going to do to them. They just saw what they did to Jesus. They're all hanging out, and Jesus shows up. He straight walks through the wall and is like, "What's up, guys?" Like, savage Jesus. He just comes through the wall. "I don't need a door. I don't need anything."
He's totally resurrected. It's not some ghost or anything. In fact, they're like, "Oh man. Is this a ghost?" and Jesus is like, "No. Touch me. This is the real deal. In fact, is that fish right there?" and he begins to eat some of the food. It displays it's a totally resurrected physical body. It's not some ghost. But there was one disciple not there: Thomas. Thomas was out getting pita bread, or whatever, at the grocery store they had back then, and he missed it.
He comes back home, and all of the disciples are like, "Dude, you just missed Jesus. Jesus was just here. He was here. We were hanging out, and he showed up in the room and was like, 'You got any fish?' It was crazy! And he let us see the scars in his hands and in his side." Thomas basically goes, "You guys are crazy. I will not believe that." Here's what it says. Verse 25:
"So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'"
Then he turned to Thomas, the one who had doubted him, the one who had seen everything he had done, the one who had demanded that he prove himself to Thomas. And what does he say? "'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed…'" Then he says something that's true about you if you're a Christian. ** "…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."**
The amount of humility it would take to be God in the flesh and to say, "I'm going to go out of my way to go back to care for Thomas, this one doubting person…" He doesn't shun Thomas for his doubts. He doesn't dismiss him. He doesn't disqualify him. He moves toward him as though God is like, "Man, that's okay. Come here. Come see it." The second idea, the second D in the three Ds, is that the God who's there is a God who welcomes the doubting.
Thomas sees Jesus, and it's as though he puts on the glasses and he sees more clearly. "My God, my Lord." What you need to know if you're in the room is Jesus doesn't shun or shy away from those who have doubts. He moves toward them. He's a God who welcomes it. If you have doubts and you've ever experienced doubts, here's what you need to know: you are in great company.
Sometimes Christians in church feel like, "Man, I can't even be honest about the fact that sometimes I don't know if I believe everything exactly inside of this book or I just have questions that I feel like I can't be honest and wrestle with." That is a lie. You don't need to be ashamed. You don't need to be afraid. You don't need to be unwilling to explore or to ask questions, to seek answers to those questions.
You need to know that God, while you're doing so and as you do so… All of us are going to face doubts in life, and anyone who tells you you won't is a liar, but while you do so, you need to know that God doesn't shun you. He welcomes the doubting. So, if there are questions you're wondering, here would be the practical encouragement I would give you: seek answers to the questions. There are libraries and books and all kinds of resources.
The worst thing you can do is to stop on doubt. It's like playing a board game of Monopoly. Don't stop on doubt. Let those drive you toward seeking answers to the questions. Here's what's true: If Christianity is true, you don't need to be afraid of asking questions. It's not like you're going to pull the one card and the whole thing collapses. Ask questions. Seek answers to your questions. It has been said that if something is true, no amount of scrutiny can take it down. So ask questions.
If you can't ask questions and we can't be certain it's true, we should shut this whole thing down and find a much better place to go on a Tuesday night. There's probably a good happy hour deal somewhere or there's something else we could do. But if it is true, then there's no better use of our time than knowing God and walking with his people, seeking to live on purpose for him. You do not need to be afraid of asking questions.
All throughout the New Testament there are people who experience doubt. We're told that John the Baptist… Have you guys heard of John the Baptist? He's not the first Baptist; he just was a guy who baptized people. John showed up, and we're told Jesus said, "There has never been someone born of a woman," which is everybody, "who was greater than John." In John's last days on the planet, he sends a letter to Jesus, who he knew his whole life, who he was raised up with, who was his cousin.
He says, "I'm sitting in this jail cell. I just need to know, Jesus, are you sure you're the Messiah? Because I feel like if you were, you would change my circumstances right now." In the face of pain and disappointment, he doubted. We're even told the disciples in Matthew, chapter 28, as Jesus gives the Great Commission… Do you remember the Great Commission? It's really famous. You've probably heard it. "Go into all the world and make disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and lo, I am with you always to the end of the age."
As he's doing that, we're told that Jesus ascends to heaven, and as he does, it tells us in the text that the disciples were gathered around and watching Jesus ascend, kind of levitate up toward heaven. As he's doing so, it says they saw him and some worshiped him and some doubted. Think about that. They're seeing Jesus levitate up in the air, and some are like, "Oh, I don't know. David Blaine does the same thing. I'm not totally convinced."
Think about it. You may be sitting here and you're like, "Did he really ascend? What was that like? I wish I could have seen that." People who saw that doubted if he really did it, and those were disciples who followed Jesus. It is a normal part of the human experience and the Christian experience to experience doubts, but it is not okay to stop on doubt. Let those doubts drive you toward seeking answers. You do not need to be afraid of the answers or of truth, because as a follower of Jesus, truth is yours and all truth is God's. So let it drive you.
Here are two resources if you have questions. This could be just for friends you have. One is gotquestions.org. There are over 500,000 different questions that have been asked. I am confident whatever question you have likely is on there. Another one is something we do the second Tuesday of the month here at The Porch called Great Questions. It's a chance for you, if you have questions, wherever you are wrestling in terms of faith, to come and ask those questions.
If you are someone wrestling to believe… I hear this every single week. "Man, I want to believe. I want to believe that Jesus is who he says he is, he died in my place, and he rose from the grave. I'm struggling to get there. I can think it. I just don't know. I'm struggling to get there." I want you to pray one prayer this week. "God, if you're real, will you reveal yourself to me? God, if you are real, will you reveal yourself to me? God, if you are real, will you reveal yourself to me?" But be careful. That is a question he longs to answer and often likely does.
At the end of the day, here's what I know: you want to know God more than you want answers to your questions. So do I. As much as I want to know the answers to how exactly the problem of evil and pain and all that works, and whether the creation was seven literal days, and how the dinosaurs fit on the boat (there's a great answer to that one, but we're not going to go there right now), and all of those different great questions, I want to know Jesus more than I want answers, and I know you do too.
It's not just because I'm like, "Yay! Motivational." You do. If Jesus showed up to your room tonight and woke you up and was like, "Hey, dude. It's Jesus. What's up?" you would not pull out your list of questions and be like, "Oh, it's you. Let's start from the top. So, seven literal days?" You would go, "It's real! He's alive!" because you want to know him more than you want answers to your questions. We all do.
So if you're wrestling to believe, this week the challenge I would give you is to begin to ask God, "If you're real, will you reveal yourself to me?" Ultimately, it is not the amount of your faith or the strength and size of your faith, but it is what your faith is in that matters most. Here's what I mean by that. Sometimes we have this idea, the flawed, fuzzy view before you put on the glasses here… The fuzzy view would be that God welcomes or loves those who are full of faith, huge amounts of faith.
The truth is it is not how much faith you have that matters in terms of having a relationship with God and where you spend eternity. It is what your faith is in. Here's what I mean. Tim Keller pointed out in a book called The Reason for God, which is a great resource if you have questions or for people in general…
He pointed out that if I was on the side of a mountain and I was losing my grip on the side of the mountain… I'm hanging there, and I'm losing my grip, and I look over and see a tree branch right there that I could grab. If I could hold on to it, I could pull myself to safety, and I know I'm slipping off this thing. I have a decision. Am I going to grab the tree branch or just fall off to my death?
In that moment, what matters most is not how confident I am that that tree branch can hold me. If I have a lot of confidence it'll hold me or if I have a little bit of confidence it'll hold me matters less than if it will hold me. In other words, if I'm like, "Dude, it for sure is going to hold me," and then I grab and I fall, that matters more than however much confidence I have. The question is…Can it hold you?
The Bible says whether it is a faith the size of a mustard seed or something far bigger than that, what matters most is whether or not you are holding on to Christ, because he's strong enough to hold you. In other words, what saves a Christian is not the strength of their faith; it is the strength of Jesus. If you're going to have a relationship with him, you need to know you don't have to deal with all of your doubts before you come to trust in Jesus. You should deal with them, and you should seek answers, and you should know it's a safe place to be filled with doubts.
I have doubts at times. I probably have doubts every week, whether they're related to just different things, what exactly all happened here, reading some of the stuff in the Old Testament. Candidly, one of the things I doubt most is like, "God, you really love me? Really? Could you really be as scandalous in love as it seems to present in the Bible and as for my good as you seem to say?"
Those are doubts that I have the choice I'm either going to allow that to drive me back to seeking answers and drive me back to him or I'm just going to stay in that fog and let it paralyze me. Let me be abundantly clear. For some of you, your problem is not, "Man, I have these doubts, and I just can't find answers." You don't want answers. All of the questions, for some of you…not all of you, maybe not even most, but this for sure… I've been doing this a while.
There are people inside of this room who are like, "Dude, it's not that I can't believe it's true; it's that I don't want to believe it's true yet, because if it is, then I may have to change some things. I may have to not date the way I've been dating, and I may have to move out with him, and I may have to make some changes in my job, and I'm going to have to do some things differently and spend my time a little bit differently."
You just throw up the smoke screen. "Well, you know, we can't really trust that." You throw up smoke screen after smoke screen. You don't want the answers to those questions. You just want to hide behind them. You're missing out. God isn't. You're missing out on purpose. You're missing out on seeing the reality of the world around you.
You stay behind that fuzzy wall, but you like it there. Just be honest. Stop hiding behind, "There are just too many doubts I have" and just say, "I want to be my own god. I want to be god of my life, and I don't want to change things." But don't hide behind doubts, because if they're there, seek answers.
The final D we see as we wrap up the three dimensions of seeing Jesus in 3D is related to Jesus' best friend. It happens in John, chapter 21, in his interaction with Peter. It says, "Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee." This is the last chapter of the book of John. "It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together."
This is hilarious to me. This is John writing, and he says, "We had Peter there. We had Thomas, who was also known as Didymus. We had Nathanael. He's from Cana. That's in Galilee. Then we had the sons of Zebedee. Zebedee is their dad. And then there were two other guys." This is like the ultimate when somebody posts a picture on Instagram and tags everybody but you, only it's in the Bible for all time. It's like, "John, we've got names, bro. Why didn't you mention us?" That has nothing to do with what I'm talking about. It just was too… Too much shade, John.
"'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." Peter does what so many of us do in the face of failure and shame. We go back to our old lives. We go away from God and our relationship with him. We run from our purpose. We kind of just wallow in shame and guilt.
Why do I say that? Because when Peter says, "I'm going fishing," this wasn't a dude's trip. This is what Peter used to do for a living. He was a fisherman until Jesus showed up one day and said, "Peter, you're going to come with me, and you're going to fish for men not fish." Peter follows Jesus. He leaves everything behind and goes. John closes out this book of the Bible showing it's this story of Jesus welcoming even the disgraced, which is where Peter was and what Peter was feeling.
Why do I say that? Why would you go back to your old way of living and old fishing? Peter, Jesus said, "You're the guy I'm going to build the entire church movement on. You're the guy who, for the next however many thousands of years until I return, people are going to name their kids after. Your declaration of faith is going to be the rock on which this thing is built." That's what the name Peter even means: rock. "You're the guy who is going to lead the first-century church. That's who you are, Peter."
Peter, after denying Jesus three times, goes back to fishing. He sees himself as what, in some ways, he was behaviorally. "I failed Jesus." I don't know if you know what I'm talking about. In Jesus' worst moment of need, Peter, who was a best friend, the leader of the disciples… Jesus gets arrested that night. Hours before, he was eating a meal with Jesus, and Jesus was like, "You know, Peter, everybody here is going to abandon me."
Peter goes, "They may abandon you. I will never abandon you. Everybody else may abandon, but I'll die before I abandon you. I will never disown you." Jesus says, "Before the rooster crows three times, you're going to deny me three times tonight." Peter, we're told, after Jesus is arrested later in the garden when Jesus was praying… These soldiers come up and take Jesus, and they take him to a trial, kind of this courtyard outside. Peter follows at a distance. He's afraid, "If they just arrested Jesus, they may arrest me." He begins to watch the trial taking place.
There's this fire, we're told, by the courtyard. This is in John 18. It's really in all of the Gospels. He goes over to the fireplace, and there are people gathered around it. He begins to warm his hands on what they say is a charcoal fire. As he's warming his hands, he can see the trial happening. Somebody goes, "Wait a second. You were with Jesus. You're one of his followers, aren't you?" He says, "No, no. I've never heard of the guy. No. You've gotten me mistaken for somebody else."
Then a middle school girl comes up. The girl was like 12 years old. She's like, "Hey, you were with Jesus that one day, weren't you?" He says, "No. No. No, no, no. Wrong guy. You're looking for John." He totally denies it. Then a third person comes up, and we're told he begins to yell out curses. "I'm not with this man." Likely curses on Jesus.
In that moment, the rooster crowed, and we're told that Jesus looked across the courtyard and saw him, and Peter went out and just wept and wept. There's no mention of Peter coming to see Jesus crucified. He went, and in his shame and guilt ran from his Savior. When he goes fishing, it's clearly a declaration of "God is done with me. He chose me and told me I would do all of these things, and I abandoned him. I'm the biggest failure of all of the disciples," which he was.
Jesus shows up as the men are out there fishing. This is in the chapter. He stands on the shore that morning and says, "Hey, guys! Did you catch any fish?" He yells out to the disciples in the boat. They can't tell that it's Jesus. He says, "Hey, throw the net on the other side." They throw the net on the other side, and it says they catch so many fish they can't even pull it into the boat. They just have to drag it all the way to shore. They get to the shore, and they realize it's Jesus. This is what happens next.
"When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread." Jesus had made them breakfast. They sit down, and we're told that they begin to eat. They're hanging out and having breakfast. Then Jesus and Peter have a conversation. "When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John…'"
That is like your mom using your full name. You know it's a serious conversation. Like, "David James Marvin, what are you doing?" That's essentially what's going on. "…do you love me more than these?" There's speculation on whether he's talking about the other disciples or the fish. My guess is the other disciples, because I feel like he would be like, "You mean the fish? Of course." Either way, his answer is going to be the same.
"'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.' Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.' 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.'"
What is Jesus doing? Is he trying to rub something in? Jesus is recreating and redefining the future Peter will have. He's recreating the moment of Peter's betrayal. What do I mean? They're sitting around a charcoal fire. Do you know the only other time in the entire New Testament that the phrase charcoal fire is used? Two chapters earlier when Peter is sitting around a charcoal fire where he denies Jesus three times.
Now he's sitting around a charcoal fire two chapters later where three times he says, "Jesus, I love you. I love you. I love you." Jesus is communicating to Peter, "Despite the fact that you abandoned me, despite the fact that you failed me, despite the fact that you do not deserve to be used by me, I want you to feed my sheep. I want to use you."
What does that even mean, "Feed my sheep"? Jesus uses the metaphor for the people, the flock of God, as his sheep. "I want you to lead the church, Peter. You may think I'm done with you. I'm not done with you. You get off of the boat. You're not fishing for fish; you're fishing for men. I'm not done with you. I welcome those who are disgraced. I welcome those who do not deserve to be used by me. That's the only type of people I use."
Every time there's a movement of God anyplace, anywhere, anytime, it is God working in spite of people. No matter how faithful someone is, no matter how much they try and are devoted to Jesus, it is always working in spite of people. He says, "Peter, this wasn't about you. Do you think I'm done with you? I want you to build my church. I want you to feed my sheep. I'm a God who welcomes the disgraced."
When you feel shame and guilt, like Peter you have a choice. "I will either let that drive me toward Jesus… Yeah, I failed. I'm a sinner. That's why I need a Savior. I don't want to wallow in that." The Bible says you reap what you sow, so it doesn't mean there won't be consequences for decisions you make, but if you're wallowing in shame and guilt, you need to know God is not done with you.
He calls on you and calls to you, just like he called toward Peter. "I'm not done with you. I have a plan for your life. I have a purpose for your life." It's as though Peter puts on the glasses and sees maybe for the first time… Scholars think this was the moment everything changed for Peter, that he understood God wasn't a God who's like, "Our relationship is defined by how good you do. If you mess up one too many times, I'm done." The God who's there doesn't work like that.
Working in ministry, I know the power of shame and guilt can be overwhelming. I am not the husband I want to be. I'm not the father I want to be. I've said before that I just went through re:gen to work on anger and control and pride and lust. Anytime I fail, I have the choice. I'm either going to allow the fact that, yes…
Just because I'm in ministry doesn't mean I can't be a Christian, which is someone who says, "God, I need you to help. I need you to take ground. I'm going to bring in God's people and say, 'This is where I'm not being everything I want to be, everything God calls me to be,' and, God, will you please take more ground in my heart? Will you help me? Because there's still a war and there's still sin inside of me."
If that shame and guilt is telling you right now, "You need to run. The God who's there wouldn't love you, couldn't do anything about it. What you're carrying is too heavy. You can't tell anybody." That is a lie. "God is done with you." That is a lie. It is too heavy for you to hold. The God who's there is saying, "I'm not done with you, Peter, and I'm not done with you. I love you, and I will use you and your story no matter how broken and dysfunctional it is to be a testimony to the world around you."
You'll experience purpose and life and meaning and hope or you can allow it to drive you to go fishing, whether that's toward the arms of a relationship you shouldn't be in, back to pornography or back to alcohol or back to who knows. The God who's there is not done, and he welcomes the disgraced and meets them with grace.
Like I said, there were three Ds: the desperate, the doubting, and the disgraced. The truth is, as Christians, we live in a world where there's another 3-D. You are invited as a Christian, if you're a follower of Jesus, to live a life that sees everything in life through another 3-D lens. What do I mean? A "third day" lens. What is the third day? The third day was the day Jesus rose from the grave. He was crucified on day one, day two, and then day three he rose from the grave.
When that happened, everything changed. If that happened… Even if you're not a Christian, you need to know this is what we believe. Everything changed. When Jesus rose from the grave, everything in our world that was broken has begun to start working backward, and God gave the seal and the promise that "One day I'm going to heal everything." You now, if you're a Christian… The lens we see the world through, the way we see the brokenness of pain and life and the way we look through the lens in this world is through the lens of the resurrection.
Jesus rose from the dead. If that's true, that puts everything in perspective. Every pain you feel, all of a sudden, because of Jesus rising from the grave and conquering death, you know that pain is going away. It has an expiration date. It will not be a part of the world to come. Every disappointment you face, every circumstance where you're like, "I just wish I was married by now," all of a sudden it pales in comparison, because it's put into perspective the fact that "This life is a vapor. I'm going to be with God forever and ever and ever."
All of the questions I ask all of a sudden get shrunk down. Like, "Where am I supposed to work? Who am I supposed to marry? What am I supposed to do with my life?" All of those, in light of the resurrection, if it's true, if Jesus came back alive and everything he said is true and if you believe in him and trust in him you're going to live forever and rise again, all of those questions… It's not that they go away or get dismissed; they just shrink in comparison to the ultimate question.
All of life goes into focus, and you see it. It goes from fuzzy to "I can see it," all through the 3-D lens, the "third day" lens, the resurrection lens. You know what's crazy? Every message in the New Testament… Do you know what it has? Do you know what they talk about? What do I mean by that? Like, every time there's a sermon where Peter and Paul go around and they're like, "Hey, I have to tell you this message…"
Do you know what they don't say? "Hey, you should turn the other cheek, and if they tell you to go a mile… Let me tell you this parable. It's a great one." They don't have any of that. They say, "I saw a man die, and we buried him in the ground, and then three days later he came back alive. So you can do whatever you want to me. You can tell me I can't believe that. Look, dude. I saw a dead guy. He went into the ground, and he came back alive."
Every message in the New Testament, every sermon… Check it. Every one of them doesn't have at the epicenter, "If somebody wants you to go a mile, go two." It says, "Jesus rose from the grave, and if that's true, everything is changed." Peter saw in a moment it was true, and everything is changing. Your life, your world… If you see it, and you, as a Christian, are called to see it and I'm called to see it through the lens of the resurrection of Jesus…
He came alive. Do you know what that means? You will too. Tonight, we're going to baptize a handful of different people, 15-some people, and they've all said, "Jesus is alive. He rose from the grave. I believe it. He changed the calendar, he changed the world, and he changed my world. I believe it, and I've experienced it."
If that's true and that's the lens we get to see life through, even death comes into focus. The worst scenarios in life you can see with the perspective… That's the only one that gives any hope and aligns any ability to see in the midst of the darkest things a deeper, greater reality that our God is alive, he is King, he is good, he has made a way. Let me pray.
Father, I thank you that you don't give up on those who are disgraced. You allow us to wrestle with doubts, and you don't shun us or move away from us. You move toward us in a way that is almost incomprehensible. You move toward the desperate. So I pray right now, God, for every person in this room who has never had a moment where they trusted you are the one.
You're the one their soul was made for. You're the one who made their soul. You're the one who died in their place. You're the one who offers and promises eternal life if they will just accept it by faith and receive the free gift. You died, and you paid for their sin, and then you rose from the grave. It was like the check cleared. I pray tonight that you would call and whisper their name right now all over the room, that you would be calling people by name. That's what you do.
That their life would be changed and they would begin to walk as though they were raised to walk in newness of life. Thank you, God, that you don't give up on disgraces and broken sinners like me and that you call us to walk in that newness of life with other people around us. We worship you now in song. Would you be honored with the words we sing and the way we respond to your Word? Amen.