Forgiveness! – John 21:15-25

Forgiveness! – John 21:15-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 1, 2016

My father asked us what we should tell our mother when had not come home right away when she called. I grew up in a day and age when mothers would stand outside of their front doors and holler down the street for their children to “come home, it’s dinner!” The only phones we had were the rotary dial kind and most children actually played outside and walked home by themselves! We both automatically responded, “Sorry.” My Dad remarked, “Being sorry is not good enough, you need to apologize to your mother.” Saying your “sorry” is totally different than being remorseful or repentant. The first is more of a response in order to deflect any consequences for our wrong doing or ungodly behavior, while repentance comes from being inwardly broken and open confession. Forgiveness cannot happen without repentance.

Impulsive Peter had vehemently said he would never deny Jesus and of course he did, three times. Afterwards he was remorseful and saddened by his cowardly actions, but he had not asked Jesus’ forgiveness for his betrayal. We may wonder why the other disciples, who had ran away and deserted Jesus during his greatest need, did not have to ask for his forgiveness like Peter. Do not forget Peter’s insistence he would never betray Jesus even if everyone else fell away and his impulsive nature that needed to be calmed. Let’s take a fresh look at what forgiveness is…

READ: John 21:15-25

I have heard all kinds of excuses for not accepting Jesus: “When I get older.” “I’m not good enough.” “I do not know the Bible well.” But the one that often is the real reason why folks are unwilling to accept Jesus is that they misunderstand what Jesus is all about. He is not about accusing them of one of their shortcomings, their lack of knowledge, nor is he concerned about their age. What they need to do is to come to the truth like Peter did, namely that…

I. Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love! (Vv. 15-19)

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.” 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.” 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. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

1. The disciples had headed to Galilee; they had fished together, experienced another of Jesus’ miracles, and eaten together. “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'” Peter like the rest of us innately understood that Jesus loves him, but he failed to understand what that means! When Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved him “more than these”, he was referring to the disciples. Peter needed to understand what repentance was all about, it was more than feeling sorry. His willingness to follow Jesus would strain all of his worldly relationships. Peter had declared, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33 NIV) He was placing himself about his friends and was he truly willing to do that? “‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.'” But Jesus does not stop there, he continues. John relates, “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.’ 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.'” In Jesus’ three questions of love (agapas, agapas, and phileis) and Jesus’ three commands of duty (boske, “tend”; poimaine, “herd, lead to pasture”; boske) various Greek synonyms are used. Jesus was not only reminding Peter of the three times he had denied him, but Jesus was also teaching Peter about forgiveness. It is not about how we feel, our emotional state, nor our physical condition; Jesus’ forgiveness is all about his love for us! “‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, Follow me!'” When we grow old we often lose the abilities we once enjoyed when we were younger. John wrote his gospel way before Peter’s martyrdom in Rome where he was crucified upside down. John had no way of knowing how Peter would die, but Jesus did. Peter needed to understand the extent of following Jesus. Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes in Our Daily Bread that “A meaningful apology can be the first step toward forgiveness. Colleen O’Connor writes in The Denver Post: “The successful apology dissolves anger and humiliation. It shows respect, builds trust, and helps prevent further misunderstanding. A sincere apology makes it much easier to forgive. And author Barbara Engel says that a true apology depends on the three Rs: regret, responsibility, and remedy… As Christians, we have a responsibility to repent and sincerely say ‘I’m sorry’ whenever we wrong another person. In a spirit of humility and love, we can help those who need to forgive us by offering a genuine apology.” Peter needed to fully understand the depth of Jesus’ forgiveness. Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love!

John’s gospel tells us over and over again of Jesus’ love. John understood this and Peter needed to firmly understand as well. We learn that…

II. Forgiveness follows Jesus! (Vv. 20-25)

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

1. John wanted his readers to know that he was there and that he saw and heard everything he was writing about. He tells us that “Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'” It was none of Peter’s concern what happened to John, he needed to follow Jesus. Jesus’ admonishment is in the form of a command. Evidently John was personally hurt by Peter’s remark because it caused the rest of the disciples to speculate about John, “Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?'” John wanted folks to understand fully what Jesus meant. And Jesus did not mean John would stay alive until Jesus’ second coming, but rather that it wasn’t Peter’s concern. John’s account is full of little personal items that even the other gospel narratives do not contain; this is why it is often one of the favorites of most people. John makes it very plain that he is indeed the one who witnessed and wrote about what he had seen and heard. “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down”, he writes. And then continues by relating, “We know that his testimony is true.” The idea of “know” here is one of experiential knowledge. John was certain and gave testimony, as in a courtroom, of what he experienced himself. This was no secondhand knowledge but a personal witness! And John did not lie about what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus! John ends his gospel, his testimony, concerning Jesus with this caveat: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” What were these things? Who knows, however, what we do know is the fact that forgiveness follows Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Haddon Robertson reminds us that, “God is highly dangerous. We are sinful and He is holy. Sin can no more exist in the presence of God than darkness can exist in the presence of light. To stand before Him in self-righteousness would be to invite our destruction. The psalmist wrote, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). In a cemetery not far from New York City is a headstone engraved with a single word: Forgiven. The message is simple and unembellished. There is no date of birth, no date of death, no epitaph. There is only a name and the solitary word forgiven. But that is the greatest word that could ever be applied to any man or woman, or that could be written on any gravestone… God is honored and worshiped because He alone can clear our record. If God could not forgive us, we could only flee from Him in terror. Yet the God whose holiness threatens us is the God who through Christ redeems us. This dangerous God offers forgiveness for all our sins. We only need to ask Him. Are you forgiven?” Forgiveness follows Jesus!

Conclusion:

Forgiveness accepts Jesus’ love! Forgiveness follows Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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