Becoming What We Behold

Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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When Moses had been in the presence of the Lord, the Bible says that his face shown brightly from the glory of the Lord. Overtime, the glory of the Lord would diminish from the face of Moses. As followers of Jesus we are being transformed from glory to glory, becoming brighter and brighter. We all behold to something, and that something shapes and informs who we are. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” How would you answer that question for yourself?



We watched a show on Netflix the other night called ‘Speed Cubers’. While its about people solving a rubix cube super fast, they tell another story of bonding between two champions Max Park and Felix Zemdegs. Felix is a popular champion and Max is an up and comer. Max has autism. So as Max’s parents were looking for ways to connect with their child and find ways to help him thrive, the rubix cube was something he gravitated too. In the documentary they noticed the first time that he made the podium, they noticed that he looked at the others on the podium and then mimicked how they were holding their trophies. The parents were overjoyed because they understood that children with the severity of autism like his, rarely had the ability to mimic those around them. What a joy as parents, friends, and loved ones looked on to see the ones the love flourish and overcome obstacles. He was able to fit in and know how to operate on the podium because he witnessed others do it.
We are becoming what we behold
The psalmist understood this and warned in Psalm 135:15-18 “The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths. Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.”
Then exhorts the house of Israel to bless the Lord!
We are becoming what we behold
Paul in writing to the church in Corinth tells them in the second letter to the Corinthians 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
As Moses was in the presence of the Lord in the tabernacle, the Bible tells us that the glory of God shone from his face. He had to put on a veil, but over time that glory faded. What Paul tells us that in Jesus, as we behold Jesus, we move from glory to glory, being transformed into the same image.
We are becoming what we behold.
Let us look how this applies to our text this morning. If you are able would you stand with me as I read God’s word. John 21:1-19
This is the word of the Lord… thanks be to God
Let’s pray. Thank you. You may be seated.

Meeting us in the work (vss 1-8)

We’re not told how much time has gone by, but we do know that Jesus instructed the disciples to make their way back to Galilee and He would meet them there (Matt 28:7).
There is a consensus that we know the actual beach where this took place.
The level of the lake has dropped now, but you can still see what a lovely place it is. So much water is now taken out of the Sea of Galilee, and the River Jordan which feeds it and then flows from it, leaving a hundred yards or so of reeds and pebbles between the old shoreline and the new. But you can still get a sense, in the little place called Tabgha, just west of Capernaum, of what it must have been like that morning.
It was, and still is when the tourists aren’t there, a quiet place, on the north shore of the sea. It’s quite a distance from the major town of Tiberias to the south. Capernaum is not far to the East. It is still enough to hear the water lapping at your feet. The colour of the sky, reflected in the lake, gives you double the effect of the spectacular sunrise, the great fiery ball coming up over the Golan Heights.
Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (p. 156). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
We don’t know why they went back to fishing, but that is what they knew. I used to think it was a lapse of faith, however they hadn’t fully understood what their role would be.
Some would say they wanted to move on. Wanted to go back to what they knew… Some would call it a lapse of faith.
I think it’s plausible that they had to do something to take care of family and responsibilities, and that’s what they knew to do.
Work is not a part of the curse of sin. God gave work for man to do while in the garden. Adam and eve were to cultivate, tend, and work the place that God had given them. Work is good and is a part of the creation mandate. But we have the ability to look at what happens next and see that Jesus was preparing them for a whole other work He was doing.
The day dawns full of new beauty and possibility. That is part of what John is telling us in this story (notice how, once more, he draws our attention to dawn, in verse 4, as he points to the risen Jesus).
Jesus says to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”
Jesus instructs them to cast the net on the other side of the boat… and they caught so many fish… the nets were full!!
They realize it’s Jesus and Peter threw himself into the sea to get to Jesus.
Jesus, after all, has given his followers a strange and striking commission in chapter 20. They are to work for him. They are to be filled with God’s breath, and be sent into the world as Jesus had been. But if they try to do it their own way, they will fail. They will toil all night and take nothing. The only way is for them to admit defeat, to listen afresh to Jesus’ voice, and to do what he says. Then there is no knowing what they will achieve.
Stand in your mind’s eye with the disciples in the boat. What projects have you been labouring over, and getting nowhere? Watch for the dawn. Watch for the figure on the shore. Listen for his voice. And then do whatever he tells you
Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (pp. 157–158). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Invitation of restoration and partnership in the work (vss 9-14)

When they got on land there was a charcoal fire there.
John is very specific with the details here. I love the thought that Jesus had been there for a while. He had seen them struggle, he had watched them work, all the while he was preparing the fire (charcoal fire) and preparing them something to eat.
I don’t know a lot about mental health and what is needed to heal traumatic memories. However being a pastor, learning a little bit about trauma response, adverse childhood experiences, and trauma informed care, I can tell you that as I have walked with people where there is a sense of awe, wonder, and joy that comes when forgiveness and healing comes when a buried hurt, fear, failure, or sin is dealt with. It is a priveledge working pastorally with folks, watching as a deep unhealed wound was gently exposed, dealt with in love and prayer, and enabled at last to find healing.
This is exactly what is happening here and in the proceeding verses.
Last time he pointed out the charcoal fire was when Peter was warming himself by the charcoal fire outside the home of the high priest… the very place where he would deny Jesus three times. It is a very distinct smell. John found it significant and wants us to understand.
Peter is now smelling the distinct smell of a charcoal fire, not with his betrayal and denial of Jesus, but with a meal that Jesus has prepared.
Jesus had bread and fish laid out on his fire, but we see that he invites them to bring some of their catch.
A provision… a kindness… a grace towards those whom He loves.
God is doing the work. Jesus has prepared the place for them to come and be nourished, but in his grace and in his kindness he asks them to bring what they caught to the fire… that abundance that came in listening to him.
This is how we see God work throughout the scriptures.
He is always at work. Wherever we go, we don’t look to bring Jesus anywhere, he’s already there, he’s already working, we get to ask, God what are you doing, how are you working?
We can dismiss the notion that everything relies on us. We can also dismiss the notion that we don’t need to do anything. Both of these extremes the Bible disregards.
God is at work. God wants us to behold him, fixated on him, to look at Jesus and learn from him. He is at work, and in that work, he invites us to participate.
Have we failed, have we been in a dark place, struggling, making decisions that we know are wrong? Turn to Jesus. Give you heart, your life, your work over to him. Allow him to speak into your life, breathe on you, fill you with the Holy Spirit, that your work is not in vain but that it would be empowered by God, led of God, allowing the Holy Spirit that indwells you to transform you more into the image of Jesus.
We become like that which we behold.
This portion of scripture should always be a reminder and a comfort. Primarily when we are suffering from imposter syndrome… I’m not good enough, people are going to find out I’m not good enough… If we have faith in Jesus, God of the universe has lead us to where we are in this moment… He will supply what we need, not only that, he will invite us to use our talents, gifts, strengths, abilities, to further what He is doing in and through us. At work, at home, at play, when we rest… we can know that He invites us to come and join Him in His work.
Peter grabs the net and hauls it up on shore. There is a count that John gives us of 153 fish. Some focus on this number in Hebrew numerology and come to a significance of “I am YHWH”. That Jesus is in fact telling the disciples, and all who will hear/read this account, about who He is.

Foundation of the work (vss 15-19)

When they had finished breakfast… what a great statement.
So often our imperfect love is conditional. The grace, the kindness, the provision that Jesus had provided came before “the talk”.
Church, may we remember, see, and know how good God is. When we see Jesus we see the Father. Jesus is the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1:1-3).
Jesus doesn’t wait for Peter to have the right answers before he expresses his love and compassion for him. Jesus leads with grace and then leans in with Peter about what’s next.
Three times, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him.
Each time Jesus speaks Peter’s name, “Simon, son of John”. What this tells us is that Jesus knows Peter. Jesus is communicating to Peter that He knows him.
When we see things repeated in the Bible it is for emphasis, as if to put an exclamation mark on it and say, “Listen up!”
The first time though Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me more than these”. Some speculate on the fish and maybe what the fish represent (money, livelihood, success). I think Jesus could also be looking at the group of brothers that he had been with for over three years (the disciples)… do you love me more than these, Peter?
Peter responds, “Yes, Lord: you know I love you.”
Jesus says, “feed my lambs”
Three times this happens, Jesus responds with “feed my lambs”, “tend my sheep”, “feed my sheep”.
Many have rightly pointed out that Jesus asks Peter three times if He loves him as a restoration from the three times that Peter denied Jesus in the courts of the High Priest. This is Peter’s call to ministry, to shepherd and lead those who love and want to follow Jesus.
John gives us a commentary about the last statement that Jesus makes to Peter specifically, John 21:18-19 ““Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.””
Jesus is calling for Peter’s love, devotion, and focus.
Peter is becoming what he is beholding. Jesus says, “Follow me.”
Jesus tells Peter, everything is different now. You had a plan. Your family may have had a plan. I want you to follow me. You will be tempted to put your brothers, your livelihood, your reputation, your comforts above your fidelity to me… I want your allegiance.
What do you behold? What is your allegiance to? What do you love? In your ordered passions and loves, what is at the top? That is what you are becoming.
We are created for worship. Everyone worships. What we worship is what we become.
The Great Shepherd is calling Peter to share in Jesus’ task of shepherding.
Pastoring, shepherding, loving, walking with people is hard. Because we are broken people and our brokenness comes out as we walk together. Jesus is calling Peter to love him, to then feed his sheep, tend his sheep, feed his lambs, and then to walk through difficult circumstances… its all to fall in line with following him.
Following Him is the point. Following Jesus is what we are called to as lovers of God and those who have been saved by sin.
“Here is the secret of all Christian ministry, yours and mine, lay and ordained, full-time or part-time. It’s the secret of everything from being a quiet, back-row member of a prayer group to being a platform speaker at huge rallies and conferences. If you are going to do any single solitary thing as a follower and servant of Jesus, this is what it’s built on. Somewhere, deep down inside, there is a love for Jesus, and though (goodness knows) you’ve let him down enough times, he wants to find that love, to give you a chance to express it, to heal the hurts and failures of the past, and give you new work to do.”
Wright, T. (2004). John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11-21 (p. 165). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
These are not things for you to do to ‘earn’ the forgiveness. Nothing can ever do that. It is grace from start to finish. They are things to do out of the joy and relief that you already are forgiven. Things we are given to do precisely as the sign that we are forgiven.
Initially, we’re like, “Woohooo, let’s do it!!” But its the long steady walk in the same direction that is difficult. This is why Jesus shares with Peter… when you are older, you are going to be led where you don’t want to go.
Following Jesus is costly, because Jesus’ work was costly. This means we follow Jesus into His suffering and death to ourselves.
If we behold our own work, and say we even inherit the whole world, what good is it if we loose our soul, but if we loose our self for His sake, eternal life is ours. This is the good work.
Peter moved from glory to glory, we have a little bit of his story captured in the book of Acts, one of Paul’s letters, and the two letters he wrote to the persecuted church. It is thought that Peter heavily spoke into Mark’s gospel as John-Mark and Peter spent a lot of time ministering together.
We are becoming what we behold.
May we behold Jesus. May we reorder our disordered passions to love and follow Jesus primarily. As we love him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, He is faithful to go before us and make our “path straight”. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.”
At work, honor Jesus by your ethic, honesty, kindness, grace, and love for Jesus in representing him in such a way that you are not seeking to earn status or position genuinely want to see people and work place thrive.
At home, honor Jesus in being loving, kind, gentle, honest, grace with one another. You seek to create peace in your living space with roommates or family.
On mission with how He has called us to love one another, love our enemies, and love Him, we too are becoming like Him.
Church, may we behold Jesus… may everything pale in comparison to Him. May your love for Him cause your love for everything else in your life to increase.
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis
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