When I was living in San Francisco, my pastor took me on a fishing trip in Monterey Bay. We rented a boat, drove to the deep sea early in the morning, and dropped our lines. The sunrise was breathtakingly beautiful, seeing from the boat rocking in the glittering ocean as we waited for the fish to bite.
Soon I caught something weighty, but after reeling in, it turned out to be a giant Pacific octopus. It looked pretty scary and gooey as I had never seen a live one so up close, and I knew nothing about octopuses except in a thriller movie. We unhooked it immediately and dropped it back into the ocean.
Later I learned that they are pretty friendly to humans. Their eyes can see you and even remember you. They have nine brains. Can you believe that? Unfortunately, soon I became seasick and threw up nonstop. I felt sorry that the trip was cut short because of me. That was my first and only ocean fishing experience. Some fishermen told me fishing was an active meditation.
After Jesus’ resurrection and a week-long festival of Passover, the disciples returned to Galilee from Jerusalem. They had received the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ breath (which we discussed in my last week’s message). Not knowing what to do next, Peter was restless as usual. So, he decided to go fishing. Six other disciples that were with him followed him.
Many interpreters treated it as if they had returned to their old profession, but it doesn’t make sense since they just saw the risen Christ. Their spirit was high. I believe Peter went fishing not to return to his old fishing business but for the opportunity to talk with Jesus about his future, his calling, and his life purpose.
Fishing was their active prayer, meditation, and contemplation. You could do the same using any art form—painting, music, gardening, photography, or arts and crafts—as a form of prayer, meditation, or contemplation. For me, it’s photography.
The good news is Jesus showed up after the daybreak, and Peter received his higher calling. In fact, we can all learn a lot about our life purpose from this epilogue of John’s Gospel. Let’s begin!
[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today is the Third Sunday of Easter, and the scripture lesson is from the Gospel according to John 21:1-19. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” (Jn 21:1–19).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
What’s unique about this last chapter of John is it works as an epilogue to John’s Gospel because John seemed to have already written a conclusion in the previous chapter. Now, he wanted to tell us that Jesus kept showing up here and there, delivering his calling personally. Even five years after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Paul. That means he could appear to you as well.
Here, John wrote another conclusion to his book, saying:
“But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (Jn 21:25).
It’s fascinating that John said even the entire world could not contain the books about Jesus’ activities. John intended his Gospel to replace the whole Bible because he began his book with the creation, unlike other Gospels that started with Jesus’ birth.
He wants to tell the world Jesus was not just someone born a few decades ago, but he was there at the beginning of everything and that everything was created through him. John wanted his Gospel to be self-contained. If you digested the Gospel of John, you know every important thing about Christianity, and you can fill in the rest with your personal experience of Jesus Christ.
When I was young, I met some elders who memorized the Gospel of John by heart. I didn’t understand why they picked John instead of Mathew, Mark, or Luke. Now I understand. John’s Gospels contain the most profound spiritual and theological concepts, such as John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16).
This verse summarizes the entire Christian Gospel in one sentence. It’s like Einstein’s E=MC2, one simple equation that solves a myriad of problems.
John’s Gospel is also more mystical, meaning he speaks to your heart rather than just your head. It’s more personal experiential rather than logical intellectual. The more you read it, the more light you see. Like Jesus, Christians used to be mystics.
Ironically, it was only after the Age of Enlightenment that Christians became degraded into logical thinkers and began to fight against one another over who’s right and who’s wrong. Every denomination or non-denomination church thinks they have the correct doctrine based on logical arguments.
If you have something to argue about Christianity, it’s no longer Christianity because the truth is beyond words. Even Jesus refused to define the truth. Instead, personify the Truth. He said,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
We tend to forget that Jesus was crucified by logical thinkers who thought killing him would solve their headaches over Jesus’ mystical teachings that went above and beyond their IQ. The resurrection of Jesus went even further than what they could conceive.
John seems to indicate that the risen Lord was meeting his disciples one by one to give them their life purpose, or the Great Commission. John’s version of the Great Commission is simpler but more profound than those in other Gospels. It’s less ego-driven.
Sometimes, we want to know our purpose so that we can feed our ego, such as, “My purpose is to change the world with my talents.” It sounds great on the surface, but without love, it’s ego-driven. Paul compared it to “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” So, Jesus didn’t tell Peter what his purpose was until he answered the most important question,
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15c).
Jesus asked him three times. Many interpreters say Jesus asked him three times to make Peter confess his sin of denying Jesus three times when Jesus was on trial. The context show otherwise. Peter knew very well that Jesus had forgiven him.
Otherwise, he wouldn’t have run to the tomb to find Jesus on Easter day. How dare he face Jesus? Even now, he put on his clothes and jumped from the fishing boat to run to meet Jesus instead of hiding naked like Adam and Eve. He did not act like a guilt-ridden man.
If you read Jesus’ foretelling of his denial, it says he was made to deny, or we can say that Jesus predestined him to deny him. Otherwise, Peter would have been exposed and crucified with Christ, and Jesus would have lost one of his capable generals. The Bible says,
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Mt 26:31).
Peter’s denial was part of the Old Testament prophecy. Peter had a big ego and tended to make quick promises without thinking. So, Jesus asked him three times to make sure he knew and meant what he was talking about.
Jesus’ question to Peter applies to all of us who want to serve him. “Do you love me more than these?” And the Lord wants to make sure you take your answer seriously.
Now, what do “these” mean? These mean everything else other than Jesus. They mean the very things Jesus overcame during his forty days of fasting and temptations in the desert—power, prestige, and procession. Most people cannot fulfill God’s calling because they love these more than Jesus.
Our purpose is simple: “Feed my sheep.” Jesus wants us to feed the sheep not to satisfy our own ego but as our expression of love to the Good Shepherd. This commission is not just for Peter but for all of us. Later, Peter was also crucified like Christ, but before he was crucified, he wrote to the church elders:
“Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you 2 to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. 3 Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.” (1 Pe 5:1–4).
Peter passed on the same Great Commission to you and me—feed the sheep and tend the flock.
Now, what do we feed the flock? Quoting Deuteronomy, Jesus said during his forty days of fasting,
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4).
So we are to feed the flock with God’s word. God’s words may not be as tasty as worldly junk foods, especially for new believers, but they will appreciate it as they mature. Prophet Jeremiah wrote:
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” (Je 15:16a).
Peter teaches us how to feed the sheep. He said,
“Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies.” (1 Pe 4:11).
I find it quite challenging to think about myself speaking the very words of God whenever I open my mouth. Like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips. However, if Peter could do it, we indeed can.
So, don’t get discouraged; we can set it as a goal to speak only God’s word by eating God’s word. Then, we will soon be able to speak God’s word to feed Jesus’ sheep.
Whenever you want to give up, answer Jesus’ question three times. “Do you love me?” I hope your sincere answer is, “Yes, Lord; you know I love you.” Then hear his calling, “Feed my sheep.”
In the end, Jesus said, “Follow me.” The word “follow” is translated from Greek “ἀκολουθέω,” meaning more than just “to follow” but “to commit exclusively.” It means Jesus is not one of your priorities but the only priority you have. A good metaphor Jesus used is that of the vine and the branches.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5).
So, to follow him is like a branch attaching to the true vine. You cannot attach to two different vines. It’s the same as loving him exclusively. Through him, we will bear the fruit to feed the sheep.
In short, Jesus wants us to love him sincerely to find and fulfill our purpose because we can do nothing without him. Let’s love and follow him exclusively.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.