Easter Sunday – Love and Grace

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Easter Sunday – Love and Grace

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

21st April, 2019

My normal Easter Sunday message is usually loaded with heaps of amazing scriptures and powerful declarations about the Resurrection.  Because – the Resurrection is incredibly powerful!   We have the power of Resurrection life, living on the inside of us!  The bible says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in our mortal bodies.

Combined with Good Friday’s message about the power of the Blood of Jesus, this weekend of celebration is electric with solid, foundational, life changing and life empowering truth and doctrine!

But as I was reading through the Easter story once again… I just felt drawn to some of the things that happened, because of Jesus, and because of His Resurrection – to the men and women that had been so intimately a part of His life, His suffering, and His death.

This message is still primarily about Jesus – but it’s also about how He ministered to those He loved – mainly Peter.  I know you’ve heard Peter’s story before – but if I’ve found glimpses into something fresh about the relationship between Jesus and Peter, then perhaps you will as well.

The post Resurrection encounters that Jesus had with Mary, with Peter, with the disciples, with the two men on the Road to Emmaus, and all the other 14 or so recorded times when Jesus appeared after the crucifixion…  it all speaks to me – and to all of us – of two other incredibly powerful characteristics of God’s divine nature – love and grace.

I’m focussing on Peter – because out of all the disciples, and all the people in Jesus’ life – Peter had the most amazing and noticeable transformation out of them all.   And without the resurrection – it would never have happened.

I want to remind you of how many times Peter failed to get with the program.  There were so many random moments, and random comments that Peter made…  He was the original male, with “foot in mouth” disease. 

And I love it that the bible isn’t this sterile, picture perfect, goody two shoes version of life in the Middle East.  It tells the story of life and salvation with all the awkward bits.  My life has had plenty of awkward bits.  You probably think it still has…  and in some ways you’d be right.  But let me tell you, so does yours.  Let’s not dig too deep or we’ll all be in trouble. 

But poor old Peter has it all laid out for everyone to see.

Remember when he walked on water?  Peter had the faith to get up out of the boat…  but then fear took over and he began to sink.  He took his eyes off Jesus and was overwhelmed by the circumstances.  Sounds familiar.

What about the time Peter rebuked Jesus…  yes, he actually rebuked Jesus.  It wasn’t pretty.  This is after Jesus tries to explain to the disciples about His impending death  and resurrection.

Matthew 16:22-23,  “Then Peter took Him aside (I cant believe Peter actually took Him aside) and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!  You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Peter must have died a thousands deaths right there!

There were moments when Peter got it!  Like the time Jesus told Peter to cast his net on the other side of the boat, and when he did, there were nearly too many fish for them to cope with.  

Luke 5:8,  “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Humility overcame him.  Which was appropriate.  It was the right response.

But of course, I doubt if there would have been a lower point in Peter’s life, than the night before Jesus died. 

At the last Supper together:

Matthew 26:31,33,  “Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

Straight away, Jesus tells him that in fact he will be one who denies Him – three times will Peter deny him…  then the rooster will crow…

It happens just as Jesus said.  After proudly declaring he would stand with Jesus to the last, even when everyone else will fail Him – all it takes is a servant girl to recognise him – and the denial and abandonment of Jesus is set in motion.

After the rooster crows, it’s says that Peter went out and wept bitterly.

We can only imagine the depth of Peter’s grief and shame.  

But where I’m going with this morning, is firstly to break through any pride and self righteousness that we might be carrying in our own heart…  

…but then to allow Jesus to minister into those moments where we ourselves have denied Him – and the moments we have taken ourselves aside in the darkness, and wept bitterly because our hearts have been broken by our own words or actions.

Pride and brokenness are just two conditions of our heart that are on the same spectrum.  Out of our brokenness we rise up in pride to try and cover up our inadequacy.  Then when we fail to live up to the haughtiness of our own heart, and unrealistic standards – we become broken and grieved again.  When we are out of balance like this emotionally, we fluctuate between the two extremes.

Anyway – back to the story.  And back to the amazing glimpse into the heart of the resurrected Christ.

According to Mark 16:7,  the angel of the Lord who spoke to the women who found the tomb empty, said:

“But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

Peter gets a special mention.

You see, it was primarily Peter who was on Jesus’ mind the moment He was raised from the dead.  Why?  Because Jesus would have known how distraught, how ashamed, how humiliated and broken Peter must have been feeling.   

Jesus could have simply ascended into heaven at that moment.  But He had unfinished business with the ones He loved.

And so Jesus actually goes to Peter.  And where is he?  He’s gone back to what has always been familiar for him.  His fishing. He’s gone back to his old life.

And that’s what we do.  When we fail, when we let ourselves down, and everyone else…  our natural tendency is to go back to a place where things are familiar.  For Peter, it’s the fishing boat.  It’s safe.  It’s his escape.  It’s something he does that doesn’t challenge him.  

That also sounds very familiar.

He’s been paralysed by fear, regret, grief… because of everything that he’s done wrong.  When you’re paralysed, you can’t do much.  You can hardly look after yourself let alone anyone else.

John 21:3-7,  “Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” 

Here’s a little key to how things work.  If you drop your bundle and run away to try and escape, others are going to want to follow.  Many times, we are not only responsible for your own path, but the paths of others.

“They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.”

Peter couldn’t deny his mixed emotions.  How must he have felt at the sight of Jesus?  Whatever it was, he couldn’t even wait for the boat to go in to shore.  He swam ahead of everyone else.

They all had breakfast.  Breakfast that Jesus had cooked.  

But then Jesus pulls Peter aside – and a life  transforming conversation takes place.

Peter must have been in absolute turmoil.  Was Jesus going to rebuke him for denying him three times?  Was Jesus going to remind him of all the other times he had failed?

Peter would be still filled with so much negativity and self criticism…  He was a failure.  He was a coward.  His word couldn’t be trusted.  How could he even consider ministry in the future?  Who would trust him?  How could he trust himself?

But Jesus mentions none these things.  Jesus hasn’t come to remind Peter of his past.  He has come to call him higher – to call him forward into his true destiny – and into his future.

Jesus has come to release him and set him free – to minister forgiveness and to restore hope.

John 21:15,  “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of  Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

So here’s a new thing for me.  I might be slow, but I’ve now realised why Jesus said – do you love me more than these?

It might sound like He’s saying, do you love me more than you loves these guys – your fishing mates?  But it’s deeper than that.

When Peter said to Jesus at the last supper, even if all these others desert you, I’ll never desert you…  you mightn’t be able to rely on them – but you can depend on me to stand with you!…  

When he said that to Jesus – he didn’t have within him what he thought he had.  He judged all the others, but he exalted himself as the ultimate faithful one.  And all it took was a question from a servant girl…  and his house of pride and self righteousness began to crumble.

So you see, Jesus is giving him another chance.  Peter, do you really love me more than these guys love me?  How are you with all that now Peter?  Has that experience taught you something?

Jesus goes on:

John 21:16-17,  “He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of  Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My  sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

It’s so clear that Jesus is asking Peter three times to respond in saying that He loves Him – one for each of the times Peter had denied Him previously.

There’s heart surgery going on here.  Peter was grieved that Jesus would have to keep asking.  But Jesus was ministering to the depths of Peter’s being and the depth of his pain.  And Peter had to face the truth.  He had to face the emotional turmoil that he was still carrying.  

Peters love for Jesus was being fully restored. 

Don’t you love it that Jesus is taking time here to help Peter find healing and restoration?  Jesus could have been gone by now.  He could have been back with His Father in heaven.  He could have been doing all kinds of things.  But here he is ministering resurrection life and hope to one man.

Peter is worth it.  He’s worth a second chance.  Maybe it’s his third, fourth, fifth chance…  whatever…  God’s love and grace is abounding towards Peter.

Love and grace are so much more effective and stronger than condemnation and judgement.

Many of you are aware of the comments that Israel Folau has made in recent times.  He’s a passionate, Christ loving, Christ exalting Christian.  I love that about him.  And he’s not afraid to speak up.

But I have to be honest and say – And this is my personal opinion only – his outright condemnation of drunks and homosexuals and others…  what has that done to draw these people close to the Father?  What has is done to help them find healing?  

Yes – the words he has written and spoken are true.  Without Jesus, they are in danger of hellfire…  

But if Jesus was on Twitter…  would he be simply telling them they are going to hell?  And pronouncing judgement?  

Or would he be saying – I want you to know Me – I want you to love Me – I want you to know how much I love you – I want your heart to be healed, to be whole, to be full of joy, full of life.  I believe that’s the kind of environment that produces repentance.  

Romans 2:4,  “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

I was so glad to see that Israel later made the comment that he himself was also a sinner saved by grace.  That’s a better message.  I was there.  I was a sinner.  But Jesus has transformed my heart.

Why not bring the heart of the gospel?

John 3:16-17,  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten  Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

If we come back to Peter – Peter was already feeling like it was all over.  He was already feeling disqualified. He was a failure.  He was already condemned.

What could Jesus say about all those things, that he didn’t already believe about himself?

So Jesus ministered the opposite.  He ministered love and grace.  And it brought Peter to brokenness – brought him to himself.

Jesus saw in Peter something far greater than he saw in himself.  And he was calling Peter to a higher vision – and higher calling.  He was calling Peter back into a relationship that he probably thought was over. 

And each time Peter said, yes Lord, I love you…  Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”  “Tend My sheep.”  “Feed My sheep.”

And little did Peter know at that moment, Jesus was prophesying over him his calling and destiny to oversee and establish the church.  He was being called forth as an apostle to lead thousands upon thousands into the kingdom, and to be part of the incredible Jesus movement called the Church.

And I’m sure that Peter was having some on the spot training as to what leading the church would primarily involve.  Love the sheep.  Love the lambs – those new babies…  tend them – look after them – care for them.  And feed them.  Feed them with the word.  Nourish them with truth, with hope, with mercy, with grace…  with love!

Ephesians 1:7,  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”

God’s Grace, poured out over Peter as the Holy Spirit cam upon him, caused Peter to step into a holy boldness, and he preached to thousands…  and thousands were saved.  He didn’t mince his words – but they were washed with wisdom, power, love and grace.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to every one of us this morning – there’s always a 2nd chance…  and if need be – a 3rd, a 4th, a 29th, a 70th…  

Don’t worry about judging others.  That’s God’s job.  The Holy Spirit convicts.  We couldn’t convict a flea.  

If you want people to be healed, use Jesus as your example.

For those who have denied Jesus – who have rejected Him – who have outright rebelled against Him…  you’re wasting your time ministering judgement and condemnation…  Even Jesus didn’t come to condemn.  He came to save.

Do what Jesus did.  Minister love and grace.  Minister healing… It doesn’t mean that the past was never wrong…  or denial was never wrong… or rebellion was never wrong…  sin is wrong!

But God’s goodness, shown through us…  that’s what will lead people to repentance.

And for us…  we need that same goodness of God so that we can be fully healed…  fully sanctified…  

And there’s no getting away from the fact that our healing is tied up with our destiny.  Yes, God cares about us simply for who we are. 

But there’s a calling upon each one of us – upon you – and He loves you too much to let that precious calling to be a shepherd to others, fall away.

The resurrection is all about new life.  New hope.  New beginnings.  It’s about being born again.

We can only be born again because Jesus has covered our sins with His own Blood – He died in our place – but then He rose again on the third day, today! …making way for us to also walk in newness of eternal life.

He’s not asking you this morning, are you perfect?

He’s asking – do you love me?  He’ll take care of the rest.

Amen!


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