Sunday, May 7, 2017

Now What? - FOLLOW

The gospel of John provides three stories that all come after the resurrection of Jesus and in their own way these stories help answer the question – Now What?  What does the resurrection mean for our lives?  Thomas tells us that the first thing we need is to have faith in the risen Jesus.  Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared to his disciples but a week later he is able to see Jesus and it is Thomas who shows us what real  FAITH looks like.  Real faith loves God so completely that we are willing to take risks and even lay down our lives for Jesus and the work of Christ in the world.  Real faith is always wanting to learn more about God and real faith let’s go of sin and doubt so that we can believe in Jesus fully and experience the life God has for us.

Last week we learned from the disciples going back to FISH that the risen Jesus calls us back to the C.O.R.E. of our faith which is to Confess our insufficiency and acknowledge how much we need God, Obey what we already know of God, Run to Jesus and Eat at the table God has set for us or take advantage of all the resources God gives to strengthen our faith.

Today John finishes the story by telling us we need to FOLLOW the Risen Jesus.  John 21:15
-19.  John ends his story with a call for Peter to follow him and in some way this is a call for all of us to follow Jesus.  But John doesn’t just tell us to follow Jesus he teaches us what it means to follow.

There are two important things to learn about following Jesus from this story of Peter and Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee.  First, we see here that Peter is being forgiven.  When Jesus asks Peter 3 times, do you love me, Jesus is giving Peter 3 opportunities to seek forgiveness.  If we go back to the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus 3 times.  3 times Peter had failed to love Jesus and so here Jesus is giving Peter 3 opportunities to reaffirm his love.  Peter needs this to make amends and set things right in his own heart and live.  This time with Jesus gave Peter a chance to say, Lord you know that I love you, and it shows Peter that he is truly loved and forgiven by Jesus.

This experience of forgiveness is something we all need if we are going to follow Jesus.  Following Jesus doesn’t just mean that we affirm his teaching and try to faithfully live it out in our lives.  It doesn’t mean we follow the 10 commandments or live out the greatest commandment which is to love God and to love others.  Following Jesus means loving Jesus and part of loving Jesus means asking him to forgive us when we fail and when we turn away.  We all fail and so we all need to be forgiven.

I grew up in the church and I knew some things about God and who Jesus was and I honestly thought I was a pretty good person, but it was in college that I finally began to realize the depth of my own sin and failures.  I had to confess that I was not living in a good relationship with God and I needed God’s forgiveness.  I had to own up to my mistakes, confess my sin and begin to come to the place in my own life and heart where I was willing to put God first and really love God.  The question that Jesus asked Peter is asked of all of us.  Do we love God?  Do we love Jesus?  How would we truthfully answer that today?  Do we love God more than anyone else?  Do we love God more than ourselves?  Are we expressing that love to God in new and fresh ways every day?

So this story shows us that there is forgiveness that God offers and when we accept that – God’s love brings hope and new life, but this is just the beginning.  Once Peter has expressed his love to Jesus and been forgiven, Jesus says, feed my lambs.  Stepping into the forgiveness and love of God opened a door for Peter, a new life he was called to live.  Feeding others is now part of what it means for Peter to follow Jesus and while physically feeding those who are hungry is important, Jesus is not talking here about supplying people bread and fish, Jesus is talking about extending to people God’s love and grace.  Tending the sheep is a lifestyle marked by leading and guiding others to God so they can find for themselves the power of God’s grace and love.

By calling Peter to feed the lambs and tend the sheep, Jesus is saying that all who follow him are now the shepherds.  We are not the good shepherd, that is Jesus, but as followers of Jesus we are called to be shepherds.  The shepherd has many jobs and one of them is to seek and save the lost sheep.  When sheep wader away, the shepherded is the one who goes and looks for them and guides them back to the safety of green pastures. Part of what it means for us to follow Jesus is going out and seek and save the lost sheep.  We do this by going to those who are hurting, lost and alone and bringing them back to God.  We lift them on our shoulders; we carry them back to God so they can be forgiven, healed, restored and loved.  We bring people to God so they can find life.

This is not a new call for Peter, it is the reaffirmation of his original call.  3 years earlier, along the same shores of Galilee, Jesus called Peter to follow him.  Then Jesus told Peter to drop his nets and become a fisher of men and women.  Jesus was calling Peter to a life where he would bring people into a relationship with the living God.

For Peter, following Jesus was never just about his own personal life, it always included the lives of others.  Jesus came here to call people to follow God so anyone who follows Jesus has to be part of that same mission and purpose.  Peter was to call people to follow Jesus and here Jesus reaffirms that call.  An invitation to feed and tend the people of God means bringing people who are far from the good shepherd close to him.

To follow Jesus means that we also need to help others come close to the good shepherd, Jesus Christ.  Living out our faith is not just something we do personally and privately, it is a life and a lifestyle that invites others to come to God as well.  Jesus spent his life calling people to himself and through him to experience the fullness of God.  Jesus invited people to walk with him and experience God’s love that could change their lives.  If we are going to follow Jesus or if we are going to be a disciple then our lives have to do the same thing.  We may not be teachers and preachers and miracle workers, but our lives need to be an invitation for people to come closer to God.  Jesus was a disciple maker and so if we are going to follow Jesus we cannot just be a disciple we must also be a disciple maker.  We have to be a fisher of men and women and a shepherd of all God’s sheep.

Through the years we have made our faith such a private and personal thing that we have lost a vision of what it means for us to invite others to come to Jesus.  The old saying was that we were not to talk about religion or politics and while politics is wide open for people to share publically and passionately today, we are still  reluctant to do this with religion.  We are told to keep our faith to ourselves.  We hear about people being persecuted more and more for making their faith public whether in school or at work and we are really criticized when we encourage or invite others to check it what we believe and who we trust.

Students from elementary school through college are questioned for reading their bibles before or after classes.  We have grown leery of asking people if we can pray for them at because it might be considered a micro aggression and contribute to a hostile workplace.  We are afraid to let people know that we follow Jesus but can we be a follower of Jesus if we aren’t willing to invite others to follow him?

In many ways, this scene of Jesus and Peter walking along the shore begins to answer the question the disciples have been asking.  What Peter and the disciples are to now do is go forth and continue the work of Jesus.  They are to be the fishermen gathering people to God.  They are to be the shepherds leading people to the good shepherd and caring for the sheep.  They are to feed God’s people by giving them all that they need for a life of faith and they are to tend to the flock – the church, the people of God.

Their mission is also our mission.  The resurrection of Jesus means the same thing for us today as it did for the disciples 2000+ years ago.  We are to follow Jesus and that means being a fisher of men and women and it means being a shepherd of God’s people.  Following Jesus means we strive to a live a life that looks more and more like the life of Jesus and a life that invites the lost and alone, the broken and sinful to come and experience the grace, forgiveness and love of God.  So…  Now What?  Follow Jesus!

Next Steps

1.  Reread the three post-resurrection stories in John.
John 20:24-29 – Thomas and FAITH
John 21:1-14 – The Disciples and FISH
John 21:15-19 – Peter and FOLLOW

2.  By asking Peter three times if he loved Him, Jesus was offering Peter forgiveness for his earlier failures.  What failures need to be forgiven in your life?

3.  If you were walking with Jesus along the beach and he asked you, “do you love me”, how might you respond?  In a sentence or two, write out your response to Jesus.

4.  How can you express your love to Jesus this week?

5.  Following Jesus means feeding God’s sheep and taking care of God’s lambs.  In what way is God calling you to fed and care for God’s people?  

6.  How is offering God’s love and grace to others part of this care and feeding?

7.  How can you make inviting people to experience God’s grace and love for themselves a regular part of your life?  How can sharing Jesus with others become a natural part of your life, faith and family?

8.  Take time to pray using the 7x7 prayer campaign.

7x7 Prayer Guide
As part of the 66th Annual National Day of Prayer, held this past week, we are inviting you to participate in this 7x7 personal prayer campaign.  We encourage you to pray for 7 centers of influence daily for 7 days. Simply set aside time in your car, during your coffee break, before bedtime, in you small study group, or whenever may work for you to PRAY.

Daniel 9:19 says, “HEAR US…FORGIVE US…HEAL US FOR THE GLORY OF YOUR GREAT NAME”.   We will see positive change by:

Praying for Families
Praying for the Military
Praying for the Government
Praying for Educators
Praying for the Media
Praying for Businesses
Praying for Churches
(Pray for Christian believers around the world,
the United Methodist Church and Faith Church)

As you pray, consider these words written by Dorothy Norwood and Alvin Darling in the song, “Somebody Prayed for Me.”

Somebody prayed for me,
Had me on their mind,
They took the time and prayed for me.
(Oh Yes they did, I’m so glad)
I’m so glad they prayed.

If you would like to be part of the Faith Church Prayer Chain,
please contact Darla Snyder at