Pastor’s Page February
Do you love Jesus? I know it’s a foolish question. If you are reading this, you are probably a member of St. John’s Church. At the very least, you are a part of this congregation. Otherwise, why would you be reading this at all?
And if you are a part of St. John’s ministry, then you would have to love Jesus. Right?
But do you really love Jesus? Last month, the sermons here at St. John’s confronted us with difficult questions. The questions themselves were not difficult. Answering them was. They asked us about our core identity and our willingness to live out our faith in a profound and tangible manner that would truly define if we were a Christ follower or not. Those questions were:
What do you live for? What would you die for? What do you stand for? What are you made of?
I’m sure many of you are quick to answer, “I live for Jesus; I’d die for Him and His people and even my enemies as Christ would; I stand on the Rock of Christ and stand for His mission; and I’m made of His Spirit and will serve the Father fully.”
It all sounds good, but is it all true? I’m not trying to di- minish your faith or to cast doubt upon your answers. I ask the same of myself. Am I too quick to answer and too slow to serve with my life? Also, this is not just questions I ask of you, but these are questions that Jesus asks of you as He did of one of His most beloved disciples.
In John 21:15-19, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” And He doesn’t just do this once. He does it three times. Jesus doesn’t want Peter to just answer quickly. He wants His friend—the Rock on which He will build His Church (Matthew 16:18)—to answer with careful thought, and conviction.
The same is true for us. Jesus doesn’t want a quip. He wants our hearts, our lives, and every thought. He wants us to spend our lives in His service. He wants us to fight temptation, to stand for justice, and to overcome every obstacle the world and our enemy the Devil would throw at us.
Jesus meets Peter on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after His Resurrection. Peter has gone back to his trade of fishing. After feeding him breakfast, Jesus asks,
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than the- se?” [John 21:15]. Jesus provides Peter with a gracious meal as He did at the Last Supper, but participation demands a response.
In the Upper Room, Peter swears, “Though they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away” [Matthew 26:33]. Later that night (or very early the next morn- ing), Peter denies Jesus not once but three times just as Jesus had foretold [Matthew 26:34].
At the third denial, the rooster crowed [Matthew 26:74]. In the very next verse, scripture relays to us that Peter remembered Jesus’ prophetic words, and he wept bitterly. The force of those tears are in direct measure to how forcefully Peter had said to Jesus in front of all the disciples that he would die with Jesus before he ever denied Him [Matthew 26:35].
Because of Peter’s denial, the rooster has become a symbol of the shame of sin. It is a reminder that we have had the noblest of intents in serving God but have all fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23].
Thankfully, that is not the end of the story, which brings us back to John 21. Just as he denied Christ three times, Peter was given three opportunities to proclaim his love for Christ and to feel not only the weight of those words in light of his failure but to also feel the remedy of grace flow through his veins. Jesus was not trying to torture Peter; He was pushing into his heart the conviction that he could live for his Savior and fulfill his words of living and dying for Jesus.
Now, the power to fulfill those words would not originate in his strength or his bravado. The power to live and to die for Christ would come from Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit that would take up residence in Peter’s heart.
Jesus turns the world upside down. He flips the script. The last shall be first. The outcasts form His inner circle. The lost are found. That rooster that was an emblem of shame now teaches us to crow the song of our Savior. The denier is no longer condemned but is ready to ascend to his place as the Rock on which the Church of Christ is to be built.
Jesus turns the world upside down. He flips the script. The last shall be first. The outcasts form His inner circle. The lost are found. That rooster that was an emblem of shame now teaches us to crow the song of our Savior. The denier is no longer condemned but is ready to ascend to his place as the Rock on which the Church of Christ is to be built
Over our south (Carrol St.) entrance, stands a rooster weather vane. Look straight up and over the red awning. (You may have to do so from across the street.) When you do, you will see that rooster. In days gone by, we were known as the Rooster Church. If you look in the pages of this newsletter, you will see that we have created a rooster themed t-shirt that plays on this theme.
On one side, we are reminded that we are like Peter and have denied Christ. On the other, we remind ourselves and all who see it that we now sing our Savior’s praise. We, like the rooster’s crow, have been redeemed. We are no longer trapped in the former things, but we are a new creation with a new purpose to proclaim the Gospel of Christ [II Corinthians 5:17-21].
So again, I will ask you, Do you love Jesus? Do you really love Him? Do you love Him enough to care for His people
and to build them up? If you read Jesus’ response in John 21, that is what He requires of Peter. Jesus doesn’t say, “Great! You’ve got the right answer. That’s good enough.”
No, Jesus tells Peter to care for the believers by taking on the role of a shepherd by caring and feeding the flock of Christ. Our faith is about more than mere words. In the coming months, we will be challenged by Jesus’ teachings in His last days as seen in the Gospel of Matthew. There, He points to the last days, the challenges that will come, and the way He expects us to respond as He did in His last days upon this earth.
Living that faith will stretch us but thankfully it’s not a work we do alone. We are surrounded by a wonderful and faithful family of God here at St. John’s and the Holy Spirit abides with us. These are indeed challenging days in which we live. We have heard of what our God ex- pects of us. We have failed in the past and heard the rooster crow confirming our failure.
But now, we have the opportunity to rise up and say, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You!” [John 21:16]. And you can hear you Savior say, “Tend My sheep.” You can hear the grace in His voice, and you can feel His em- powering Spirit fall upon you.
Most of all, you can hear Jesus say, “Follow Me” [John 21:19]. All will know the answer to the question (and to which degree) of “Do you love Jesus?” by how faithfully you dare to follow Him. It’s never about what you did in the past but what you do today. Follow Him in love!
In Christ’s powerful name,