As John closes off his singular testimony of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he features some closing words of Jesus and Peter about himself (John). These final sentences provide some instructions for us as we await Christ's return. How should we live in light of who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and when Jesus will return?
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Some Final Thoughts:
Publications referenced: Reading through the Bible, by Amos R. Well
Figures referenced: Winston Churchill; Corrie ten Boom; Arnold Palmer, A. W. Tozer, Irenaeus
Cross references: Matthew 16:24; Matthew 22:29;John 12:26; John 13:15; John 21:7; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Timothy 4:16; Hebrews 12:2
Topic: Christian living
Keywords: Follow me, Peter, John, follow Jesus
Would you turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John chapter 21. We welcome you here this morning. I welcome those who are outside. We can't see you but by faith we can. We know you are out there in the Amphitheater. John chapter 21, in this week we say farewell not to me but to John. Me, sort of like the poor, you'll have with you always. But John, we've been with John for 2 1/2 years. October 24, 2009, we began in John 1:1. And today we'll finish off the last section of this Gospel beginning in chapter 21. What a wonderful journey it has been, very rewarding for me personally. Why don't we pray before we begin?
Father we're your people. You've called us, you have a plan and it's a unique one. As unique as we are individually from one another, though there are many similarities, yet there are many differences. And like fingerprints or snowflakes and a myriad of other examples you're plan for us is unique but today we think of some common elements, elements that drive us together, elements that remind us were all part of the same body following the same master. Thank you Father for what you've shown us in this series on the Gospel of John. His writings have awakened in us a deeper desire to know the master himself. We have been able to through his pen, step in to his sandals and hear the words, it's as if we were there seeing the face, feeling the very breath of the Savior speaking to these men and speaking through their words to us today. I pray Father that as we close this book that it would be a fitting close. We would have our marching orders, our final instructions in Jesus' name Amen.
I got a note last week put on my desk from one of our gals in the Sunday school department. I don't know how old Isabella is but this is from her. It says, "Skip, I have three dogs one goat, one beta fish and two hermit crabs. I loved them so much please pray for them." And so I did. Now life doesn't get much simpler than that. It's so simple, little Isabella doesn't have a mortgage to worry about; she didn't have to worry about running a business or raising kids. She just has a few very important pets that she loves and she wants per for. Very simple, all of our lives were that simple. Now, they are not for a number of reasons. But perhaps part of the reason is we tend ourselves to complicate things. We go from simple to complex. We get involved in decisions and activities that just add more stress.
If there's one thing I have discovered about God is that he is pretty simple, straightforward. "Here's Ten Commandments", he would say, "Here's my top 10 list". Now we weren't satisfied with Ten Commandments. Do you know that the Jews decided to look at that differently and they made 10 categories of Commandments and say that there are 613 commandments not ten, 613, 365 of which are negative and 248 of which are positive. We go from simple to complicated; we do it with what Jesus said. Probably the simplest prayer you'll ever find is what we call the Lord's Prayer. Our father in heaven holly hollowed is your name. Your kingdom come. . . 56 words. It covers all of major areas of life. It's so simple and so straightforward yet it's so comprehensive, 56 words, a simple prayer.
Compare that to United States government document setting the price of cabbage which is 26,911 words from simple to complicated.
Somebody once suggested that the Lords Prayer would be very different if the theologian would have written it. In fact, if just the phrase, "give us this day our daily bread" were written by a theologian who would sound like this. We respectfully petition requests and intrigue that due an adequate provision be made this day and the day hereinafter subscribed for the satisfying of these petitioners nutritional requirements and for the organizing of such methods of allocation and distribution as many as may be deemed necessary and proper to assure the reception by and for said petitioners of such quantities of bate cereal products as shall in the judgment of the aforementioned petitioners constitute a sufficient supply thereof. I like give us this day our daily bread a whole lot better,
Winston Churchill said, "All great things are simple". And so we come to the last paragraph, the final words of the Gospel of John and the final words John records that Jesus said. And once again we find Jesus keeps it very simple. He takes Peter and he reinstates him. A wonderful conversation of taking a man who has fallen and denied him and resurrecting his hope and telling him of his future usefulness to him but Peter wants to complicated it and Peter it seems wants to poke his nose in someone else's business. And so after breakfast, after Jesus has told Peter about his future and given him the shepherding duty of the sheep. We come to verse 20 of chapter 21 and then Peter, turning around saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following.
We know that to be now unmistakably John, who also had leaned on his beast at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays you?" Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "But Lord what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain until I come. What is that you? You follow me. Then Jesus went out, then this saying wend out about their brother and that this disciple would not die, yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die. But if I will that he remained until I come, what is that you? This is the disciple who testifies of these things and wrote these things and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
Now that's good advice for Peter and it happens to be great advice for us. And because it's the final paragraph let's look at these as final instructions, final instructions. Four final instructions as we leave the journey to the Gospel of John. Four final instructions as we march forward into the future into our life. And we're going to view them this morning in terms of warnings. Things to be careful about, things to be careful of – They are very simple, they are very practical, the Bible always is.
First and foremost, "Be careful where you look, be careful where you look". We're told in verse 20, then Peter turning around saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following and a description is given. Now let's just backup in the story and let's just be reminded what's happening here. Jesus Christ has come to the Sea of Galilee early one morning when seven of the disciples are out in a boat casting their nets to fish. They don't know that the stranger on the shore is Jesus until the stranger shouts out, "Hey have you guys caught any fish?" and they go, "No". He says, "Cast your nets on the other side". They did and the net is full of fish. At that point it is John, the author of this book who says, "That's the Lord". At that time Peter gets up, puts his robe back on. He was just in shorts, puts his robe back on and jumps off the boat and into the lake, swims to shore to be with Jesus. At that time there is a breakfast setting, there's a conversation with Peter, eye to eye, heart to heart, it's beautiful.
But I do find it interesting and I just want to suggest to you that perhaps, perhaps there was a friendly gentle competition between John and Peter. And I say that for a few reasons. Number one John writes down for us. He records for everybody to read for years afterwards. But it wasn't Peter who recognized the guy in the shore was Jesus. It was John and he told Peter and the reason Peter even launched out into the deep was because John said that's the lord. He writes that down. Also if you go back a couple of chapters in the same book on Resurrection Sunday there was a resurrection marathon between John and Peter, they both ran to the tomb remember that? John got there first and he wrote it down. So you would know, I John beat Peter in that race. Not only that, on the same day they were both looking into the tomb, John discovers that the empty grave clothes must mean a resurrection and it says John believed, not Peter. And he wrote it down. All of those instances were recorded.
Now we have here sort of the reverse of that, this time Peter saying, what him, looking at John. Also let me just add something to the mix, even before they were called as disciples, there must have been some competition because we read that Peter and Andrew together, the brothers, had a fishing business on the Sea of Galilee. So did John and James and his dad Zebedee. They had their own business. So they have been competitors in business for a long time. That may just be me, but let's just throw that into the mix that these humans who love each other probably have been, even in a friendly manner, some rivals before. But look at verse 20, it says, "Then Peter turning around saw the disciple". Okay up to this point Peter's eyes had been locked on Jesus, as Jesus says, "Peter do you love me, and feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep".
It has been a wonderful time of fellowship, a wonderful time of connectedness that Peter has with Christ, but then Peter is distracted and he must've seen John out of the corner of his eye or just thought about him and turned and he noticed him. He got his eyes off Jesus and is looking at John. After all, Jesus just told him Peter, his future but he notices John. Now this is where our problems begin is when we get our eyes off of the Lord and onto other people or circumstances. As long as we're gazing heavenward, no problem, everything is good. We get it. Life is in perspective. Once we glance earthward it's all over. And so let's say you come to church one day and worship music and the song choice really spoke to your heart, those words resonated and boy you're so close to the Lord. You're pouring out your heart to him. The message was right from God's heart to your heart. You're applying it and life is good. But then you go out to the parking lot and you get behind the wheel of your car and you see that long line of cars and it's not the same. And then you pull out onto a sooner road or under the freeway and that beat up old Ford cuts in front of you. And you see that, you turn and you're seeing that now or you go to the restaurant and you see the waiter totally neglect you. Or you go home and your kids are disrespectful to you or your husband berates you or you see that police officer pull you over on the road and give you a ticket.
And it's different now. You're looking not at the Lord. You're looking around and those circumstances get to you. You know, anytime you look around in this world, you can get pretty distressed. I don't know what your daily routine is but a lot of you would grab a newspaper in the morning. First off, bad form Why go to the bad news first? And I say bad news because is it ever good news? Do you ever read front-page article, "Man loves his wife for a lifetime, never leave each other" there are always - never read something good. It's always some scandals, some war, some horrible thing, so great everything is good in the world. Corrie ten Boom put it this way, "Look around and be distressed. Look within and be depressed. Look to Jesus, be at rest".
The Bible in Hebrew says, looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. And Paul or not Paul but the writer of Hebrews whoever that was, was talking about living the Christian life in such a way as you're running a race. Now, if you want to lose a race, you look around. Can you imagine trying to be on the track and make progress while you're looking at whose running next to you and looking behind to see who's coming behind you or looking up the grandstands? You want to keep your focus.
Back in 1961, Arnold Palmer was at the Masters and he tells a story. He said that he was ahead by one stroke. It was the last hole of the tournament. He had a great tee shot. He felt really good at the game. He walks out on the fairway to make his second shot on the last hole and he notices that in the gallery there's a man, an old friend of his that he recognizes, who motions to him to come over to the gallery. So Palmer did it and he said that's where I lost the game. The man put out his hand and said "Congratulations" but Palmer said, "I knew then that I'd lost my focus" and the next few shots proved it. His second shot was over the green in the rough and then he missed the pot and he lost the Masters because he lost his focus. We always lose when we lose our focus spiritually speaking and we get our eyes off the Lord. So be careful where you look.
Number two, "Be careful what you consider". Verse 21, let's see what Peter considers. Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, but Lord. Okay now, just stop there. The Lord Jesus has just predicted to Peter that he is in a live a very fruitful life to old age and then be martyred in the end. And after Peter denying the Lord this was good news to Peter. I'm going to be able, all the way to the end, to be faithful to the Lord. The ending doesn't sound all that good to me but the Lord has made his prediction about me. Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" that is what about John, tell me about his future. You told me about mine, what about this guy? And Jesus said to him, "If I will, that he remain until I come, what is that to you, you follow me." Good old Peter.
Peter loved the Lord, but Peter was still Peter. I have a friend who says people change but not that much. And Peter had his ups and downs and he's coming along but he keeps reverting back to 'Peterdom', always been Peter, always saying those things, always want to do those things. So at some point in this glorious conversation it's inevitable that Peter goes, "Now, wait a minute what about this guy?" And his focus now is on John and is caring about and concerned for and careful over what's going to happen to John. Boy, how much like Peter are we? We're so prone to think about somebody else and want to run their lives, want to meddle in their affairs. We want to manage what that father or that daughter or that pastor or that deacon does.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10 concerning a group of people measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, they are not wise. And we do that a lot, don't we? We compare ourselves with others. . Oh look she's wearing or look at that hairdo. Oh look what they're driving. Oh look where they live. Oh look how they look. Constantly comparing and worried about what they are doing rather than what we're doing. Now, it's interesting that Peter asked the question, "What about this man?" Jesus never answers him. It's okay Peter let me tell you what's going to happen to John now. He didn't even get there because it's none of his business. Now, you want to know what happened to John. You want to know what happened to this man who is so intimate and so close and seemed to Peter like he had it made. He's the guy who is so close and put his head on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper.
What happened to his is he was arrested. Irenaeus tells us, he's one of the church historians. Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp. Polycarp was the disciple of the Apostle John. So were just one generation removed. Irenaeus said was arrested taken to Rome. They tried to kill him a few different ways. One of which was to boil him oil and according to the story he didn't die. So they shipped him off to the Island of Patmos, a prisoner colony. The worst place the Romans could think of to banish somebody, no vegetation, hard life, and they stuck him there. Now you think of that next time you're prone to look at somebody and compare yourself and say, "How come they are so blessed and I suffer so much." Stop your private pity party because you have no idea what that person is facing or will face in terms of his or her own personal suffering. Think back to this.
Verse 22, if I will that he remained until I come, in other words, if I wanted to live until the rapture it's none of your beeswax. Don't concern yourself with John Peter. You want to know a great text scripture for this? A little short one, 1 Timothy 4:16, listen to it, "Take heed to thyself". Or as the Philip's translation puts it, "Keep a critical eye on your own life". Because some of us like to look around – There is Joe he is not as committed as I am, there is Pete and Sally, they don't work as hard as I do, they do the glorious stuff, I do all the hard work around here. You get in to that, it's hard to get out of that.
I have a friend who gave me a link to a YouTube video of the Pastor who got up on a Sunday morning; it was an Easter morning to a pact congregation and just berated them, calling them out, name by name. Fred, you've been so unfaithful in your Sunday school class, you are fired, and you're a wretch. Calling people, I know what you're doing behind your husband's back; we've talked about that, just calling everybody out. And angry and mad berating them, and angry and mad and berating them. And I think the Lord wanted to slap him upside the head and say, "What is that to you, you follow me."
And I've learned something as a pastor, as a teacher, as a leader that when it comes to judgment day, I'll face Jesus Christ. I'm not going to be responsible for how you did it. I'm going to be responsible for how I did it, as well as the words that I taught and how to do it. So we shouldn't be so concerned. Disciple, yes, help yes, bring along yes. But ultimately it's their responsibility, not yours. A.W. Tozer has a wonderful illustration about a hundred pianos. He said, "If you took a hundred pianos in one room and yu tried to tune each piano to the other piano, they'll be grossly out of tune". If however, you tune all 100 pianos to an outside source, a tuning fork, they will automatically be in tuned with one another. He said it's the same with Christians, have a hundred worshipers, have them all focused in Jesus, they are automatically in tuned with each other. If however you bring them down to the level of "We need a unity conscious meeting", you're not going to do it.
The key is just focus on the Lord, eyes on the Lord, be concerned about the Lord's will for your life, not the Lord's concern and will for their life. I think I've told you about a woman who came into my office several years ago and wanted to know God's will for her life and who to marry. And I said, "Well, I have no idea who you are to marry" she goes, "Well, there's this one guy I'm really interested in. I want to marry him. My friends think I shouldn't do it". So I told the Lord before coming in your office, "Whatever you say to me that's what I'm going to do". You know what I said to her? Nothing, I said, "You're not going to slap than on me. I'm not going to tell you who marry. I'll tell you principles on how to discover God's will for your life but then you, before the Lord are responsible". So final instructions, be careful where you look, be careful what you consider.
Number three, "Be careful who you follow" are you following people or are you following Christ? Verse 22 said, if I will that he remain until I come. What is that to you? You follow me. You know Peter didn't get the whoe follow-me thing, did he? Because Jesus already said this to him back in verse 19, right? I want you to be my apostle Peter. You're going to shepherd my sheep, you're going to feed my lambs, you're going to be faithful until death to old age, you're going to be my apostle but, Peter, you know what, I also want you to be just be my disciple, follow me.
He didn't quite get that because Jesus has to repeat it and here when he repeats it, it's the emphatic vive in Greek. The best translation would be "As for you, you follow me". You see, Peter got it slow, so Jesus set it slow. And he repeats it, and emphasizes it so he won't miss it. Jesus never tells Peter to follow John, never tells Peter to follow Andrew or James or Thomas, not that anybody would. He says, "Follow me". And the Lord would say to you this morning, not follow my people, he never said that, not follow my preachers but follow me. That's what he would say to us. Whenever you follow people you will get disappointed. Do you remember that Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian Church saying that each one of you says something like, "I'm a Paul or I am of Apollo's or I'm of Cepheus", they were identifying themselves with certain leaders and I find that people still do that. "Oh I really like that radio preacher at television or that author. I'm all about that". Really, how disappointing. You're going to be let down at some point. You need to put first and foremost following Christ. So I love it is so simple once again. If you were to boil the Christian life down to the irreducible minimum, the simplest axiom, it would be follow Christ. Right, that's pretty simple isn't it, "Oh the Christian life is so complicated", really? Follow Christ, it's very simple.
So my question for you this morning, in these final messages is, "Are you following Christ?" Be careful how you answer that because if you probe honestly you may be forced to say like we discovered last week that Peter had a say, "Well, I sure like you a lot". My love is not what it should be and following you I want to do that. Are you following Christ? Now, I want to help you with that. I'm going to give you a little test, three things that you can measure yourself by to see if you're truly following Christ. Because according to the Bible it means three things. Number one - that you be where he is. If you follow Christ, you want to be where he is. Jesus said in John 12:26, "Whoever serves me will follow me and where I am a my servant will be also" now think about that, it means in all circumstances of life, all relationships of life, all decisions of life, if somebody ever says to you "Why are you here?" You can say, "Because I follow Christ and he led me here today". Can you say that? I tell you what, that would eliminate a lot of places that Christians go to and things that they do. Because they can't confidently say, "The Lord let me here".
A lot of Christians go to places and do things and I hope the Lord still hangs with me after this. So number one, "You be where he is". That's following Christ. Number two, "You do what he does", and you follow his example. This is John 13 Jesus said, "I have given you an example that you should do as I have done". Jesus was faithful and obedient, be faithful and obedient. He was patient, be patient. He was honest, be honest. He was holy, be holy. He had these certain attitudes, have those certain attitudes. You copy and emulate what he does. So it's pretty straightforward and we don't have to guess what it means to follow Christ, you, be where he is, you do what he does. And here's the third one, this is the hardest one, "Suffer for his sake". Now I can just see this dead silence in contemplation to that third one. Suffer for his sake, because this is the hardest of all. This is the nitty-gritty of discipleship. But listen to what Jesus said once again Matthew 16, "If anyone desires to follow me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". Do you know how many times I've heard that misinterpreted over the years? My cross they say is whatever problem I'm facing at the moment. Yes this is my cross to bear. I have an ailment or I'm married to this creep. It's my cross to bear.
You have no clue than what it means to bear the cross because I'll guarantee you when Jesus said those words to the Galileans they knew exactly what it meant. They have seen people be crucified and they knew that all victims of crucifixion carried the upper part, the "patibulum", part of their cross to the place that they would be executed. In fact history tells us that around this time the Roman government had 2000 Jewish Galileans crucified and they placed the crosses on the main arteries, the main roads in Galilee so that all the populace would see that's what happens when you defy Rome. So when Christ said to them if you want to follow me, you deny yourself. That is to dethrone you, take you off the throne, put Christ on the throne, take up your cross and follow me. They knew automatically speaking about death, that I have to be willing to die to my dreams possibly, or my ambitions perhaps, or my goals and I have to say, "I gave my life to Christ. I'm following him. My life belongs to him". And if that means I'll suffer for the cause of Christ then I will follow him. So the final instructions, "Be careful where you look", "Be careful what you consider", "Be careful who you follow" and ask yourself "Am I following Christ?"
Fourth finally, "Be careful how you wait". Look at verse 23 and we'll close off the book. "Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die" yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but if I will that he remained until I come - What is that to you? This is the disciple who testifies of these things and wrote these things and we know that his testimony is true and there are also many other things Jesus did which if they were written one by one I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. I suppose that is true. It closes with that great refrain, Amen.
I do find it interesting; enlightening that John closes the book and records the last words of Jesus that John records are about his return and about waiting for his return. Now it's based on a rumor. Rumor circulated that John wasn't going to die because Jesus said what he said. And so John focuses on the 'if' and then the 'will'. If it's my will that he remained until I come what is that to you. That's what Jesus said, he wasn't giving a prophecy but a hypothetical statement. Here's what it shows me, that even God's people, that even the early church could misinterpret truth by not listening carefully or not reading what is written carefully and John closes his book, appealing to the reader to pay careful attention to what he wrote down by the Spirit of God. In effect he is saying Jesus came, lived, died and rose and I'm an eyewitness account and I wrote it down. And also he is coming again, he is going to return and while we wait for him we should stick carefully to what is written.
So let's close with that admonition, as we are waiting for the Lord to return and I don't know about you but I tend to think it's a lot sooner than later, based just on what I see going on in the world and what the Bible has predicted will happen. But while we're waiting for the Lord to return, be careful, be careful not to cling to, to adhere to rumors, hearsay, the latest End-Times chart that you see in the bookstore, certain ones predictions of when Jesus is going to show up, the latest book or the Mayan Calendar. Don't stick to rumors, stick to the study of what is written in the Word of God.
Now just think about it, it's taken 2 1/2 years to get to this book; do you know what that means? You're going, "I know what it means, and you're really slow". We'll you're right and I want to explain why.
The reason it has taken us 2 1/2 years to get through John is because we paused to dig and examine and compare text with context and historical data background syntax etcetera, etcetera. And you know why? Because we wanted to be able to walk away from each study saying, "I know exactly what God meant when he said that". You'll never know what the Scripture means to you personally until you know what it said to them originally personally and you'll never know what it said to them personally until you examine carefully and do what we have done". Dig and study. We want to walk away, not having any false ideas about what God said. And the only way we know how to do that is to faithfully, expositionally, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book go through the bible. Do you know what Jesus said to the spiritual leaders of his day? He said, "You do air, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God".
And I would say to us, we will also air if we don't know the Scriptures. We won't know the power of God unless we know the Scriptures. I close with this poem of admonishment:
I suppose I knew my Bible, reading piecemeal hit and miss. Now a bit of John or Matthew, now a snatch of Genesis, certain chapters of Isaiah, certain Psalms, the 23rd, the 12th of Romans, the first of Proverbs. Yes I thought I knew the Word but I found that thorough reading was a different thing to do. And the way was unfamiliar when I read the Bible through. You who like to play at Bible dip and dabble here and there just before you kneel or weary and yawned through a hurried prayer You who treat the crown of writings as you treat no other book, just a paragraph disjointed just a crude impatient look, try a worthier procedure, try a broad and steady view. You will kneel in very rapture when you read the Bible through.
I want you to know something. This church was built on teaching the Scriptures. By God's grace it will stay that way, verse by verse, book by book. And with so many people and so many different ministry groups now very active on the campus doing their own thing in their own emphasis, with all of that happening, one of the most unifying activities is that we all gather together going through the Bible. And we do that Wednesday night's, that's my favorite time to meet because on Wednesday nights it allows us to go through not a couple of verses but large chunks of the Bible and see how it all fits together. It is one of the most unifying things because we're all focused on the same things. And It's like well tuned pianos. That's the group I want to march forward with. Those who thoroughly know what God has said and lives are changed accordingly.
Father, we close thanking you. Thank you Lord that you have been faithful. In the last 2 1/2 years, as we have studied this book to bring some pretty important lessons we've seen hundreds upon hundreds of people make commitments to Christ and to come to believe as the Word is highlighted in the book. Thank you, for so many changed lives. Thank you Lord that our scope of Jesus has been magnified, our view of him has been made greater. We see him as John pictured him, God in a human body, the one who claimed to be a deity, the savior of the world, the lover of our soul.Lord as we close with these final instructions, I pray, that you'd help us to be careful in how we treat spiritual truth. But this book is different from our math books or cooking books or sports magazines or newspapers. It is truth inerrant and preserved in book form. Our worship revolves around it. We take our cues for life from it and we pray that we might be faithful because your Spirit works in us in Jesus' name and as John closed his book we say, Amen.