Discovering the Joy of God’s Plan For Your Life
When you’re a kid you think that you can do the impossible. My friend Lynn and I had been playing at her home and we came across this shed in her backyard and I had an idea. What is we hauled our bikes to the top of this shed and at break neck rode the bike down the slope? After some discussion Lynn seemed to be ok with it so up we went hauling our bikes to the top of this shed.
The theory was, that there was a layer of pine straw, so if we were not able to stick the landing, the straw would be a padding. We looked at each other, and I said “ladies first.” She climbed on her bike and off she went – things did not go as I had originally thought they would go – she sit the ground like bag of cement. She kind of rolled over, and I helped her back to the house. To this day we have never discussed the fact that I never went down the roof.
Anyway, I took away from this experiment that jumping with a bike from too high is not a good idea. Thank you Lynn for helping me learn that lesson. Eventually, in life we learn that there are some things that we can do, and some things that we can not do – but it is having a relationship with God that He works through us to accomplish the impossible.
God’s Plan For Mary (vv. 26-33)
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
The sixth month refers to Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, not the sixth month of the year. God’s plan for Elizabeth, Zachariah, and John the Baptist have already been in place for six months. God had already began the process of birthing the one who would run ahead of Jesus in the desert.
Gabriel was sent to a virgin named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. Their marriage process was slightly different than our own today. A father would seek to find a wife for his son. Once a girl was found the son’s approval was sought and then a dowry was paid to the father of the bride since he was losing a daughter and a valuable helper.
A written agreement was drawn up and the couple were considered to be married; but there was no sexual contact during this “engagement” time. The engagement could not be broken except in instances of adultery. But if this were the case then there would be great shame on the part of the offender.
Time would pass and there would be a religious ceremony and then the couple would consummate the marriage. It was between the engagement and the ceremony that Gabriel appears before Mary.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!” – Luke is careful to let us know that this favor is not because Mary had any kind of special holiness in her life. There was nothing about her life that would have earned this type of privileged responsibility. God in His grace and mercy just chose her.
God in his grace and mercy has a very special plan for each of our lives as well. God desires to use us to do great things for His name. Mary is an example to us of a person who was called by God to do something wonderful and she did it faithfully. Let’s look to see how Mary sought to carry out her calling.
She Knew God Was With Her
“The Lord is with you” – This is not a wish that God would be with her, but a statement of fact – The Lord is with you. kurios meaning supreme in authority, the controller. The God who was with her was supreme, He was in control, He who has all authority would be with her. Not just in the beginning – but all the way through.
She would need to know that the Lord is with when she was to approach Joseph and tell him that she is pregnant. She would need to know that God is with her when she would have to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem while she would be “great with child.” She would need to know that God is with her when she has to deliver this child in a filthy stable.
She would need to know the Lord was with her when she learns that Herod desired to kill her child – and as she escaped to Egypt. She would have to know that the Lord was with her when the child would become a man – she would watch as he would lay down his tool belt and leave for a public ministry. She would have to let him go.
She would have to know that the Lord was with her as she watched as he would be rejected, spit upon, cursed, ripped to pieces by a Roman cat-of-nine-tails. Mary would have clung to these precious words “The Lord is with you” as she watched her precious Son hang on an old rugged cross for the sins of the world.
As she heard him cry out, “IT IS FINISHED!” and sink into death. She would have to know that the Lord was with her as she looked into the face of her dead son, beaten beyond recognition, wiping his face and body of blood, wrapping his body in cloth and lying his limp body into a tomb. She would need these words from Gabriel.
Notice that Mary is not afraid at Gabriel’s presence, but it his words that cause her to be afraid. These words should cause us to cry out in joy “The Lord is with you!” These words should also drive us to our knees in prayer because if God has called us to accomplish great things for Him, things that can be accomplished only by “The Lord being with us” – then there will be great heartache and circumstances that require us to call out to Him and to cling to His Word.
Matthew 1:22-23 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”-which means, “God with us.”
Not only would The Lord be with Mary but “God is with us.” Just as Mary would have clung to the words “The Lord is with you,” We can rejoice that God is with us. The Son of the Most High Stepped out of heaven and would come to be among us – to be with us.
John 1:1, 14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
She Knew God Called Her To Do Something Great
Gabriel gives several things that describe the son she was to name Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. Whereas John would be known as a great man, the difference between John and Jesus is that His greatness would be related to His being the Son of God. Jesus was God in the flesh, who came from heaven to dwell with us.
This child that she would give birth to, would be a king; But he would be different than Saul, David, Solomon, or any other earthly king – The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; Not only would he be a king, but His reign will be for all of eternity.
Responses To Christ
Matthew 27:27-31 “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
Revelation 19:11-16 “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Here are the two responses that people would have to the Son of God. One of mockery, and falsely following the King; or one of standing in awe and reverent fear of the Son of God.
The shepherds ran and told their town about what they had seen and heard, they later returned to worship and praise the Christ child. The Magi from the west came over long distances and brought gifts fit for a king. This evening as we re-discover Christmas, what is your response to Christ; a mocking bow or reverential following?
God’s Plan For Mary Was Impossible – for her (vv. 34-38)
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Where Zechariah in the previous verses had wanted more proof from Gabriel that his message was going to come true, Mary asks about how this would come about (since she was a virgin.)
She is seeking to know more about God’s plan because she did not understand. The only explanation she gets is “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” God will make it so. There are several things in the Bible that we can not fully understand or explain.
We do not know how God created the world – only that he did. We have, for example, God the Father sending and angel, The Holy Spirit directing the pregnancy, and the Son Jesus being brought into the world – the Trinity is something difficult to grasp but none the less true.
This Jesus would be fully God and fully man at the same time. How do these things happen? God. Not a blind faith, but a faith upon the evidence revealed to us and taking Him at His Word. “For nothing is impossible with God.”
She recognizes that she is a servant of the Lord, and He has the right to do with her anything He desires. But she is a servant of one where nothing is impossible. A servant follows her master.
You may be here tonight, and your life is not where you thought it would end up, give it to God “For nothing is impossible with God.” No matter how damaged the marriage, no matter how wayward the child, no matter how little in the checking account, “For nothing is impossible with God.” no matter how strong the urge, no matter whether you see how it will work out or not “For nothing is impossible with God”
If God can make a virgin girl become pregnant, if He came shape time and space to orchestrate a star for shepherds and Magi to see and move it at will, if God can fulfill hundreds of prophecy regarding Jesus’ birth and life, if he can give Zechariah and Elizabeth a child in their old age, than he can surely handle anything you desire to lay at his feet.
There will be a time in your life when God will desire to use you to be a part of something amazing, beyond anything you ever could have imagined – and He may just say, “follow me into the impossible.” Our response must be like Mary’s; “Lord, I don’t know how you are going to do this, but here I am. . . “May it be to me as you have said.” God is the God of the impossible.
Mary Raced To See Elizabeth (vv. 39-45)
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Immediately after discovering God’s plan for her life, she got ready and went to celebrate with Elizabeth and her miraculous pregnancy. The angel had told Mary that God had allowed Elizabeth to have a child. So she goes to see it for herself. One impossibility coming together with another impossibility.
How is it that we have been so blessed by God in so many ways? Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” God is always working impossibilities in the lives of those who say, “May it be to me as you have said.” God desires that we meet together to share these things and encourage each other.
Elizabeth says, “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Whereas before they would have met and talked about the mundane things of life, even seeing their relationship as casual.
But now she feels honored, “favored” that Mary would come by. Oh, how their conversations would change – what would the two ladies who had experienced the impossible say to each other? Let us meet and discuss the things of God regularly.
The fact that God would gives us an opportunity to receive Christ and how God made the impossible possible is the wonder of Christmas. In order for God to work in your life; realize that He is with you. He has directed you here tonight – because for His love and desire to do great things through you.
Secondly, realize that it is impossible for you to go to heaven or do great things – without God’s help. That is why Jesus was born into the world, to save us from our sins. What is impossible for us, is possible for an almighty God.
If you would like to ask Christ to come into your life and forgive you of your sins, you can say a prayer something like this: “Dear Jesus I know that I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I now invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as Lord and Savior. Amen.”
Going Fishing With Jesus
One of my favorite memories from childhood is where my father and some friends would rent a charter fishing boat in Florida. We would leave early in the morning, way before daylight, and go to the deep waters. As a young boy, my imagination would run wild about what was under the boat in the hundreds of feet of dark ocean water.
I loved the ocean spray, I loved the feeling of riding in the boat, I loved looking over the side and watching fish and sometimes dolphins swim beside the boat – but I especially loved being there with my Father. There were times when I would turn green, or get knocked about in rough waters – but my dad was always there to smile and give me assurance that everything was fine.
He showed me how to put a lure on the line, how to bait the hook, where to throw the line. And there were times when the water was a smooth as glass, and times when there were 3-4’ waves. There were times when we caught nothing, and times when we caught our limit, but all the while – my dad and I were together. There was nothing like going fishing with my dad.
This morning we are going to look at where our heavenly Father says, “Let’s go fishing!” Guys, life is too short not to go fishing with your dad. There is nothing like it. Our Heavenly Father shows all we need to know about fishing in His fishing guide (the Bible) and He instills within us the ability to catch fish after fish, after fish.
Prayer – Father, thank you for loving us enough to make us apart of your plan to redeem all of creation back to you. You want us to go fishing with you, thank you for taking us along for the ride. Give us the boldness, to put our fishing rods and hooks in the water. Let us catch our limit, make us into Fishers of Men.
Dropping Your Nets – Leaving the World Behind
Matthew 4:18-22 “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
Jesus sets up his preaching ministry in the area of Capernaum. John 1:35-40 tells us that Simon Peter, and Andrew his brother had already met Jesus, followed him to where he was staying, and heard John the Baptist indicate that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Also, we see that the brothers were not satisfied with the fishing nets, “their livelihood was not their life.”
They were looking for something more. John 1:40-42 “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus.”
“These men craved wilder seas.” One commentator says that the men are “homesick at home, and strangers under the sun” There is a discontent that rumbles around within all of us, and we ask. “Is this all there is in life?” Where is true purpose, and adventure?
Jesus then goes on to talk to another pair of brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee – who is in the boat with them. Matthew’s emphasis in both sets of brothers is immediacy and decisiveness.
When Jesus Christ called four fishermen from Galilee to follow him, they had no idea of the magnitude of where that calling would lead them. They did not know that they would face persecution, prison, and even death for the sake of the gospel of Christ.
They did not realize that they would be the leaders of the infant church that would eventually span the globe and turn the world upside down. They did not realize that they would have a part in the revelation of Holy Scripture. They just knew that Jesus called, so they obeyed.
The same is true of us today. When Jesus calls, and we follow, we do not know what he might be pleased to do in our lives. We do not know where we will serve, or how we will serve, or the cost that following Christ will demand. But when he calls, we obey. They were not attaching themselves to a creed, or a philosophy, or an idea – they were following a person. In Christianity, we are following a person.
This calling took them away from their vocation of fishing and required that they give up everything, even leaving a father behind, a successful career behind – in order to follow Christ. What have you dropped, in order to follow Christ? Has being a disciple of Christ cost you anything? Salvation is free, but being a disciple is not – it costs you everything.
There were no promises of wealth, or good health or even a place to live. There is no promise of power or prestige – only a relationship with Christ. To be His disciple.
In the opening chapters of the book of Matthew, you have Jesus’ birth narrative, his interaction with John the Baptist, then His temptation in the wilderness with Satan. From there Jesus begins His public ministry and the first recorded word of Jesus’ once he officially begins his public ministry is “repent.” The word order in the passage is important because it is the order that we are to follow as Jesus’ disciples. Matthew is holding up a mirror to these first disciples and we are to see if our faith reflects theirs.
Repent, Follow, Faith
Repent – We are to turn from our sins before we can follow Christ. Are we constantly, daily, turning from sin and toward our relationship with Christ?
Follow – Following is to leave things behind, fathers, sisters, mothers, careers, fish, boats, nets, income, a disruption of an ordinary life. Then we have to stay close to Jesus, and constantly gauge how close we are to Him.
Faith – he will call us to do things, to forsake things, to try something. Am I doing what I’m commanded to do – be fishers of men?
Pony Express riders were usually lightweight young men, often teenagers. For this reason, an 1860 Pony Express advertisement in California read: “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” This ad had an overwhelming turnout of people wanting to ride for the Pony Express. Why? People wanted to be apart of something worthy of risking death daily.
Most of the time church ads go something like – “Come join us for healing, comfort, and a pleasant worship experience.” And once they are there at the church we say “Enjoy the coffee, the show, and a message of inspiration. “Don’t give, go about your lives as normal and we’ll see you again next week if that’s convenient for your schedule.”
Delivering An Eternal Message – Repentance
Notice what Jesus is preaching, Mathew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The word repentance means a change in the mind and action of a person regarding sin. They think differently about sin than before – they act differently than they did before.
Repent means to turn 180 degrees, and go the other direction. In order to follow Christ there must be a change in our lives. For these disciples they dropped their nets and followed.
Repentance also allows us to see the world differently – we see sin differently, yes, but we also begin to see the world as Christ sees the world. When Jesus sees their net, he thinks capturing people. Jesus loves people and is always thinking of how to save them – If there was talk of a harvest, he spoke of a human harvest (John 4:35), If they were talking about a well, then he talked about “living water” (John 4:10). Where other people saw buildings, laws, battles, Jesus was always thinking about his brothers and sisters. To be a fisher of men, is to have the mind of Christ – to think of how others may be saved.
It says “is near” – what’s near, what’s about to happen? The kingdom of heaven is stepping into human history in a way that it never has before – so much so, that it announces and begins a new epoch in human history. We must turn from our sin, because if we don’t we will miss a God who stepped into human history.
He is providing through Jesus the promise of salvation. These disciples are promised nothing but salvation, and a commission to show others how to have this salvation.
Two men get on a plane, one man is given a parachute and promised that the parachute will make his flight more comfortable. He puts it on and as he makes his way down the center aisle, people begin to snicker at him. When he sits down it is very uncomfortable, and he can’t even put his tray table down. People continue to look at him, and after a while he takes it off and puts in under the seat, hoping that people will forget he even had it on.
Another man gets on the plane, but he is given the parachute and information that the plane is going to crash before they reach their destination. He still hears the snickers, endures being uncomfortable from sitting on it, and he clutches the pull pin tightly.
He could care less about what people thought about him or the parachute – because when the plane goes down, he would be safe. Salvation is not about our lives getting easier, or joyous – it is about not going to hell. Is the parachute enough? It is when you realize that it will save you from death. What if you had an extra parachute – would you give it to anyone? Would you ask if anyone wanted it?
Jesus’ preaching is summarized in this one sentence “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Turn from your sin, or you will miss the only way to have eternal life – you will miss the only person on the plane who is handing out parachutes.
Discovering the Depth of Discipleship – Everything
“Immediately they left their nets” and “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” These were fishermen who would have reeked from being out all-night fishing, hauling the fish in, and cleaning them.
They are mending nets. Jesus did not ask them to go home and get cleaned up, he did not tell them to go home and say goodbye, He did not tell them to change in any way than they were right that moment – stinky and tired. “Follow me”
This is a command, not a request. Jesus does not say, “Please consider being my disciple in your spare time and when you get a chance, please come by and see, perhaps when you are finished with your work here we can talk.” – no, God in the flesh looked these men in the eye and said “I have a plan for your life, let’s go – right now.” There was a sense of urgency.
Jesus said “Follow Me” – It was a call to relationship, to know him as Redeemer and Lord. It was a call to learn of him, to listen to what he taught, to observe the details of his life, to receive rebuke and instruction from him.
It was a call to evaluate the darkness and sinfulness of their own hearts in light of the purity and holiness of Christ’s. It was a call to love Christ more than any earthly treasure, to find him as the pearl of great price that consumes the mind, the hidden treasure that one sells all that he has to buy (Matt 13:44-46). It was a call to walk with Christ, talk with him, and if need be, die for him. To Follow Christ – would cost them all that they had, even their lives.
Later while they are discussing salvation, and the future, Peter says in Matthew 19:27 “See, we have left everythingand followed you. What then will we have?”
Those that Jesus calls to be His disciples, he says “I will make you fishers of men.” You can not teach yourself to become a fisher of men. Jesus alone will make you one. This requires a dependence upon Him, and a growing relationship.
Just as Jesus called fishermen who gather fish from the sea, so disciple’s of Christ would gather men, women and children to radical obedience in Christ. Walking away from everything in order to be a disciple.
Jesus explains this radical obedience in Luke 14:25-30 “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Consider what it costs and what is required of a follower of Christ – you will be fishers of men.
The call of Christ is the same today. It is not that we quit our jobs or leave our families to pursue gospel ministry. While He does call men and families to do this — Instead wherever the Lord places us we are to fish for men.
Spurgeon comments, “The winds of providence will waft you where you can fish for men” [MTP, vol. 32, 344]. God moves upon our lives, placing us in strategic locations and settings so that we might, as followers of Christ, become fishers of men.
If you were to drive up to your home, knowing that your family was trapped in the roaring flames inside. Then you look and you see the large red fire engine, with all the fire fighting apparatus, ladders, axes, hose, gauges, and picks, etc.. and the firemen were feverishly shining the chrome, washing the tires, and neatly folding the firefighter jackets. Some were even huddled in the cab complaining at how cold it was outside. What would you think about this fire fighting unit? Fire fighters fight fires!
Disciples of Christ “will be” fishers of men no matter wherever your’ fishing hole may be.
I think that it is interesting that these men are fishermen and when Jesus comes to call them to discipleship, they are doing what fishermen do, they were beside the shore, they were casting nets, mending nests, they were in a boat. When Jesus comes to collect us to heaven, let him find us doing what Christians do being fishers – fishing for men.
One of the most powerful outreach tools that our Father has given us is prayer. We are on day 21 on our 40 Days of Prayer Challenge– Begin to pray and focus on who you can invite for August 15th. And re-read today’s passage again and again until you understand that you are a “fisher of men.”
The other night I was watching how Navy Seal train new recruits. The training itself is grueling and painful. Only a few make it through the whole process. One of the ways they train is to take a rubber boat fill it with water and require that six men to eight men hold it above their heads. Eventually there will be one guy, because he is tired, who will not really push as hard as he can, expecting the other guys to hold their weight, plus his weight. In the church there are many people who are expecting others to hold the weight. Don’t be “that guy.” Let’s go fishing with out Father.
This morning if you have never received Christ, He is calling you to Him just as you are. There is absolutely no need to clean yourself up – just follow Him. Lay your life down and follow Him. But consider that that you must give up the sin, repent, and follow Him with a radical obedience.
“Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins, I now invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as Lord and Savior.” In Jesus’ Name.
 John A Broadus, An American Commentary of the New Testament, Matthew (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1886) 75.
 Craig Blomberg, The New American Commentary, Matthew (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Publishing, 1992) 90.
 Halford Luccock, The Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1980) 276.
 Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew, All Authority in Heaven and on Earth (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2013), 95.
 Luccock, 277.
 In the Old Testament the concept of fishers of men has a judgmental tone, such as in Jeremiah 16:16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them.” Luccock
Scripture Reading: John 21:1-14
Last year for vacation we went to Port St. Joe, Florida, and we went to the beach as much as we could. One of the days I decided to build a sand castle. So I started to big and built layer upon layer of intricate sand sculptures. As my three oldest saw what I was doing, they made their way from swimming in the ocean and began to join me. Kimberly and Isaac (my five year old) had gone walking down the beach looking for seashells and to chase sea gulls.
With the smell of salt in the air, and the sound of crashing waves, the sand castle building project stretched out over 12 feet and we began to have roads to various buildings, there was a mote, and a lake in the middle where we dug down to water. The children took sticks and began to carve the shape of rocks in into sand.
It was a thing of beauty.
About a hundred yards off, Isaac saw our building project. In his five-year-old mind, he suddenly became a giant sea monster who was going to attack the tiny sand people – so he began to run with all his five-year-old strength toward the sand castle. Before we realized it, the sea monster was upon us and within seconds had stomped and knocked over our thing of beauty. All of our work seemed wasted.
What happens when we think about our lives, and things of more importance than a sand castle? What do we do when we like a sea monster have kicked over our marriages, when we have breathed fire all over our testimonies at work, or when we have stomped our ministries? What do we do when sin comes in and has wrecked something we greatly value? Is there any way to recover, does God hate us forever, does He leave us to suffer under the weight of our guilt for the rest of our lives?
Prayer – Jesus, show us a glimpse of your mercy and grace that you freely pour out upon your children. There are people here and within the sound of my voice who have fallen and in shame they now live under a heavy weight. Show us the truth of your Word this morning, and how we should then live – We pray this in Jesus’ name; Amen.
Our story today begins at the trial of Jesus. Jesus had told Peter before that he would betray him three times before the rooster crowed. In John 18:26-27 “One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” Peter emphatically said in Matthew 26:33, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”
As Peter stood and watched the trial, he heard the crowd yell, “crucify him!”, did he lower his head, did he cover his eyes? He followed him, in the crowd, out to Golgotha where he was crucified. Did he weep? How did Peter deal with this horrible event?
While he went through that horrific day of seeing his Teacher and dear friend tortured, he now also had to bear the crushing weight that he had betrayed Jesus. He had denied being his disciple of the man whom had loved him with an eternal love.
Peter was one of the twelve, one of the apostles, he sat at Jesus’ feet and heard all the sermons, and even went out from him to share the good news to others. He had heard Jesus say on multiple occasions, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
After the resurrection Jesus specifically appeared to the disciples two times in the Upper Room, and in today’s passage on a beach.
Do you have a time in your life where you have betrayed Jesus? Do you have a sin that when it comes to your memory, you drop your head and you feel the weight of regret and your betrayal to the one who has done nothing but pour out His love upon you? Do you put your head in your hands and cry out, “why did I do that?”
God does not want to leave us there – He desires to lift your head and for you walk in honor before Him. Psalm 3:3 “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
God was not going to leave Peter with this crushing weight of guilt. God does not want to leave you where you are; He wants to take the weight away. Jesus went to this beach to talk with Peter. God has come to you this morning and wants you to hear His Word.
Life for Peter was more than living in the guilt of the past, Jesus wanted to use him greatly now. This morning, in spite of all that we have done, God still desires to have a restored relationship with all of us, and to use us for His kingdom work. Would you like to just start over? How do we start over?
Remember Jesus Has Called You (v. 15)
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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Peter was the leader of the disciples. He was the one who spoke on their behalf most of the time, and where he went the rest followed. Even, in this story he had said, “I’m going fishing,” and the rest followed.
Now, he has gone back to what he was doing before he ever met Jesus. Peter was called by God to preach and share the gospel – but now he has returned to what he knew before Christ. Fishing for Peter didn’t require spiritual courage, supernatural empowering, or steps of faith.
Matthew 4:18 “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” They were fishermen before Jesus called them to be disciples, so they go back to their previous life.
Jesus gave them a glimpse of how their lives could truly and genuinely make a difference in the world – They even had a season where Jesus had to guide them through this reality and their own sinful natures. Matthew 20:20-21 “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him [Jesus] with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Peter had walked on water, and seen the transfigured Christ.
When Christians feel that they have betrayed Jesus, and are feeling crushed with guilt, they withdraw to what they knew before Christ. They return to their default setting. You naturally have a talent, skill set, gifting, interests, etc. that is built into your personality.
Satan’s ploy is to get believers out of service, out of worship, out of church, get them away from what they were created to do. He lies to them and persuades them that God really does not love them, or can use them anymore. He desires to pull them away from courage, empowering, or faith – he lies and says, “that’s just not your thing.”
When we live in this place, there is no peace. God loves us enough to not leave us there. So Jesus comes to Peterto take off this weight of guilt and to get him back on track.
When Jesus says, “do you love me more than these?” Who or what are “these?” Why the miracle of catching so many fish? If Jesus could just speak and let them know that it was Him. I believe that Jesus allowed them to catch a great number of fish, so that he can turn to them as say, “these (fish).”
The large number of fish would have been worth a lot of money for the fishermen. So, Peter had returned to working as a fisherman, with a potentially lucrative amount of catch – and now a return to a calling by the resurrected Christ to go back to leading as an apostle.
He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” – Peter was not called by Jesus to be his disciple so that he could fish, he was to love Jesus more than anything else and do what Peter was created before the foundation of the world to do – “feed Jesus’ lambs” – to preach the gospel, “tend Jesus’ sheep” – take care of the people. Peter had a calling from the Lord, a very special task or ministry to accomplish – and so do you.
Remember that Jesus Knows Everything (vv. 16-17)
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Why does Jesus ask Peter the question three times? It mirrors Peter’s three times of denial. Peter is grieved because Jesus keeps asking him “do you love me?” So Peter acknowledges that Jesus knows everything. Peter knows in his mind, and Jesus moves that knowledge to his heart by getting him to repeat it again and again.
Jesus knows everything. Jesus Christ is sovereign and omnipotent and in that he knows that we will deny him. He knows that we will fall into temptation, and sin.
John 13:36-38 “Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
Jesus knows what we are capable of, the greatness of our sin and depravity. He can see into the future and knows all our mistakes, our stubborn times of rebellions, and denying him with our actions– and he says, “but you will follow afterward.”
Jesus knows everything. Jesus Christ is sovereign and omnipotent and in that he knows that we will serve him. That there will be moments when we shine and give the Father and the Son glory with our actions.
He sees into the future and knows all the time when we get it right, our obedient times of submission, and proclaiming him to the nations – and he says, “Feed my sheep” Do what I created you to do. Despite our stumbling or triumphs His love for us never wavers, it never changes. He also knows that we love Him.
Remember that Jesus Promises that You Will Finish Well (vv. 18-19)
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)
Jesus had called him to be a disciple, had predicted that he would deny him, had told him that he would follow once more, and now he is telling him that he will die for Him. “When you are old . . .” Wherever he would fall along the way, in all the ways he would sin over the years, when it was all said and done – he would finish well.
This is not sentimentality, or some false way of trying to encourage Peter, Jesus says, “truly, truly . . .” At the end of his days on earth, Peter would glorify God. It is so encouraging to know that when we fail, Christ will come after us, and has promised that He is still at work in our lives.
Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Then Jesus says to Peter, “And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
In all three of the times where Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me” the question is preceded by, “Simon, Son of John” in verse 15 – there are only two places where Peter is called “Simon, Son of John” here, and when Jesus originally called him to be a disciple.
Matthew 4:18 “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
John 1:40-42 “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus9 was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).”
By calling him “Simon, Son of John” and by saying to him “Follow me” Jesus is taking Peter back three and half years to when they first met, to the beginning. Peter, Let’s start over.
I remember the first time I met Jesus. I was a nine years old child who was afraid of dying. I remember telling my mother, “the Mormons believe this, and the Buddhists believe this – what is the truth?” “If someone dies, where do they go? Is heaven real?” I was afraid.
At VBS that summer the preacher came and shared the gospel to our class and asked if anyone wanted to talk more about salvation and eternal life to step into a side room. I put my craft down, pushed my chair back, and walked into the room. After, that day I have never feared death. I can tell you what decorations hung on the wall, what the room smelled like, who sat next to me, what I wrote inside the little paper box I made.
Do you remember when you first met Jesus? Do you remember the excitement and passion? Do you remember when you said things like, “Jesus, I will die for you!” “I will do anything you ask, I will go anywhere you say!” Do you remember the joy of your salvation?
But time passes, years go by, life happens, and perhaps today Jesus desires to take you back to that day. Years of guilt and feelings of failure have caused you to drift away from your calling. This morning, hear the truth of God’s Word, and lay your weight at the foot of the cross. Jesus died, so that you can be set free.
Isaac, after the sun was beginning to hide behind the horizon, as we sat on the beach, asked “can we build a sand castle?” So there among the piles of sand that he had destroyed, we began to rebuild castles, as a family.
Jesus is waiting for you this morning to say, “Jesus I want to start again, I want to rebuild.” He has told us in His word the answer will always be, “yes my precious child, let’s rebuild.” Lay the weight of guilt at the foot of the cross, and say to Jesus, “I want to start over.” Do it today, do it right now. You don’t have to live with the weight any longer.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
 Matthew 10:33
 Clifton Allen, General Ed., The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 9, Luke-John (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1970) 374.