April 10, 2016
Rev. Andre Frandle; Pastor
John 21:15-19: FOLLOW ME
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
- How many times can you make a mistake before someone loses patience with you? In your house, with your spouse, with your child, with your parent, how many mistakes can they make before you lose your patience with them? When is enough, enough? When is the line crossed? What do you find has to happen for you to finally shout, get out of my sight? Jesus had what could have been described as an intimate group of disciples, they were affectionately referred to as the 12. Within this group sprung a faithful inner circle. These three men shared experiences with Jesus the others would only hear about, like raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the transfiguration. One of them was described as a rock, another a son of thunder, and the last the disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus’ disciples, even the inner circle, all abandoned Him. They didn’t do a thing to try to help him escape his trial and murder. Peter even damned himself to hell instead of acknowledging that he even knew Jesus to a young servant. Despite having seen Jesus after his resurrection twice, the disciples were not running around telling people that Jesus had risen from the dead and spreading that Good News. No, instead, they were hiding for fear of the Jews and being tempted to go back to their previous vocations. Despite all that had just happened, the weakness, betrayals, denials, Jesus comes to every sinner, especially the repentant Peters, and calls them to FOLLOW ME. The LORD knows everything about us. The LORD calls us to feed His sheep.
- Christ calls sinners to Follow Me. We all know people who are just so sweet and naïve that they could be pushed under a bus and apologize for getting in the way of the tires. There are some that are so blessedly blind to the way of the world that they are honestly ignorant of what is happening around them. There are still others that are so obstinately stiff necked to anything other than what they want to see, they will not acknowledge the truth if it slapped them in the face. The truth of the matter is that Jesus was a dead man. People saw it happen. All the disciples knew where Jesus was lying dead and buried. They all knew it was just a matter of time before the chief priests and Sanhedrin would finish what they started in ridding Jerusalem of this pesky group of people. We remember they said as much when they plotted to murder both Jesus and Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead just before his passion. They all knew this. They were all afraid of what they knew. That’s why they have been hiding and trying to quietly go back to what they had done before and not call too much attention to themselves. We are being assaulted with questions about what we know today as well. What do we know about the candidates that are running for office? What do we know about the water we are drinking? Do we know what lives really matter? Do we know what this world does to hateful, judgmental Christians? Haven’t we seen what family and friends say when we start talking about this Jesus and quoting His Bible?
- I mean, really, we have had our Easter woo-hoo, let’s just get back to the day to day, shall we. Like the disciples in our text, we hide in our homes for fear of letting our lights so shine before men. Like the disciples in our text, we hide behind our various vocations because we fail to hear the call of the Savior to follow Him because we know He knows. We are humiliated by our accuser who throws our sins of thought, word and deed into our faces every day! What we know about Peter, well, he tried! He was one of the pioneers of the modern saying, “go big or go home”. Peter did! He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, he walked on water, he helped to feed the 5000, he ran to the tomb and was the first of the disciples to enter it. He was the leader. Yeah, he made some mistakes too, like rebuking Jesus for going to Jerusalem to die, denying Jesus three times. At the end of the day, at least we can see that he tried! How many of us can say that? That is the question I am asking. How many of us can say that we have failed boldly trying to proclaim Christ? When, as men, we try to reclaim the headship that Scripture has given since Eden, only to find ourselves ruling over our wives instead of serving them with the confidence of Christ? When, as women, we rationalize and justify despising our role as helpmeet suitable and keeper at home because we are tempted to feel that I am valued by the one because I earn a paycheck, the other, well, what value do I have to him?
- As parents, when we fail to see what precious little time we have with our children, or think that being a parent is forcing compliance from the little darlings, or buying the lie that we cannot bring up our children in the training and instruction of the LORD so we have to abdicate their instruction to “professionals” who get paid whether my child progresses or not and whether they turn into descent human beings or not. Even as children, when we know that we are disrespecting our parents by talking back or not doing what we are told. What is worse, these are only the tip of the iceberg. God knows everything. He knows that every thought that we have had had been evil since childhood. God knows that good that we would we don’t, the evil we keep on doing, whether we want to or not, what does it matter in the light of the Law? The wages of sin is death, whether it was on accident or on purpose. We are even rightly condemned for secret sins and for not doing what we should be doing, like fearlessly proclaiming the resurrected Christ to a hell bound family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, fellow sinner. God knows all this about us, like He knew about Peter, and what He does doesn’t make sense…or does it.
- Christ calls us to feed His sheep: What does it mean to follow Christ? Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We know we have not done this. We know God knows this too. That is what hurt Peter, and what grieves us every day. What comfort could we possibly have then? It isn’t because God rewards us if we try hard enough. It’s because of His call to sinners. Follow me. As repentant sinners we understand this as Peter did when He was commanded to “feed my sheep” Sheep, like men, are stupid. Stupid for different reasons, but both take their lives into their own hands despite the fact that there is a ravenous wolf waiting to destroy them. Both despise the safety of the fold to pursue the desires of their stomachs no matter the cost, irrelevant of whether others may follow. A shepherd is a necessary protector and provider; a leader. Jesus bids to follow where there is no want, to lie down in green pastures, to drink in still waters, to be restored in our souls. How does He do this? Well, His peace isn’t the way the world gives peace. His Word penetrates the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. The peace of Christ transcends all understanding to guard the heart and mind. He knows what we need before we ask. He knows that anything less than the unconditional Gospel would fail to feed. What does a baby need? His mother’s milk.
- What feeds God’s lambs? As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2) .How do the little ones grow from lambs to sheep? Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Is 28:9-10). We don’t raise lambs, we raise sheep. We don’t raise children, we raise the next generation of mature Christians. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor 13:11-12). God has called us out of our spiritual death, blindness, enmity by the power of His Gospel. The Law will keep us humble and hungry. The Gospel is the only thing that will feed the ravenous hunger for the love from God, status as His child, assurance of eternal life, power to live. He called us by His Word or our Baptismal regeneration. He created life and fed that life through our parents or others who were fed by the Gospel to share and keep sharing the Word of God with you and I.
- It’s easy to feel that we don’t ever want or need to eat again after pushing away from a feast. It’s stupid. Of course we will need to eat again, the same day even. Like stupid sheep, we think that since we have feasted on the Word and Sacrament at church on Sunday, we won’t need to eat again until next week. Only too often and too late do we realize we do not have the spiritual strength to run away, and like Samson, we are alone in our pride. Feed my sheep. As with the spiritual nutritious value of pure spiritual milk, the faith and soul of a repentant sinner is kept strong and healthy if it keeps feeding on the green pastures of the Gospel. Like parents who only feed their children McDonalds and Twinkies, we can justify that we are feeding the little beasts. We must not assume that just because someone slaps the label of biblical on something, that it will automatically be spiritually healthy. Christ doesn’t cut corners on our spiritual health and well-being as He feeds us His body and blood, as He washes and purifies us from all our sins, as He feeds us with the sufficiency of the inspired and inerrant Word that thoroughly equips us for every good work. Why would we try to feed other lambs and sheep with anything less or anything else. If our little ones are crabby, do we automatically think that they are ungrateful little heathens that must be destroyed? No, we will ask ourselves what do they need – are they tired, are they hungry, do they need to be held?
- Yet, somehow, when those same little ones get bigger, or full grown adults who are spiritual infants, they act out, sin, do whatever, we are not so compelled to think that we should show them love to get them through their difficulty but the back hand of the Law to keep showing them how much they put us out. After all, they are older, they should know better. Oh, you mean like you and me on a given day! Feeding Christ’s sheep isn’t starving them with the Law! Feeding Christ’s lambs isn’t starving them with our testimony of self-righteousness! They need the one thing needful – God forbid anyone withhold it. Feeding Christ’s sheep isn’t poisoning them with the confusion of Law and Gospel so that they are left like sheep without a shepherd. Even after Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus called him to Follow Me. I don’t know if we have ever been on that side of a do or die confession like Peter was and it may come with the constant assault of the infidel Muslim, but Satan’s subtle denials are often just as effective for us to damn ourselves rather than follow our Savior. God knows everything we have ever thought, said or done. Yet, Jesus calls, Follow Me. He makes us hungry through the Law so that as repentant sinners we would follow Jesus to where He feeds us with His life giving and sustaining Gospel in Word and Sacrament. In His call to follow, he commands to feed His sheep. Like a father, mother or grandmother who made or makes that perfect comfort food that keeps us coming back to the table, Jesus invites us to serve the simplicity of Gospel succulence as the Psalmist says: O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.