A Death Predicted, a Disciple Restored
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A Death Predicted, a Disciple Restored

John 21:18–19  (ID: 3666)

After His resurrection, Jesus reappeared to His disciples several times. One such encounter involved a hard but necessary conversation in which Peter, who’d previously denied knowing Jesus, affirmed his love for Him. Christ then disclosed Peter’s future death and restored him to the mission of “fishing” for men and shepherding God’s people. Alistair Begg points out that the disciple’s previous denial of Christ didn’t disqualify him from ministry, because with Jesus, failure is never final.

Series Containing This Sermon

“Truly, Truly, I Say to You…”

Twenty-Five Divine Declarations from John’s Gospel John 1:1–21:25 Series ID: 29001

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn to the Gospel of John and to chapter 21 and to follow along as I read from verse 15. John 21:15:

“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.’ 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.’ 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you[’re] old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”


Speak, O Lord, as we come to you
To receive the [truth] of your Holy Word.
Take [it], plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in your likeness,[1]

we ask. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, we have been proceeding through the Gospel of John for a few months now at a somewhat leisurely pace, considering each of the “Truly, truly” statements of Jesus. Of those statements, only two that I have found are directed expressly to Simon Peter. One of them we just read. You can see it there in the eighteenth verse: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you[’re] old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” It’s a very solemn statement on the part of Jesus. It surely must have reverberated at the very core of Simon Peter himself. And in order to come to terms with this “Truly, truly” statement, I want us first of all to recognize that in it we have a prediction of Peter’s death, and that comes within the context of the revelation of Jesus himself and that in turn in the context of an examination conducted by Jesus in relationship to Peter. I mention that just in case it’s helpful to you.

A Prediction of Peter’s Death

First of all, though, here in this statement: a prediction of Peter’s death. Perhaps it would be better to refer to it as a prophecy or a promise—the solemn nature of it: “Truly, truly,” “I tell you the truth.” Everything that Jesus says is true, but he chooses on certain occasions to introduce what he’s saying in this particular fashion. He speaks, as always, straightforwardly—candidly, we might say. And in addressing Peter in this way, his words are hard, but as we will see, they’re necessary.

In some senses, he’s merely rehearsing what is true of life. When our children are tiny, they can’t get themselves dressed. It’s a great day when they reach a certain stature where they can put on their own clothes. And then, of course, then you have to readjust to that—put the shoes on the correct feet and so on. But eventually, they’re up and out and gone. They can dress. They can go. And it would seem a long, long time before things begin to change.

And here Jesus is actually saying to Peter, you know, “You, as you look back on your life, understand this. Now, in the present tense, I want you to know that life is going to be different for you. You’re going to eventually stretch out your arms, and you are going to be carried where you do not want to go.” “Where you do not want to go.”

Where does he not want to go? Well, he didn’t want to go to crucifixion—which, as John is about to explain, is the nature of the euphemism. And it is an important point to pause and recognize something, and I alluded to it in my prayer: that the absence of people through death is a sad and painful reality. Those who do not believe in Jesus, who don’t understand Jesus as the resurrection and the life, have no answer to death. They really have no explanation of death. They’re tempted to believe that it is simply a natural occurrence, that we can just embrace it, when in actual fact, the Bible makes it clear that death is the penalty for sin. And the only place that that is dealt with is in the one who dies in the place of the sinners—namely, Jesus. And so, we understand that. As we conduct funerals, as some of us will do in the next few days, we’re able to affirm that, and without question we affirm that.

However, the fact is, as Calvin observes, “the dread of death is … implanted in us”—“the dread of death is … implanted in us”—“for to wish to be separated from the body is revolting to nature.”[2] Very helpful to ponder that for a moment, because you realize that the contemporary world—and I just came back from the Netherlands, that is at the forefront of assisted dying, along with Switzerland and followed by other parts of Europe—the notion is that somehow or another, people are just very, very interested in doing that. To the extent that a person is, something dramatic has happened inside of them, because by nature, our bodies are programmed to resist that reality. And when we find ourselves doing something other than that, then we’re stepping outside the framework of nature. Augustine similarly and just cryptically said, “No man likes to die.”[3] No one likes to die! And even Jesus himself, in the garden of Gethsemane prays, “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me.”[4]

As long as we have health in our bodies, we need to ask God to enable us to live in such a way that when our end comes, we might even glorify God in our death.

And so this is a solemn statement, this prediction of the death of Peter. Because he’s not simply saying, “Peter, you’re going to die”; he’s explaining the manner of Peter’s death. Now, the picture here of arms outstretched, as you’ll see in verse 19, John helps us, clarifies it: “This [Jesus] said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” And there’s a strong tradition that—well, certainly we know that Peter was martyred, and it would seem that he was martyred by crucifixion, as Jesus, and that his arms were stretched out and bound and nailed, and he was carried somewhere that he didn’t want to go. He probably died in his late sixties—died under Nero, the Roman emperor, and possibly died in Rome itself.

And so Jesus says to Peter, “Truly, truly, I tell you: you can look back on that, but you can look forward to this.” In other words, “You’re going to suffer the way I suffered.” Peter had heard Jesus on previous occasions explaining that the pathway of discipleship is a pathway that is a cross-shaped one. “If anyone,” Jesus said, “would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will find it.”[5] Peter heard that, Peter believed that, and Peter wrote that when he wrote to the recipients of his first letter. First Peter 4, he says to his sheep, “If you[’re] insulted for the name of Christ, you[’re] blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”[6]

And that is the significance of the closing phrase there: that he will “show [you] by what kind of death he was to glorify God”—that he will glorify God in his death. It’s a strange thought, and yet it points in that direction. Today, we don’t have such a prediction of our death. It must have been an interesting reality for Peter to realize, taking Jesus’ word at face value as he must, that somewhere along the line, this was going to happen to him. It was a promise that came from Jesus. We don’t know. We don’t know. But as long as we have health in our bodies, we need to ask God to enable us to live in such a way that when our end comes, that we might even glorify God in our death. God holds the key of all our unknown. If he gave us the key, it would be a nightmare. Or if he gave you the key for me, I wouldn’t like that either. There’s only one person that we’re prepared to trust with the key of our unknown future, particularly as it relates to the end of our lives. So we have to leave God to choose where we will die, when we will die, how we will die, and the manner of our passing. You say, “That’s a very solemn kind of thought for such a nice morning.” Well, we quoted it already: “Death is the destiny of everyone; the living [must] take [it] to heart.”[7] It’s better to go to a funeral than to go to a pizza party,[8] for that very reason: that it confronts us with what happens on that day.

Now, that is essentially the “Truly, truly” statement: “I’m telling you, you used to be able to go around, put on your own clothes, go where you want. A day is coming, Peter, when you won’t be able to do that. Rather, someone will dress you. They will carry you where you do not want to go.”

A Revelation of Jesus Himself

Well, let’s leave that there, and let’s move to our second point by pointing this out: it would have been a dreadful thing if Peter had gone to this second “Truly, truly” statement of Jesus directly from the first one. And if you don’t remember the first one, it’s in chapter 13, and it’s in verse 38, where Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus said, “Where I[’m] going you [can’t] follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter characteristically says, “Lord, why [can’t I] follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” And 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.”[9] Now, do you see what I’m saying? It would be a dreadful thing if that “Truly, truly” statement was then to be followed immediately by this “Truly, truly” statement and then the death of Peter.

But look at all that happens in the interim between the denial and what we find here. In fact, the verses of chapter 21 which give us the context make this marvelously clear. Notice verse [1]: “After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias.” Sometimes it says “Sea of Tiberias.”[10] Sometimes it says “Sea of Galilee.”[11] Sometimes it says “the lake of Gennesaret”[12] or “Gennesaret.” It’s the same body of water; it’s mentioned variously. It’s important to point it out, though. He revealed himself. And you’ll notice it says it again: “And he revealed himself in this way.” And then, if you look down to verse 14: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to [his] disciples.”

Why the repetition? I think in order that we might understand that to translate it “Jesus appeared” doesn’t really give value to the verb in the Greek. In other words, we can appear or disappear. But to manifest himself, to show himself, was a decision on the part of Jesus. After all, he’s resurrected from the dead. The New Testament is quiet on where he was during all of that time. We can’t speak concerning it. He was alive. He was present. And so, if you like, if we put it just simply, when he wakened up in the morning, he said, “I’m going to go and show myself to these fellows today. I’m going to go and reveal myself to them, Father.” And that is exactly what he’s doing.

And so it is that the one who is revealed is the one of whom Peter had said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[13] This Jesus who is now beside the shore is the one that he has been declared to be the very Messiah of God, and he has been crucified, buried, raised, and revealed, and now he comes to the shore.

And the picture is an understandable one. You’ll see it there: seven ordinary men on an evening fishing trip. This may appeal to some who are listening to me now—it doesn’t mean very much to me at all—but the fishing trip is significant insofar as “they caught nothing.” They “went out … got into the boat,” and “they caught nothing.”[14] Peter is the initiator. He’s the one who says, “I’m going to go fishing.”[15]

Now, I’ve been around church for a long time, as you know, and even as a boy, I’ve heard a lot of sermons on John 21. And most of them all have to do with the fact that it was a really bad thing that Peter went fishing. How the preacher knows that it was a bad motive on Peter’s part I don’t know, because it doesn’t say in the text, “Peter was really ticked off, and so he said, ‘Forget it! I’m going fishing.’” It doesn’t say that. It says Peter says, “I’m going to go fishing,” and the rest of them said, “That’s a good idea. Why don’t we go fishing?” In other words, it might have been a therapeutic evening. I mean, that’s what fishermen do, don’t they, apparently? I don’t. You’ve got to pass so many good golf courses to get to fishing areas. But I don’t do that, but the people go, and they fish.

But this little fishing expedition, the first four verses of John 21, is arguably one of the most criticized fishing trips in the whole of history! Because every preacher does the exact same thing: “How terrible that they went…” Now, they may be right, and I may be wrong, but I’m kind of on the side of saying this is understandable. I mean, what are you going to do while you’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to come? Well, what do you normally do? “Well, we have a fishing business.” “Well, why don’t we go fishing?” Say, “That’s okay. Let’s go.” And that’s exactly what happens.

And then there’s a stranger on the shore. A stranger on the shore! “Just as [the] day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” Now, notice: “yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”[16] If you go back a chapter into chapter 20 and in verse 14, you will find that exact same terminology in relationship to Mary meeting Jesus in the garden. Remember, it says that she took it that he was the gardener,[17] and “she did not know that it was Jesus.” There’s something amazing about the resurrected body of Jesus—that it is a glorified body; it is at times immediately understandable, and at other times it seems intriguing at least.

And on this occasion, he stands on the shore, and the disciples didn’t know. Not only does he stand there, but he speaks to them. “I’ve got a question for you, boys,” he says. “Do you have any fish?” Surely that’s the one question that fishermen don’t want asked, especially if they’ve got to answer in this way. “Did you catch any?” “No, but I influenced a few. Uh, yeah, I…” “No, no: Did you have any fish?” “No,” they said to him. And so he says, “Well, cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”[18]

Now, you see what’s happening here? Jesus is first of all enabling them to acknowledge their failure before he then guarantees their success. There’s a principle here. It is only when they realize what they are unable to do that they will then marvel at what Jesus has enabled them to do. And as you think about the whole notion of fishing for men, then you realize how important it actually is. “You will find some on the other side,” he says. And they might have then responded, “You can say that again!” because they hauled in such a quantity of fish—153, we’re told.[19]

Once again, here’s one of the things, if you’ve listened to sermons on this: someone explains to you the nature of the 153. It means this; it means that; it means the next thing. Let me tell you what it means: it means 153. You can guarantee that—a quantity that was so remarkable that they said, “You know, let’s count this. Because people will say afterwards, ‘How many did you actually get?’” Say, “Well, just count it.” Got 153.

And look at the notion of trying to get it back to where they need to be. But before you get there, there’s the revelation of Jesus: “[The] disciple whom Jesus loved … said to Peter, ‘It[’s] the Lord!’” “It’s the Lord!” Wow! “It’s the Lord!” And Peter said, “Let’s erect a monument.” No! He “threw himself into the sea.”[20] You’ve got to love Peter. I mean, when he gets it right, he gets it really right. When he gets it wrong, he gets it completely wrong. “It is the Lord!” Boom, he’s gone, straight in. He actually puts his clothes back on. He’s stripped down, fishing, and he’s now going to meet divinity, so he kind of cleans his act up. He’s not going to wear a baseball cap in a church! Not Peter. Oh, no, he puts his clothes back on, ready to meet.

And the “disciples came in the boat” behind him, “dragging the net full of fish, for they were[n’t] far from the land, … about a hundred yards off.” And “when they got [to the] land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.”[21] Now, if we were making a movie of this, we would now bring in the theme music that we had played at the previous charcoal fire in the courtyard of the high priest. Because you can’t but imagine—charcoal fires have an aroma to them—you can’t imagine that Peter was able to walk up to this charcoal fire without the smell in his nostrils reminding him of where he had been at the previous charcoal fire, which was the occasion when the other “Truly, truly” statement had been made to him: at the charcoal fire.

Jesus here masterfully prepares him. “Come,” he says, “and have breakfast.” What a beautiful invitation! And they’re in awe of him; you will see that. You can imagine them all gathering around him. None of them said, “Who are you?” Well, why would you say, “Who are you?” We know who he is: “They knew it was the Lord.”[22] It’s the “I Am.”[23] It’s amazing! Then he “took the bread and [he] gave it to them, and so with the fish.”[24]

Remember when we studied in chapter 13? Maybe three of you do. But when we studied there at the beginning of chapter 13, John says of Jesus, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”[25] He didn’t give up on them. He doesn’t give up on his children. “He who [begins] a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[26] He’s promised to. That’s why he began it. And this ragtag and bobtail group of seven men that are here, he is committed to them. He is committed to those who are his own.

But we mustn’t miss the picture. Because I think that what we have in this encounter is not only a memorable historical incident, but it is a parable in some ways. Because the shoreline, as I just mentioned to you, is where this whole story had begun. Mark chapter 1: “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw”—Jesus saw—“Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And [he] said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you … fishers of men.’”[27] They then had begun to follow him, and recorded for us in Luke chapter 5 is a similar but different incident, in which the boats are out on the lake, and Simon is encouraged to “put out into the deep and let … your nets [down] for a catch.” And again on that amazing occasion, Jesus is revealed in all of his power. And the reaction of Simon, of course, is to say, “Depart from me, [because] I[’m] a sinful man, O Lord.” And on that occasion, Jesus says, “Do[n’t] be afraid; [because] from now on you will be catching men.”[28] “Catching men.”

Jesus has gone to the cross. He has emerged from the cross. He’s about to dispatch his followers into the world. And before he sends them out into the world, he wants them to understand that the mission to which they are going lies on the other side of their acknowledgment of their impotence. “Have you caught any?” “No.” “Do this.” Overwhelmed.

Can you imagine Jesus coming to Western Christianity, full of all of our abilities, all our technical manuals about spiritual fishing, about evangelism, about this plan, that plan, the next plan, every kind of plan that is known to man? And by and large, they reckon that the average congregation that is at its best is impacting 1.9 people, in terms of new conversions, in the space of a year. Well, what did we do with all this ability that we came up with, all of this strategy that we envisaged? And how is it that in the Southern Hemisphere, without any of the manuals, without any of the strategy, hordes of people are turning to Christ? Do you think it’s possible that we weren’t prepared to say, “We can produce no fruit that will remain, no fish, no overwhelming reality, until first we’ve said not ‘Without Jesus I can do only a little’ but ‘Without Jesus I can’t do anything’”?

And Jesus in this parable, I think, is showing them that. Showing them! The invitation to breakfast that Jesus provides here is actually preparing them for the role that they’re going to fulfill—that they are actually going to see people come into the fellowship of the kingdom. Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.” “[I] will sup with him, and he with me”[29]—a picture of the celebration that is represented in that meal: that it’s not just having a meal, but it is an indication of the reality of what has taken place.

On one occasion, it’s recorded, again in Luke’s Gospel, that somebody came to Jesus and said, “Will those who are saved be few?”[30] And Jesus says, “Let me tell you this: the people will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south to recline at table in the kingdom of God.”[31] And you fast-forward to the end of the story in Revelation, and what do you have as a picture? “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”[32]—the invitation. And Jesus is amongst his followers as the one who serves.

And so, instead of moving from Peter’s denial to the prediction of Peter’s crucifixion, he reveals himself. How good and kind he is!

An Examination Conducted by Jesus

And then, in verses 15 and following, he conducts an examination with Peter. Now, I was never fond of examinations. I still can feel that dreadful sense coming up your back when you used to sit there. They gave those papers out, and they came and said, “You may now turn over your papers.” You turn it over and just go, “Oh, no, no. No.” And then you’re looking around, and somebody’s already started the answer, and you feel twice as bad. You go, “I knew I should have read the book. That was not a good idea. That’s not good.”

But this is a very straightforward examination. There’s only one question—one question, and it’s asked three times. A painful conversation, for sure—but, as we will see, profitable. A painful examination, insofar as by means of this examination, Peter was reminded of the mess that he had made. It was impossible for this not to be the case. “Do you love me?” Well, of course, he was reminded of his ill-advised audacity. If it came to loving, Peter was the one who had said, “You know, if everybody else goes away, you can count on me. Even if they all fall away, I won’t fall away.”[33] And yet, in due course, he collapsed.

When Jesus is taken away out of the garden, we’re told by the Gospel writers that two of the disciples followed Jesus to the courtyard. One, I take it, was John, and the other, of course, was Peter. So let’s give Peter a little bit of credit here. At least he hasn’t just scattered. At least he hasn’t run to lock the door again. At least he’s still following Jesus. And in fact, it is John who brokers the deal to get Peter into the courtyard in order that the conversation might take place. He seeks to do something good for him, and in doing so, he leads to this amazing collapse.

We needn’t go back down that road. We understand it. You can read it in the Gospels. The most straightforward statement, I think, coming out of the lips of Peter is recorded in Mark chapter 14, where someone says to him, “You were one of those,”[34] and he says categorically, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” That’s Mark 14:71: “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” The same person who, when Jesus said, “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”[35] he gets it right: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”[36] That is followed by an immediate collapse and, here, the great collapse. Do you judge him? I hope not. Have you ever collapsed? You ever fudged it? Have you ever said, “No, not really”?

James confronts us all when he says, “We all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does[n’t] stumble in what he says, he[’s] a perfect man …. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, [this] ought not to be so.”[37] The same lips that said, “You’re the Christ,” are the lips that said, “I’m telling you, I do not know this man.” And what Jesus is doing here in this painful examination is giving Peter the opportunity—three opportunities—to confess his love for him. And there you have the question asked three times: “Do you love me more than these?” That’s usually when you hear it taught—a big diversion: Did he mean “Do you love me more than fishing?” “Do you love me more than these men?” “Do you love more than these men love me?” and so on? Who knows?

We do know that he’s asking one question: “Do you love me?” And he asks it three times. That’s another diversion as well. People say, “Well, Jesus used different words. He used the word agapaō, and then he used the word phileō, and he changed it around, and so on.” Whew! The fact of the matter is, he was speaking in Aramaic, and those distinctions don’t exist in Aramaic. So it preaches really well. But the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things. And he wants to know: “Do you love me?” That’s the question: “Do you love me?” That is actually the great question. Because he wants to make sure that Peter is confronted by the fact of his demise and his sin so that he can then be restored, reconfirmed, re-energized and go forward.

Peter’s shame at the first charcoal fire is more than overshadowed by the love of Christ here at the second charcoal fire. Because he’s the sinner’s friend.

You see, when I turn my back on Christ, when I deny Christ, when I do whatever it is that runs absolutely foul of what Jesus says, he doesn’t just come along and say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just keep moving. You know, that was Tuesday, but this is Wednesday.” No, he comes, and he examines us. He wants to know, “Do you actually love me? Because after all, we know that if a person loves me, he will keep his commandments.[38] So what in the world were you doing? Do you love me? Do you?” That’s what he’s saying.

Now, Peter, he doesn’t get into comparisons at all—perfectly. He simply says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” And that’s why the examination is profitable. Because not only does it remind him of the mess that he’d made, but it reminds him of the mission to which he is returning. He’s not only going to fish for men; he’s going to shepherd the sheep, the lambs, the old, the young, the whole gang.

And here’s what I want you to notice as we close: Peter denied Jesus, but he wasn’t disqualified by Jesus. Jesus was not part of the cancel culture. He didn’t say, “You know what? One strike and you’re out, you’re done.” No, Peter’s shame at the first charcoal fire is more than overshadowed by the love of Christ here at the second charcoal fire. Because he’s the sinner’s friend.

I don’t know if everybody gets this. We try to say this, don’t we? I think people by and large, if they come into a building like this, they’ve got the idea that Jesus is the friend of people who are just trying to do their best. They haven’t been doing very good, and so they thought, “Maybe if I can hang around with some people, I can do a little better,” and so on, and then it goes from there. They don’t know that Jesus is the friend of sinners. He came for sinners. He didn’t come to add a big company of righteous people.

So let me say to you this morning, wherever you are on this journey: You might actually be here, painfully aware of the fact that you have made a horrible mess of things. You might even be paralyzed by a sense of shame. And you need to know, as Peter discovered and as Paul made clear, it’s God who forgives. It’s God who renews. It’s God who fits us for service.

See, to answer the question “Lord, you know that I love you” is to acknowledge that in an inward sense, the love that we have for Jesus is a love that emerges from the fact that we know that our mess has been paid for, has been pardoned, has been forgiven. The question is really simple, and the answer is really honest. He’s not asking, “Peter, do you think you’re properly repentant? Peter, do you believe sincerely? Peter, are you serving me properly? Peter, are you witnessing regularly?” No! One simple, single, searching question: “Do you love me?”

“Lord,” he says, “you know everything. You know I love you. I don’t love you perfectly. I don’t love you as consistently as I should. But I love you.” And for the rest of his life, the sincerity of Peter’s love would be tested and would be displayed in feeding Christ’s sheep and in facing his death.

I mean, the real test of love in a marriage or anywhere is the long haul. I mean, all the first flush and enthusiasm of affection in the early days of marriage is exactly as it is. But if you remember in Fiddler on the Roof, you’ve got that great dialogue between Tevye and Golda: “Do you love me?” “Do I love you?” she says. “For twenty-five years I washed your socks, I did your thing, I did your thing, and you’re asking me, ‘Do you love me?’”[39]

And that’s all Jesus is saying. There’s one simple question, looking for one honest answer. I mean, are you prepared to go out into the community and tell people, “You know what? I am what I am, but I’ll tell you one thing: I love Jesus. I love him. I don’t know if I love him enough, but I do love him.” “But are you religious?” “I don’t… I love Jesus.”

Well, let’s just pray:

Father, thank you that the clarity of your Word is there for us to ponder. Thank you for the kindness of the Lord Jesus. Thank you for the fact that what you begin you continue, you complete. And we want to be able to say to you today that we love you. Help us to love you more. Amen.

[1] Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “Speak, O Lord” (2005).

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), 2:294.

[3] Augustine, quoted in J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1878), 3:462.

[4] Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42 (paraphrased).

[5] Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35; Luke 9:23–24 (paraphrased).

[6] 1 Peter 4:14 (ESV).

[7] Ecclesiastes 7:2 (NIV).

[8] See Ecclesiastes 7:2.

[9] John 13:36–38 (ESV).

[10] John 6:1; 21:1 (ESV).

[11] Matthew 4:18; 15:29; Mark 1:16; 7:31; John 6:1 (ESV).

[12] Luke 5:1 (ESV).

[13] Matthew 16:16 (ESV).

[14] John 21:3 (ESV).

[15] John 21:3 (paraphrased).

[16] John 21:4 (ESV).

[17] See John 20:15.

[18] John 21:5–6 (paraphrased).

[19] See John 21:11.

[20] John 21:7 (ESV).

[21] John 21:8–9 (ESV).

[22] John 21:12 (ESV).

[23] Exodus 3:14 (ESV).

[24] John 21:13 (ESV).

[25] John 13:1 (ESV).

[26] Philippians 1:6 (ESV).

[27] Mark 1:16–17 (ESV).

[28] Luke 5:4, 8, 10 (ESV).

[29] Revelation 3:20 (KJV).

[30] Luke 13:23 (ESV).

[31] Luke 13:29 (paraphrased).

[32] Revelation 19:9 (ESV).

[33] Matthew 26:33 (paraphrased).

[34] Mark 14:70 (paraphrased).

[35] Matthew 16:13, 15 (paraphrased).

[36] Matthew 16:17 (ESV).

[37] James 3:2, 10 (ESV).

[38] See John 14:15.

[39] Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Norman Jewison (Beverly Hills, CA: United Artists, 1971). Paraphrased.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.