2018-04-11 / Religion

Jesus said “Come and follow me”

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

John 21:15-25

When Jesus Christ of Nazareth began his earthly ministry, he started by bringing together the individuals who would be his closest associates. As Matthew gave his account of this beginning, he wrote, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:17, 18. This invitation was used, as the Master called Philip. John 1:43. Of his own call, Matthew wrote, “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and saith unto him, follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” Matthew 9:9.

These and other men followed our Lord through his three and one-half years of public ministry. They witnessed many miracles and heard the great teachings of our Master. Most of these men were near at the time of the crucifixion of the Lamb of God. All of these were skeptical of the reports of the resurrection of the Jesus.

Apparently 10 of the disciples were together in an upper room on the night following the resurrection. John 20:19. The Apostle John wrote that “Then…came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19, 20.

Later, “Simon Peter saith unto them [the small group], I go a fishing. They say unto him, we also go with thee.” John 21:3a. This excursion led to “breakfast by the sea,” prepared by our Lord. John 21:13.

After this experience, the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy; 2 Peter 1:21) allowed John to turn his attention to a conversation between our Lord and Simon Peter. Earlier, Peter had boasted, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” Luke 22:33. Our Lord understood the intent of this declaration, yet its fulfilment would not result as first declared — “And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” Luke 22:34.

Our Master presented a question to this fisherman, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” John 21:15b. Among presentday writers, there seems to be a question regarding the use of the pronoun “these.” Some commentators see this as the assessment of the love of Peter for his Master, in comparison with that of the other men who were present. There is a well-accepted rule that “scriptural principles do not contradict themselves.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:121b. It would seem that Jesus must have looked at the gathered fish, and asked regarding his love for fishing, returning to his old lifestyle. Either way, Simon “saith unto him, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love these.” John 21:15b.

Our English translation of scriptures does not make the distinction that is clear in the Greek language. Our Lord used the word, agape, the God-given, heart-felt love for others. Simon Peter used the word, phileo, a fondness for, as he answered the Master. This distinction did not change the divine assignment, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15c.

This assignment is interesting, in contrast to the original call of this man to be a “fisher of men.” Fishermen were often business men. Shepherds were the “lowest of the low” on the social scale. Our Lord was looking at the spiritual harvest, and was not too concerned with the social status!

Our Lord repeated his question to Simon, asking two more times, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” John 21:16, 17. The first of these questions used the word, agape, while Peter used his same word each time. The third time the question was asked, Jesus used the word, phileo. This time, John recorded that “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?” John 21:17b. Each of these times, the directive was changed to “Feed my sheep.” John 21:16, 17.

These men were familiar with the scriptural picture of the people of God as sheep. Psalm 23; 100:3. Thus, the responsibility was to be two-fold. As a “fisher of men,” he was responsible for the gathering of the followers. As the shepherd, his task included caring for the sheep. Both aspects of ministry must be carried out in order for the kingdom of heaven to move forward.

The words of our Lord included information regarding the extent of the ministry of Peter. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkest 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.” John 21:18. The apostle John was writing these words near the end of his own life. The Holy Spirit allowed him to write, “this spake he, signifying by what death he [Peter] should glorify God.” John 21:19a. John recorded the words to Peter, “Follow me.” John 21:19b.

After hearing words regarding his own life, Peter turned his thoughts to John, “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?” John 21:21. The divine answer was quite pointed, “if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” John 21:22. It is interesting to note that the first recorded words our Lord spoke to Peter were “Follow me.” The last recorded words to him were “follow thou me.”

The words spoken to Simon Peter have echoed down the corridors of time. Are we willing to follow our Lord, wherever the path may lead? If we answer, yes, we will go through many different circumstances that might not have been in our personal “five-year plan.” When we follow our Lord, he leads us into “paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3. May we faithfully follow.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. c om

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