John 21:18-25

On the night that Jesus was arrested, the disciple Peter denied Jesus three times. He denied he was one of his followers, that he even knew Him. 

These were incredible words from Peter who just hours earlier had boldly told Jesus, “I will never abandon you, I will lay down my life for you.” 

And so after Jesus had risen from the dead, you can imagine how Peter was feeling. He would have been overjoyed to know that his Savior was alive but he would have also been wrestling with shame and guilt.  

He would probably would have had questions in his mind: “Will Jesus want anything to do me? Will he tell me that I can no longer be his disciple? You wonder of he is dreading that moment when he has to face him again and look him in the eyes.”

But one of the things that we know about the nature of God is that he is a merciful God, a gracious, a compassionate God. That he is a God of forgiveness. 

And while Peter had Jesus on His mind after the resurrection, Jesus had Peter on his mind. 

When the angel first appeared to the women who went to the tomb early Sunday morning, the angel told the women Jesus was alive and the angel said, ‘Go, tell the disciples and Peter 

Why does the angel single out Peter? Because Peter was carrying a burden that was different than the other disciples. Not only was he grieving the death of Jesus, he was grieving his denial of Jesus. 

And then the Gospel of Luke tells us that Peter was one of the first people that Jesus appeared to. And Scripture does not record for us that conversation but we can imagine that was a conversation of repentance and forgiveness. A conversation of reconciliation. 

But the restoration of Peter was not complete. That first conversation that is not recorded for us was most likely the restoration of the relationship between Jesus and Peter. And then in chapter 21 we see the restoration of Peter when it came his ministry as a disciple. 

Jesus asked Peter three questions that were all identical. ‘Do you love me?” And after each time that Peter affirmed his loved, Jesus gave him the command to ‘Feed His sheep or to tend his sheep—meaning lead the people of God, take care of the people of God, spiritually nurture the people of God.” 

Even though Peter had committed the sin of denying Christ, there was now repentance and forgiveness. Jesus was not discarding Peter. He was not abandoning Peter but rather he was entrusting him to continue the work of Christ.  

What a picture of grace and mercy. 

And so when Peter goes went and preaches the Gospel of Christ, he was going to preach a Gospel of grace because he knew that grace. He was going to preach a Gospel of forgiveness because he had experienced that forgiveness.  

After restoring Him into the ministry of Christ, Jesus was going to once again commission Him into ministry and as we are going to see the mission of following Christ will require something of Peter. 

John 21:18-19a:

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 tells Peter of the manner in which he is going to die. That phrase “you will stretch out your hands” is a reference to being crucified. 

After calling him into the role of feeding and tending His sheep, He reminds Peter that there is cost to follow Him. It will require his life. And he tells Peter he will die because of Christ. He will die a martyrs death.  

One of the questions that is sometimes asked is, “if you could know what kind of death you would die, would you want to know?” And if you knew what kind of death you were going to die, how would that change how you live? Would you live life to the full or would you live life in fear. How would that impact you? 

Peter now knows because of his relationship with Christ he is going to be martyred. He knows he is going to be crucified. You wonder if there was a part of Peter who thought, “why would you tell me that?” Why do I have to carry that with me?”  

Remember the words that Peter told Jesus on the night that Jesus was arrested? He said to Jesus ‘I will lay down my life for. I will die for you, Jesus.’ 

Now Peter knows that those words that he declared, will come true. He will die for Christ. 

If you knew that being a follower of Jesus meant that you would die for him, would you do it? Would that change your commitment to Christ, if you knew you would die a martyr. 

I recently learned about a book called the Martyrs Oath. I was listening to an interview from the author one day on Moody Radio. This author was a missionary in India and he was invited to attend the graduation of a Bible College. 

And he said he witnessed something he had never seen before. Before the students could receive their diploma, they all had to stand and take the martyrs oath. You see, this bible college took the Great Commission seriously. They took following Christ seriously. They knew when they left this bible college, they were going out to proclaim Christ and they it may require their life.  

Listen to the words of the martyrs oath: 

I am a follower of Jesus. I believe he lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins, was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. I believe he is the King of the earth, who will come back for his church. 

As he has given life for me, so I am willing to give my life for him. I will use every breath I possess to boldly proclaim his gospel. Whether in abundance or need, in safety or peril, in peace or distress, I will not—I cannot—keep quiet. His unfailing love is better than life, and his grace compels me to speak his name even if his name costs me everything. Even in the face of death, I will not deny Him. And should darkness encroach upon me, I will not fear, for I know he is always with me. 

Though persecution ma come, I know my battle is not against flesh but against the forces of evil. I will not hate those whom God has called me to love. Therefore, I will forgive when ridiculed, show mercy when struck, and love when hated. I will cloth myself with meekness and kindness so those around me may see the face of Jesus reflected in me, especially if they abuse me. 

I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come. Should I die for Jesus, I confess that my death is not to achieve salvation but in gratitude for the grace I’ve already received. I will not die to earn my reward in heaven, but because Jesus has already given me the ultimate reward in the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul. 

For to live is Christ; for me to die is gain. 

When these students graduated, they were given 3 things: a bike, a bible and a one-way ticket to one of the many unreached places in India. When these graduates go out, they are not simply going to live out their chosen vocation but they were going to take up their cross (meaning laying down their life) in order to follow Christ. 

These students recognized that the call of Christ required their life.  

For Peter, the call of Christ was going to require his life. After declaring to Peter how he would die, Jesus once again invited Peter to follow Him.

Jesus used these same words to invite Peter into a relationship with Him and become His disciple. In Matthew 4 he said to Peter and His brother Andrew, ““Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 

And now once again, Jesus is making the same invitation, ‘Follow me.” 

When Peter initially followed Jesus he didn’t understand the cost.  He just saw a guy who might be the Messiah and he went. He didn’t really know what he was being invited into. 

But now Peter knows. It will cost him his life. And he still chooses to follow. Because he knows that Jesus is worth dying for. He knows Jesus is life. He knows the words of Jesus who said, ‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

Peter would have had no problem signing the martyrs oath, the oath that said, “I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come.” 

You can’t read the oath or hear that oath without saying, Could I sign that oath?”  Am I willing to take up my cross for the sake of Christ? 

Earlier I asked the question, “how would it impact you knowing what type of death you are going to die.”  

As we learn about the life of Peter through the book of Acts and through his own writings in 1 Peter and 2 Peter.  We know it did not paralyze him, it didn’t drive him to fear but rather through the power of the Holy Spirit he lived with urgency. He lived his life on mission. 

In the book of 2 Peter he references knowing of his death. In 2 Peter chapter 1 he is spurring on his Christian audience to put on the character qualities of Christ and then he says in verse 12: 

“I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”  

Peter says, “I know that the putting off of my body will be soon.” He is saying ‘I know my life here is short.’ And so he is spurring on these believers to live a life centered in Christ. 

Knowing his earthy destiny, a martyrs death, gave his life urgency. But more than that, his love for and his identity as a follower of Christ gave him urgency.

Peter responded to the call to follow Jesus with a question about another disciple.

John 21:20-21:

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Peter is asking Jesus, “What about John? Will he also die a martyrs death?” Is that what is being asked of him also. And Jesus responds to Peter will a rebuke. It is a loving rebuke but it is a rebuke. 

John 21:22-23:

Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Jesus is saying, “Do not worry about my plans or my will for John’s life. If I choose to keep him alive until I return again, that should not be a concern of yours. 

What is Jesus doing here? Why does he respond in the way that he responds? It seems like there would have been a lot of different ways for him to respond but he chooses to respond in a very direct way by essentially saying ‘Peter, this is none of your business.”   

Peter understands the cost for Him. It will require his life. And he is asking, “what will it require of John?” How much does he have to give? How much does he have to sacrifice? 

And now Peter has now brought the emphasis and focus on Him. ‘Will he have to suffer like I have to suffer.” And Peter does what we can have a tendency of doing. We can begin to compare our life with Christ with others. We can begin to compare the sacrifice we are asked to make to what others are asked to make. 

One writer said, “If we want to follow Jesus, we must be totally committed to obeying him, but God’s call and the result of that obedience are different for every person. God can use all kinds of people. He has specific plans and service for the impulsive Peters, the thoughtful and sensitive Johns, and the forceful Pauls. God takes into consideration each person’s nature and abilities.” 

And our call to follow Christ is an individual call regardless of how God chooses to use other. 

This why Jesus said in Matthew 16, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ 

Discipleship begins with us laying down our own life. Jesus is saying, this isn’t about you, this isn’t about others—this is about me.” 

And so after this question about Jesus’s destiny, Jesus speaks very directly to Peter, “YOU follow me!” 

The greek language often doesn’t include punctuation. But when there is a statement that is obviously a question or a statement that is a strong statement, the English translators will add punctuation like a question mark or a exclamation mark. And in my translation, the English Standard Version and maybe in yours too, the translators have placed a exclamation point at the end of the statement, “You follow me!” 

One of our distraction as disciples is that we can find ourselves looking at others wondering why God is working in their life that work, why is God using them that manner. Why are they not sacrificing like I am sacrificing.” 

And God’s response to us would be “You follow me!” You set your eyes on me. That is our response. That is our place of obedience. 

That is the call of a disciple: To follow Christ. Not the crowd. Not the culture. Not anything around us. We are called to one thing and one thing only: To take up our cross and follow Him. 

That is the call of a disciple. 

The book of John concludes with these words: 

John 21:24-25:

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

The purpose for the Gospel of John was not to provide an all encompassing biography of the earthly ministry of Jesus. The purpose of the Gospel of John is that we may believe that Jesus in the Christ, the son of God and through believing in Him we may have eternal life. The whole purpose of John is to draw us to Christ. I hope that has been accomplished through his study.

John 19:38-42

In this passage we are introduced to a new person in the Gospel of John, a man named Joseph from Arimathea and then we see Nicodemus again, a man we were introduced to in John 3.

Both Joseph and Nicodemus were Jewish leaders. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, essentially the Supreme Court of Israel. The Sanhedrin was a ruling counsel of about 70 men comprised of two groups: the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were the majority group in the Sanhedrin. They were a part of the wealthy, upper class of Israel. They were a group that was concerned more about the politics of Israel than the religion of Israel.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The Pharisees came from the middle class, they were the “common man” and they were more concerned with the religion of Israel. They probably took on the role as the teachers of Israel.

And it was Sanhedrin led by the High Priest, Caiaphus, who falsely tried Jesus and handed him over to Pilate, the Roman Governor.

Scripture doesn’t tell us but Joseph was probably a Sadducees. And the Pharisees and Sadducees were often at odds with each other but they had one thing in common: they both opposed Jesus. They both wanted to get rid of him. They both wanted him arrested and crucified.

And so if you were a Sadducee or a Pharisees, it would have been scandalous, it would have been seen as a betrayal to become a follower of Jesus.

And so back in John 3, we seen that Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He doesn’t want anyone to see Him. His position would be threatened. His reputation would be threatened. His financial future would be threatened.

But we saw by his words, he knew Jesus was of God. In John 3:2 Nicodemus says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

I don’t think Nicodemus thought Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God at that point, but he was not turning his back on Jesus as many Pharisees were, he was seeking Him. He was asking Him questions. He wanted to know more about Him.

The next time we see Nicodemus, he is defending Jesus from other Pharisees who want to quickly arrest him. John 7:51, he said, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” And the other Pharisees quickly dismissed him even rebuked him.

And then we don’t hear any more from Nicodemus until now when he appears with another Jewish leader named Joseph of Arimathea.

Mark 15 tells us, “Joseph of Arimathea, was a respected member of the council.” Matthew 27 describes him as a “rich man.” And so this a man of great influence among the Jewish Leaders.

But Luke 23 also tells us Joseph “had not consented” to the decision to condemn Jesus. In fact, John describes him as a disciple of Jesus–but up to this point a secret one. You see he had the same problem Nicodemus had, if he was to go public with his faith in Jesus, it would ruin his position and reputation. It would damage his families’ reputation. And it would probably even harm him financially. He would be thrown out of the Temple—he couldn’t make sacrifces or worship. In many ways, his life as a Jewish man would be over.

And so at the cross we see two undercover disciples of Jesus finally going public. And when they do they give us an example of what it looks like to boldly follow Jesus and they remind us there is a cost to following Jesus.

If there was ever a time as a Jewish leader that you should distance yourself from Jesus, this was it. The High Priest had demanded that Jesus be crucified. The hatred toward Jesus within the Sanhedrin was running high. It was intense. If you were to declare any type of sympathy toward Jesus, you might be arrested. At this moment, the high priest and other leaders were not rationale, calm men. They were blood thirsty men who would do anything and say anything to get rid of Jesus. You can see why someone like Peter could deny Jesus. This was not the moment to associate yourself with Jesus.

And yet it is in this environment, two undercover followers of Jesus go public and to do so they are going to risk everything.

I think it is interesting that it is after his death they go public. It would have been easier after his death to say, “well, I guess he wasn’t the Messiah. I guess we were wrong.” Whew! That was close, we could have blown our reputation on that.

But I think we see the true faith of Joseph and Nicodemus because they still risk everything for a Messiah who has died. They don’t know he is go to rise again in three days. But they are willing to align themselves with the name and reputation of Jesus. Death did not deter their belief.

I want to look at two significant ways if which they sacrificed their own life and reputation for the sake of Christ.

First, by burying Jesus in his own tomb this was a direct insult to the High Priest who had demanded Jesus be crucified. Joseph was burying Jesus in a tomb reserved for the wealthy, the upper class, the noble and honorable of Israel. The High Priest had just declared him a criminal,  blasphemer, insurrectionist. And now one of his fellow Sanhedrin members, a respected member of the Sanhedrin has made a clear separation from the High Priest—the highest authority in Israel.

This was a bold move. In fact, Mark 15, says “Joseph…took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. This was not just a nice gesture. Nicodemus is making a clear statement. They were saying, “we associate our reputation with the reputation of Jesus. We stake our lives with Jesus.”

They knew this would cost them their reputation. Their political lives were probably ruined

But they also knew there was something more valuable then their own reputation, their own careers and that was their relationship with Jesus.

They may have heard Jesus say these words, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

You wonder if they had heard those words at some point and it created a wrestling in them. They might have found themselves wrestling with wanting to keep their place of power and influence but they are also recognizing that if they are truly followers of Jesus, they have to lay down their own life for the sake of Christ.

After seeing Jesus take up his own cross, you wonder if they thought, “we can’t keep hiding like this. We need to take up our own cross and sacrifice it all for Him.” We don’t know what caused them to do this bold act that required courage but we know they made a decision to no longer be secret about their faith.

The second thing they gave up for the sake of Christ was their religion, their tradition. Remember, the nation of Israel was in the middle of one of their important feast and celebrations – the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was an important celebration in the life of Israel. By taking the dead body of Jesus and burying it, they automatically made themselves ceremonial unclean for the remainder of the feast according to their Law. As a Jewish leader, to intentional so do something that would remove yourself from participation from an important feast would almost be a statement about their own spiritual lives.

Remember in John 18 when the Jewish leaders went to Pilate’s home, it said they, “did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” It was so important to be able to participate in the Passover meal that they would not enter a Gentiles home because it would defile them for the rest of the feast.

Joseph and Nicodemus are willing to be defiled. They are willing for people to question their own spiritual lives because they are going to give up something for the sake of Christ.

The question they had to ask themselves was, “Is the festival that points to Christ more important than Christ?” And their actions reveal their answer: They sacrifice the feast for the person.

We often have the same decision in our own life. Every church has traditions and when those traditions began it was helped point draw them to Christ but sometimes there can come a point in which we may start to hold on to the tradition that puts us to Christ rather than the person of Christ. The tradition can become more important the relationship.

This is what happened to the Jewish leaders where the feast that points people to God become more important than their own relationship with God.

The acts of communion is a regular observance in the church. There are many ways that we can observe it. Jesus didn’t define a method. He just said when we break bread in His name and share the cup in His name, do that in rememberance of what he did for us on the cross. Communion is to point us to the work and the person of Jesus Christ.

But any pastor will tell you, if you want to get some letters from people, change the way you normally do communion. Sometimes we can become so attached to the method we lose sight of the one we are remembering.

Joseph and Nicodemus lived in a culture of deep rooted traditions. And yet they sacrificed that for the person of Christ.

It is interesting that when we follow Christ in secret, God will provide opportunities for us to go public. And it will normally require us sacrificing something significant that we are holding on to.

There were other ways and other times they could have gone public. They certainly could have waited until the emotions of that moment had calmed down. Let’s wait a couple of weeks, a couple of months. And yet I think God gave them this moment of obedience to see if their faith was real. I think God was giving them the opportunity to see if they would truly sacrifice it all for Him.

And in an amazing act of boldness, they said yes by publicly professing their faith in Christ by risking everything.

John 19:32-37

It is easy to read these verses and think, “why does John include these things about his bones not being broken and his side being pierced?”

He includes it because as John states, “these things fulfilled prophecy.” Prophecy that had been spoken hundreds and hundred years earlier. Some even over a thousands years earlier. And what prophecy reminds us is that God had a plan for our salvation. And that God is a purposeful God. And God is in control.

The crucifixion of Jesus is not the world gone mad but the Father fulfilling His plan and His promises. Prophecy reminds us that God is an intentional God. What God said would come about would come about. What God says is true is true. We can trust the Word of God.

By not having his bones broken, God points us to the Passover lamb, the Passover meal that the Jews had just observed and enjoyed. When the Jews prepared the Passover lamb, they were told not to break a bone from that lamb. There wasn’t a reason given them. But these were the instructions given by Moses in Exodus 12.

I am sure there were many times in which a child said, “Mom, Dad, why do we not break the bone of the Passover lamb. And Mom and Dad would point them back to the words of Exodus 12 and say this is what Moses had instructed us to do.

But then we come to cross and see why. At the cross, God makes a connection between the Passover lamb that helped deliver Israel from Egypt and Jesus as the lamb of God who delivers us from our sin.  The death of Jesus was not random. It was not a world out of control. It was God fulfilling His purposes.

This passage also says that the soldiers pierced Jesus and this fulfilled Scripture which says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

This is a reference to Zech 12:10 which says, “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.”

This is a reference to the nation of Israel looking upon the Lord whom they had disobeyed and rebelled against and they are grieving that disobedience and now turning to Him in repentance. They are looking upon Him in humility and repentance.

Thomas The Believer

John is the only Gospel writer that records these very intriguing events where Thomas struggles with doubt and then proclaims his belief in Jesus as both Lord and God.

Because of John’s account, the disciple Thomas has forever been branded with the unfortunate reputation as the doubter. But in many ways it is an unfair reputation because Scripture tells us in Mark 16 that the other disciples also doubted when witnesses like Mary Magdelene told that them that Jesus had risen for the dead. It wasn’t like every other disciple quickly believed except Thomas. But when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Thomas wasn’t with them.

And so he now becomes singled out.

But instead of calling him the doubter, we should instead call him what he IS, the Believer.  Because that is who he became.

You see, every single one of us could be called something based on who we were before we placed our faith in Christ. We could be called The Rejector, The Cynic, The Denier, the Doubter. But when we place out faith in Christ, we take on a new identity – The Believer.

John’s purpose in sharing with us these events wasn’t to shame Thomas. Wasn’t to embarrass Thomas. But to show us that our doubts can be turned into belief. And to tell us that there is blessing for those who believer and never physically saw Jesus.

John 19:31

The day that Jesus was crucified was on a Friday. Saturday was the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest. They did not prepare meals, they did not work on the Sabbath. It was a God-given day of rest. It was a day to be still and know that God is God. In order to have food ready for Saturday, Friday became known as the day of preparation.

But this was not an ordinary Sabbath. This was a sabbath that landed during the Passover week or more specifically the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

What is interesting about the Feast of Unleavened Bread is that it was a feast commemorating when God delivered Israel out of the bondage of slavery from Egypt. They are celebrating God as a rescurer, a deliverer, a bondage-breaker. When they celebrate this feast they are saying, ‘God, we thank you that you are our Savior!”

And yet right in the middle of this celebration they are unaware that God’s true deliverance had just occurred as the very son of God had died on a cross to save, to rescue them from their sins. In fact, they are unaware that through their wickedness they played a part in bringing about God’s salvation.

The very Jewish leaders that demanded Jesus be crucified would then turn and enter into a feast in which they would praise God as Savior. At least that is what they would do outwardly because we know Scripture says their hearts were far from God.

And so the Jews had just begun celebration and observance of this Holy week and they don’t want these crucified men to defile the land during this special feast.

Dueteronomy 21 says, “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land”

They would have viewed someone hanging on a cross during a special feast as especially inappropriate. And so they wanted those men removed and buried.