Picture of Pastor David Cook

Sermon delivered September 13, 2008 by Pastor David Cook

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New Inductive Study Bible NISB unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Follow Me

John 21:18,19

(RealAudio Version available)

Did you ever think that your grandparents were saints?  Or maybe you're a grandparent, and you're trying to propagate the myth.  I used to think that my grandfather was a saint.  This was my mom’s dad, not my dad's dad.  Grandpa was a Seventh-day Adventist minister.  He was conservative.  He was kind of strict.  Very loving.  Just a wonderful man.  And it was a surprise to me as I was growing up as a teenager to discover that at least once in his life he had really, really blown it.  I mean the big time blown it. 

My grandfather was working as a pastor in central California, and he became discouraged.  He became discouraged with his ministry and I presume with his family life as well, and one day, without telling his wife or his kids, he hops into a car, with maybe a suitcase or two, and he drives away.  He begins driving down to Southern California and then out across towards Phoenix, Arizona.  My mom tells me just how terrible it was during that time, and how ashamed she was when the pastor's wife and the pastor’s kids all arrived at church without the pastor. 

Well, my grandfather, being the man that he is, began to feel terrible about what he'd done, and he began to miss his family and realize that he was giving up everything that was dear to him, his family, his ministry, everything, so by the time he got to Phoenix, he made a phone call back to my grandmother.  I don't know what he said, but apparently it was, “Please, can I come back?”  And of course she welcomed him back home, and when he came back I can only imagine.  You know, of course, he was welcomed back into the home and the kids, everybody, they were so glad to see him back. 

But I'm sure, hanging over everybody's heads and over his head and thinking on the minds of the church members, what do we do now with Robert O'Dell?  What should the conference do?  And for himself.  “What should I do?  Should I just quit the Ministry?  Now I've really, I’ve done something fairly shameful.” 

It's a question, I think that sometimes we all ask at one time or another in our lives.  Maybe not quite to that degree, but sometimes we find ourselves that we’re in a position where we've done something and we wonder, “Am I disqualified?  Should I be out of service?”  And the question I'd like to ask today is, what does Jesus do with fallen servants?  What does Jesus do?

If you open to John chapter 21.  We’ll be studying John 21 today.  We've been looking at the miracles of Jesus, and this is the last one we’re going to look at.  It’s the last recorded miracle of Jesus.  It’s the last in a series about all the wonderful miracles that He's done. 

You know Peter must've felt similar to my grandfather, and you realize what a huge mistake he had made.  What a huge sin that he’d committed.  Sometimes we forget, and we think, “Well, maybe it wasn’t all that bad.”  What Peter did was the equivalent--  You know, let's say we take a general conference officer and have him go on national television, and in front of the world say, “I never really believed Jesus was real.  I'm not really a follower of Jesus.  Never really was.  Never really have been.  I don't believe in the second coming.  I don’t believe in the sanctuary.  None of that stuff.  It’s not true.”  What Peter did was terrible.  It was a huge blow to the Christian church, the early church.  

I can imagine as Peter is there, the Sea of Galilee.  It's a few days after Jesus has been resurrected and now they’re obeying His command to meet Him there in Galilee.  I can imagine that he understands that he's forgiven.  He recognizes that fact.  You know, Jesus met with him personally after He was resurrected, and you know what was said there.  You know that Peter pleaded for forgiveness and that he received kind words and forgiving words from Jesus.  But Jesus had given the message, “Tell the disciples and Peter to meet him in Galilee.”  

Now you could take that two ways.  Tell the disciples and Peter, in other words, Peter, you know, I still want you to be a part of My plan, or you could take it, and if I was Peter, I might have said, “’Tell the disciples and Peter.’ Am I not one of the disciples now?  And you know, He points me out specifically.  You know, it’s like, ‘Tell the disciples and, ‘Hey, you, Peter.  You, Me, Galilee.  We’re going to have a talk.’”  I believe that there was this question hanging over all the disciple’s heads.  What do we do with Peter?  What's going to happen?  And as he's sitting there with six of the other disciples waiting for Jesus to arrive and show up, he’s probably thinking, “Maybe I should just, you know, drift off into obscurity.  I'll still love Jesus, sure, and I’ll probably still be saved, but I'm not going to be one of His, you know, one of the 12 for sure.” 

Finally he can't stand it any longer, and he says, “I'm going fishing.”  You know, if there's anything that helps Peter to forget his troubles it’s fishing.  It's not just a job, you know, it's an escape.  So they're out there.  The other disciples, when they saw that Peter was going say, “Hey, yeah, we’re going too.  Don’t want him to do anything foolish out there.”  So they come out there with Peter and it’s night fishing and I've heard that when they do night casting, nowadays they use a flashlight to attract the fish, so I presume they had a torch out there looking for fish, and they shined the torch up and in normal times you’d shine the torch up and the fish would begin to thrash around on top of the water and you throw the net.  Well none of that's happening.  They shined the torch.  Nothing.  “Where are the fish?  Well, throw out the net just in case.”  Nothing.  All night long. Shine the torch, throw the net.  Nothing. 

Finally the sun is coming up over the Jordanian hills.  They’re tired.  They’re bleary-eyed.  They’re throwing out the net a couple more times just to make sure and they become aware as they’re working, they become aware of a Man standing on the shore.  He's not too far away.  They’re very close to shore.  You have to do this in shallow water, you know, and suddenly the Man calls out.  “You do not have any fish, do you?”  “No, nothing.”  “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat.  You'll find a catch.”  I don’t know if it’s because they believe that He has some sort of expertise or if they’re just too tired to object, they turn around, throw out the nets and whoosh, the nets are full.  Fish flapping around.  And now they're trying to pull it in and they have to cinch up a rope to pull it in and it’s extremely heavy.  Those nets were very heavy.  I've heard it said that they put like a pound of weights per foot on the net or something like that, and with all the fish.

And all of a sudden John yells out, “It's the Lord,” and Peter forgets the fish and he stands up and he looks and he sees Jesus looking at him from across the water, and like I said he's not that far away and now he's so excited he gets confused and he throws on his clothes and then he jumps in the water.  You know, of course he was stripped for fishing and now he puts his clothes on, gets in the water, gets his clothes all wet, and he’s thrashing to shore.  The waters only probably about waist deep.  He gets to shore and the boat’s coming up from behind and the other disciples join him, and there they are with Jesus. 

And they look and He's made little fire there and there’s some fish on the fire and some bread and Jesus says to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught,” and Peter, Peter remembers himself and he runs down to that huge net.  You know, this thing probably weighed up to 300 pounds.  Who knows.  All those fish and the weights, and he just drags that net right up on the shore.  The net doesn't break, which is another miracle and then he grabs a few of the fish and comes running, and they put the fish on the fire and pretty soon they’re all sitting around, and they’re eating breakfast with their Lord.

And it’s out of this miracle that we find the first thing that Jesus does with His fallen servants, and we're going to look at three of them today. 

The first thing is that He reminds Peter to rely on Him.  You see, Peter's problem was that he was always relying on himself, and if you go back through the history of Peter with Jesus before the cross, all of the mistakes that he made were a result of him relying on himself.  When he was walking on the water and he fell into the water, he was relying on himself.  When he said so many of those foolish things that he said, he was relying on himself.  And of course the very worst, when he was boasting that he would never deny his Lord, he was relying on himself. 

You know, that it's this miracle of the fish; Peter is a professional fisherman.  He knows how to catch fish, and yet, even with his expertise he still had to take a word from Jesus in order to catch fish.  And Jesus is saying without any words, He’s saying, “Peter, you need to trust in My strength.  You need to rely on My strength if you're ever going to make it.  Peter, rely on My strength.”  And this is the first message to modern fallen servants.  “Rely on My strength.” 

The root of all our failures is self-reliance as well.  Have you blown it?  Have you done something that you're ashamed of?  It might not be something that's public.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it's something that happened a long time ago and you still haven't gotten it out of your mind.  You need to learn the lesson of trusting in Him.  I need to learn that lesson.  Putting our trust in Jesus.  We need to rely on His strength.

Well, now we turn to the next thing that Jesus does for Peter.  They’re sitting there around the fire.  The meal is winding down, and they're getting full.  They're feeling so good and they’re with their Master.  Nobody's talking because they’re just kind of in awe in His presence, this Person who had been dead and now He's alive, and Jesus looks at Peter and He says, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”  The other disciples.  And Peter says, “Yes Lord.  You know that I love You,” and Jesus says, “Tend my lambs.  Feed my sheep.  Feed my lambs.”  And then again, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these.”  Do you love Me?  “Yes Lord, You know that I love You.”  “Shepherd my sheep.”  And then again, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” and Peter is now just, he’s just, his heart is pierced and he says, “Lord, You know all things.  You know that I love You.”  “Tend my sheep.” 

The second thing that Jesus does for Peter is that He calls him back to ministry, because Jesus knows that the very best way to restore a fallen person or a fallen servant is to get them back to work.  Get them back serving others.  “Peter, feed My sheep.”

Ellen White gives an illustration, a story, a true story that she had read about a man who was in a blizzard.  He’s struggling through the snow and he's about to give up.  He can't possibly make it.  He's going to die and just when he almost gives up, he stops and he hears a moan, and he finds another person there in the snow dying, and he’s horrified.  So he takes the person and he rubs their arms to try to warm them up and knocks the snow and the ice off their arms and he helps them get up, and the person can barely walk, but he holds them, and the person actually, he cannot possibly walk even leaning on him so he actually picks the person up and carries this person through the snow drifts that he himself thought he couldn’t possibly go through a few minutes before and carries this person until he sees the light, makes it to safety, and it's not until they're both safe and sound that he realizes that in rescuing somebody else he saved himself. 

And that is exactly what Jesus is trying to do with Peter, I believe.  Peter, you need more than ever to feed My sheep.  You need more than ever to work for Me.

So the second thing Jesus does for Peter, calls him back to work, back to service, and He does the same thing for us.  Are you feeling ashamed of how you’ve lived.  Perhaps your private life isn't the same as your public.  Sometimes it's a temptation when the nominating committee calls to say, “Hmm, not this year, I think I need to take a break,” translated, “I'm so ashamed of myself, I don't think I can possibly serve God,” and you’re making a huge mistake, because the best thing for you is to get back to work.  So Jesus deals with His fallen servant by reminding him to rely on His strength and calling him back to ministry.

And now the third thing.  Jesus does one more thing, for His fallen disciple.  He continues on talking to Peter.  He says, “Truly, truly I say to you when you were younger you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished, but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you and bring you where you do not wish to go.”  Peter, you’re going to be crucified, like Me.  

You know as I was preparing this sermon, at first I thought, “Okay, the third thing that Jesus does is He warns Peter.”  “Peter, you're going to suffer.  Just got to warn you.  It's going to be tough, you’re going to suffer.”  And as I've read it and I’ve prayed about it and I think about it, “No!”.  What Jesus was doing was He was predicting Peter’s future success.  Notice how it continues in the text.  It says, “Signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.”  When Peter blew it the thing that he messed up in was that he had boasted that he would die for his Lord.  And then he couldn't even admit that he was a servant of Jesus, a disciple, and now Jesus is saying, “You know Peter, you're going to make it.  You really are going to do it.  You said that you would die for Me.  Yep, you are.  You’re going to be a success.”

And so the third thing that Jesus does for Peter and for fallen servants is He predicts their future success.  And I believe that's what Jesus has to say to us today.  There’s no prophecy saying that David Cook is going to succeed, but I believe He wants to tell me and He wants to tell you, “You’re going to be a success.  You’re going to make it.  You’re going to glorify Me.” 

And then Jesus closes the conversation with Peter with two powerful words that I think sum it all up, sum up all three of those things.  Looks him straight in the eyes and He says, “Follow Me.  Follow Me.  Follow Me.  Rely on My strength.  Follow Me.  Feed My sheep.  Follow Me.  You're going to succeed.  Follow Me.”  

As if John needs to make that point very clear, it tells how Peter is walking with Jesus right after that and he turns around and he looks at John, and, “Well, what about him?”  And Jesus says, “Don't worry about him.  You!  You follow me.”  I can hear Jesus down through the ages and He’s alive saying it right now to all of us.  “[point]You follow Me.  You follow Me.  You follow Me.  You follow Me.  You follow Me.  Follow Me.”

History confirms Jesus’ prediction.  Many years later, after Peter has lived a successful life as an evangelist and disciple and apostle in the early Christian church, Peter finds himself standing at the foot of another cross.  This time the cross is laid out on the ground and it’s being prepared for him and I can imagine him as he's looking at that cross, he's having a flashback and he thinks the horror of the cross and Jesus hanging there, and the blood.  And yet he thinks of the joy as well, knowing that just hours after he had committed the worst sin of his life, Jesus is hanging there dying for that very sin, and he thinks of all these things and he falls down on his knees in front of the nearest soldier, and he says, “Sir, please, please, don't crucify me like they crucified Jesus.  Please don't do it.  Is there any other way?  I'm not worthy.  Sir, can you hang me upside down instead?”  And so the soldiers, I don't know if out of mockery of him or out of regard for this person that they respect, whatever it was, they crucify him upside down, and Peter spent the last few hours of his life hanging upside down for his Lord.

He was a success.  You know, really, I think the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performed was this miracle.  Not the fish.  It was the transformation of a life.  His greatest and final miracle was the miracle of a changed Peter, and that's the miracle He wants to work with us. 

Have you fallen?  Have you shamed your Lord?  Perhaps it's not on the scale of Peter.  Perhaps it's nothing that anybody would lose an office for.  But maybe it is.  Maybe it's something that you would hate for anybody to know.  Whatever it is, Jesus is saying to you, “Follow Me.  Follow Me.  I am your strength.  Follow Me.  Shepherd with Me.  Follow Me.  You will succeed.  Follow Me.”

Who knows, who knows, what Jesus has planned for you.  Who knows what kind of a success you and I are going to be.  In the times we live in, we may have the privilege of being martyrs.  We may have the privilege of suffering in a prison for Him.  Who knows.  We may bring thousands to Him.  We may be preaching to thousands someday.  “You, follow Me.”

Well, my grandpa ended well.  You need to know that.  There were times after that, that he got discouraged, and he even spent some time out of the ministry, out of the pastoral ministry, but even then he went to work as a chaplain at a hospital and finally near the end of his working years, an old conference president that he worked for before remembered him and couldn't stand the thought of Robert O’Dell not being a pastor, and he called him back to a small little church in Wyoming that happened to be very close to a small little church in Wyoming where my dad was pastoring, and my grandpa ended his years a well loved pastor, and when he retired he was called to go down to a beautiful little home in Napa Valley called Elmshaven where Ellen White used to live.  And there, my grandfather and my grandmother worked as caretakers and tour guides for Ellen White's home, and over the past two decades, if you've ever been to her home, good chance you saw my grandpa out there blowing leaves off the driveway, or giving a tour or out in Ellen White's own gardens out there tending those delicious raspberries and blackberries that are so wonderful on ice cream. 

When my grandpa died, all 6 of his children and all but 2 of his 16 grandchildren and some of his great-grandchildren were at his funeral.  And one of those 16 grandchildren that couldn't make it, was desperately trying to get back from the war in Iraq so he could make it to the funeral.  There were many tears shed.  He was a very loved man.  I think it was a testament to how he repaired the damage that he’d done. 

My aunt tells me that my grandpa's final words through his Alzheimer's fog, and he was totally in dementia, his final words were, “It's time to cross the river,” and he died immediately after that.  My grandpa died in the hope of salvation and the knowledge that he had succeeded.  My grandpa responded to Jesus’ call.  He followed Jesus.

Do you want to do the same?  We're going to sing hymn number 623, the first three stanzas.  As we sing this song, I Will Follow Thee My Savior, won't you think those words to Jesus and pray to him and say, “I’ll follow you.  I’ll follow you.”

Hymn of Praise: #574, O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee
Scripture: John 21:18,19
Hymn of Response: #623, I Will Follow Thee

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 10/4/08.