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John 21:1-23

Big idea: The reality of Jesus’ resurrection spells the possibility of a new beginning with God whatever our past, as well as the necessity of a new direction in life whatever the cost.

Introduction: “So what?”

Last week, we celebrated with millions all around the world, and millions more angels and saints before the very throne of God:

o we worship a risen Saviour! HE IS Lord!

o No other faiths in the world dare make this claim: Christianity alone celebrates a risen Saviour & Lord!

Now that the celebrations are over, “so what”!


It is interesting that all four Gospels end not with the resurrection account but with further instructions for the disciples.

This morning, we’ll look at one of them: the last chapter in John’s Gospel.

Back to business as usual? (21:1-14)

Firstly, a quick recap of what happened up to that point.

In chapter 20, on the first Easter morning, after Mary began spreading the news that Jesus is alive, Jesus showed himself to his disciples – not once, but twice!

o And he explained to them that his resurrection means the beginning of a new age!

o “Peace be with you!”, he said in v21. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

o V23 -> His resurrection means there is now forgiveness of sins in his name!

§ His resurrection spells GOOD NEWS FOR A FRESH START!

In our passage today, Jesus appeared to his disciples again by the Sea of Galilee.

What were they doing there?

o V2 -> The disciples went back to fishing, BACK TO where they used to be and what they used to do before they met Jesus!

o Friends, What an anti-climax!

o Jesus rose from the dead! He commissioned them to preach the gospel.

o And what did they do? They went back fishing!

Scholars differ in how they interpret the disciples’ action here

o Some argue that once again, we see the disciples failing miserably!

o Others are more forgiving: “Hey, they may have seen the risen Lord, but they still have to eat, right?”

o Some think that the disciples were just following God’s instructions, because Mark 16:7 shows that they were instructed to meet Jesus there!

However you interpret this, one thing’s for sure:



§ Whether for the disciples back then, or for us today!

So what difference should the risen Lord make?

I think there are at least two IMPORTANT IMPLICATIONS we can learn from John 21.

Implication #1: A fresh start – whatever the past (21:15-17)

Jesus announces his arrival in a way that his disciples couldn’t miss.

o They had been fishing all night without any success.

o But the moment they followed Jesus’ lead, they caught so many that even these seasoned fishermen struggled to haul in their net.

o Right away, they knew, “It is the Lord!” (21:7)

But, this morning, let’s zoom in on what the Lord said to Peter later that morning.

o 21:15, ‘When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."’

Why was Peter singled out for mentioning?

Peter was a leader figure among the disciples, one of the inner three!

o But when Jesus was arrested and questioned, when he needed his friends the most, Peter denied his Lord and friend – not once, but 3 times!

o Peter must have been filled with shame when Jesus approached him that morning.

But Jesus knew his weakness all along – from the moment he first called Peter to follow him! He knew all about his heart, just as he knows yours and mine.

o So the first thing Jesus wanted Peter to realize is this: His resurrection spells a FRESH START – WHATEVER YOUR PAST!!!

In verses 15-17, 3 TIMES Jesus says to Peter: “Do you love me?” “Feed my sheep!”

o 3 times the denial … 3 times the reinstatement

o Peter and the others needed to be sure: Jesus brings COMPLETE FORGIVENESS!


APPLY: The priority of forgiveness in God’s community

o Friends, have you come to church today with some kind of baggage!

§ Are you down and burdened because of your OWN failures?

§ Or maybe you are living in the shadow of OTHERS WHO have failed you? People you thought you could trust? People you find hard to forgive?

o Guilt, bitterness, anger, they can rule over YOU AND ME!

o I know a man whose life is paralysed by regret.

§ A man who tried to be an honest man all his life, to provide for his family, not ambitious, except for the ambition to earn respect from those around him.

§ But today, he looks back at his life with one major regret – for agreeing to be a guarantor for his brother’s business!

§ When his brother’s business turned sour, the bank went after him.

§ He almost lost everything!

§ Today, more than 40 years later, that decision continues to haunt him!

§ Even though he raised his five children well, and all of them now have their own families and are doing fairly well in life, he still feels that his life has a been a FAILURE!

He keeps thinking: I could have given my wife and my children so much more!

He cannot move on from his past!

He cannot forgive his brother!

Ultimately, he cannot forgive himself!

§ Friends, guilt, bitterness, anger, self-pity, they can BLIND and RULE OVER you and me!

o But friends, the resurrection of Jesus spells a FRESH START!!

§ Trusting Jesus and following him, it’s not about whether you are good enough for God, nor whether others are good enough for you!

§ It’s about how JESUS loved AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR us.


§ The NEW LIFE He now gives to everyone who has trusted in him!

o Guilt, bitterness, anger, whatever baggage from your past: they must no longer rule!

o BUT A FRESH START – whatever the past – this is implication#1 of the resurrection of Jesus!

Implication #2: A new direction – whatever the cost (21:18-24)

But there is a second implication which is just as important.

In verse 18, Jesus says to Peter, ‘“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"’

o Giving Peter the assurance of a fresh start was not the end of the story.

o “Do you love Jesus”? Then life cannot be back to business as usual, because EASTER spells a new beginning that demands a new direction in life!

o This is what REPENTANCE is about: STOP going your own way, TURN AROUND, and FOLLOW JESUS – WHATEVER THE COST!!

o And for Peter, following Jesus is going to cost him his life!

ILLUSTRATE: Putting on a new jersey.

o In a way, repentance is like putting on a new uniform.

o Christiano Ronaldo – I’m sure many of you know who he is

§ world footballer of the year, highest paid athlete according to Forbes, ESPN’s most famous athlete in the world, former star player of Manchester United turned lead striker of Real Madrid after a then record 80 million pound transfer back in 2009!

o Now if Ronaldo were to return to play a match at Old Trafford, the home ground of Manchester United, he must make sure that he is scoring goals in the right direction, because he no longer wears a Man United jersey!

o He had been purchased at a price – 80 million pounds!

o He must now live up to his new identity – no longer Man United, but Real Madrid!

The resurrection of Jesus means a new jersey from God is now available for all people

o It reads: Kingdom of God, sponsored by the cross of Christ!

o Putting on the uniform marks a new beginning that demands a new direction in life.

o You have been bought at a price!

o It cannot be back to business as usual!


o About 15 years ago, my wife and I resigned from our jobs to train for full-time ministry.

o I can still remember my director’s response when I submitted my letter

§ How to counter-offer when I’m leaving to serve God?

o But friends, this term “full-ministry”, it’s actually quite misleading, because God’s Word is very clear that not only pastors, missionaries are in full-time ministries.

o “[Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again … if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:15, 17)

o Again, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

o The call to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus is not meant only for apostles, pastor teachers, elders and deacons, but for every one who is in Christ!

o Are you a director or partner of a firm? Well, if you are a Christian, you are in full-time ministry in your company or firm

o Are you a medical or IT expert, a banker, teacher, engineer, a homemaker? Friends, whatever kind of work you are doing, God calls you to put your Christian uniform – full-time!

o The shape of our ministries may be different, but we are ALL called to full-time Christian ministry, do you see?

§ Always clothing ourselves with Christ-like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness patience (cf. Colossians 3:12)

§ Always prayerful, watchful and thankful (cf. Col 4:2)

§ Our conversations always full of grace, seasoned with salt, always ready to answer everyone what Christ has done for us (cf. Col 4:6)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have all been bought at a price!

o It cannot be back to business as usual for any of us!


In the past God overlooked our ignorance about him; but now, he commands people everywhere to repent!

o “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

o No more excuses! We are to make God’s business our business!

Conclusion: “What is that to you?”

What was Peter’s response to what Jesus said to him that morning?

o Verse 20, Peter turned and pointed to one of the other disciples and asked Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’


o We are all natural Tai-Chi masters, aren’t we?

Jesus didn’t let him off the hook!

o V22 -> What Jesus does with others is none of his business!

o But Peter, “You must follow me.”

o Thankfully, for Peter, there’s a happy ending!

o The NT and early church records show that Peter faithfully served his Lord for over 30 years, until the emperor Nero ended his life by having him crucified!

o Denial was a thing of the past for Peter! He followed his Lord whatever the cost – even to the point of death!

o The resurrection of Jesus spells the end of fear of death for him

o Filled with the Holy Spirit, he knew that Jesus is Lord even over death!

Friends, what about you?

o Christ is risen! It means a new and living hope for you for and me,

A FRESH START – whatever our past!

o But it also means a new direction in your life and mine: FOLLOWING JESUS – whatever the cost!

o Christ is risen! It cannot be business as usual.

o Do you love him? Then make his business your business!

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