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Summary: A sermon about learning that we love God through loving others.

“Learning That We Love Jesus”

John 21:1-19

I would imagine that almost all of us can relate to trying to get a child to try a new food, only to have them make a gagging noise without even putting it in their mouths.

We often follow this up with, “How can you know whether or not you like it if you don’t try it?”

The same can be said about a game or a sport.

We really don’t know whether we will like it, until we start doing playing it or doing it.

In the case of a sport, we might find out that we love it—and then it becomes a lifelong affair as we work hard to perfect it and love it more and more.

Can you relate?

When I went off to seminary, I didn’t know whether or not I was going to like the ministry.

And, after-all, I had been running from it for most of my life.

And in seminary I got a lot of “head knowledge” about Christianity and how to be a pastor.

It wasn’t until I started to become a pastor that I learned to love it more and more and more.

And, I think our relationship with Jesus is kind of similar.

How can we know we love Jesus until we give Him a shot?

How can we know?

Before Jesus was arrested, Peter thought he knew he loved Jesus.

As a matter of fact, he was probably a bit over-confident about it.

When Jesus told His disciples that He was soon going to be arrested Peter insisted loudly: “Lord I will lay down my life for you.”

And when Jesus answers him by saying “I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times,” Peter is incredulous.

He knows he would never do such a thing!

But, sure enough, after Jesus is arrested and as the High Priest is questioning Him we watch helplessly as Peter denies even knowing Jesus.

And then the rooster crows.

After this Peter “broke down and wept.”

And as we look at our Gospel Lesson for this moring, even though the Resurrected Christ has already appeared to him twice…

…Peter is still a broken and crushed man as are the other disciples.

I mean, the opening scene of our Gospel Lesson for this morning kind of reminds me of the days after a funeral.

Everyone just mills around in a sad fog without a strong sense of purpose.

Finally, Peter throws up his hands and says, “Enough with this, I’m going fishing.”

The other disciples go with him.

And even though they are expert fishers, they catch nothing!

What a low point in the life of these guys—especially Peter.

It’s been suggested that Peter felt guilty for having denied Christ.

I think it goes beyond that.

I think Peter felt shame.

Shame is different than guilt.

Guilt is focused on behavior, as in: “I did something bad.”

Shame is focused on self, as in: “I am bad.”

We all feel shame at some point or another.

We can experience fleeting shame by burping too loud in a crowded elevator.

Or we can feel chronic shame, thinking that, as a whole person, we are flawed and inferior.

Have you ever felt this way?

Perhaps you feel this way now.

“When they had finished eating,” Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?”

At first, Peter’s response to Jesus’ questioning seems evasive.

He doesn’t say, “I love you,” but only, “You know that I love you.”

And it makes sense when we really think about it.

After-all, in the past Peter had boasted to Jesus about how devoted he was to Him and how much he loved Him, but then when the rubber met the road he failed Him miserably.

Was Peter even sure if he loved Jesus?

I mean, how could he love Christ and deny Him all at the same time?

“Do you love me?”

Let’s all allow that question from Jesus to be directed at ourselves this morning.

“Do you love me?”

Sometimes my failures and feelings of shame can cause me to question my love for Jesus.

I have failed God in countless ways and so many times.

How about you?

When this question is put to us, perhaps there are times when the most certain response we can make to God is not “I love you,” but “You know I love you.”

Or even, “You know whether or not I love you.”

And when we do that we are relying not on our knowledge of ourselves, but on God’s knowledge of us.

We aren’t relying on our own ability to love but on God’s grace to carry us through.

I have experienced this when I have dealt with persons in the hospital or in life or death situations.

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