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Apr 21, 2019

For the Third Time, "Do You Love Me?"

Passage: John 21

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: No Greater Love

Keywords: do you love me, fish, peter, resurrection, 153


EASTER SUNDAY. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus reading from John 21. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” He asks because three times Peter denied that Jesus was his friend and Savior and the one loved him. The Bible story notes that Peter was hurt the third time Jesus asked Peter this. The word for hurt often refers to one’s grief after a deep loss. So once again love is connected to loss. And once again Jesus unites himself to you and me in the pain of suffering and sacrifice. That laying down your life kind of love results in the victory of new life, not of our own making. Easter invites us into the holy joy and deep meaning of loving like Jesus loved. Loving God by laying down our wants, rights, preferences, and comforts in order to share in the suffering, loss, and hurt of another. He will ask us again and again, Do you love me?


They are back in the Galilee,

where they first met Jesus,

where so much happened

including failure

and inability to stand for Jesus.

All the pain, loss and confusion

are in Peter’s terse statement,

‘I’m going fishing.’

Going back to the way things were.

I guess nothing’s made a lasting difference.

Trying to find some stable ground.

Gotta just keep busy.


And then the stranger on the beach

and the command to cast on the other side

and all the fish!

It IS Jesus, he is alive.

Peter swims in,

the rest pull in the big catch of fish.


And you know it’s real because,

well imagine the scene:

here is the risen Lord Jesus,

resurrected from the dead,

standing before them,

but what are the disciples doing,

counting the fish they caught!

Look Jesus, 153 fish!


And Jesus catches us in

our struggle to truly follow him,

to trust his love makes a difference,

to live this holy love

and find joy in laying down my life

for another’s new life in Christ.


The disciples are enamored by their great catch.

Jesus wants them to see deeper into their lives

with him as their risen Lord.


In the time of the gospels

numbers carried added meaning,

they pointed to the mysteries of life and God.

The gospel according to John uses some of that

in adding meaning to what is being revealed

about Jesus and why that matters to our lives.

Here, as the disciples come to grips

with his resurrection

and Peter wonders what that means

for who he is and how he will live from now on,

Jesus directs them to catch 153 fish –

153 is the numerical value of the word,

‘sons of God.’

That is their identity.

This is the identity of those who believe in Jesus:

we are sons and daughters of God.

We belong to Jesus, our lives are for his glory,

that is, to bring his love and grace

into our living and living in our neighborhoods.


And that’s what this resurrection story is about.

The story begins with Peter saying,

I’m going out to fish.

I – I’m deciding what I’m going to do.

Me first.

Or maybe, well,

I guess I just go back to being who I was,

and before I met Jesus I was a fisherman,

so that’s what I do.

But Jesus directs them to this certain catch of fish

in order to show Peter and the disciples

what the resurrection does to them

and their identity:

no Peter,

you may have to fish for a living,

but that’s not who you are anymore,

you belong to me,

you are now a son of God,

that is,

you’re in my family,

so follow me:

love like I loved you.


And that’s how the story ends.
It began with Peter deciding on his own

what he should do,

it ends with Jesus saying, you follow me,

let me lead and guide your decisions and life.

Now we are to follow Jesus in this

self-sacrificial, sharing in suffering,

willing to hurt and absorb one another’s losses

kind of love.


It all revolves around the one question Jesus asks Peter 3 times:
Do you love me?