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Apr 07, 2013

The Path to Victory Travels through Personal Restoration

Passage: John 21:1-25

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Path to Victory

Keywords: restoration, revival, renewal, cost, confirmation, failure


It's amazing how badly flawed all 11 of the remaining disciples where. Yet Jesus chooses the biggest failure of them all (apart from Judas Iscariot), Peter, to be responsible for the feeding of his church. Restoration is costly business, but when Jesus is involved, it's always worth it. This message looks at how Jesus does that with all of us and the truth that failure is never final with Him.


The Path to Victory Travels through Personal Restoration

John 21

April 7, 2013


INTRO:  Restoration is costly business…but it’s often well worth it. We just may find that hard to believe in the middle of the restoration project.

  • Steve, our building owner here in the Pletcher Building, told me one day that the simple renovations he did here a few years ago took twice as long and cost twice as much as he anticipated.   Restoration is costly business…but it’s often worth it. 
  • The old Fox Theater:  Built during the dark days of the Depression (1930-31) at a price of $1,000,000, the Theater was the largest in Spokane, at 2300 seats. The architect was Robert Reamer, famous for his design of Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful Inn. But just 70 years later, it was slated for demolition and the property was going to be used for Spokane’s signature feature…parking lots! J

Know how much it cost to purchase just the property to save it from demolition?  $4.3 million.  Know how much it cost to renovate and restore it?   $31 million. 

      Was it worth it?  Well, if you’ve been in it since the restoration, I think you will agree it was worth every penny.  Besides its beauty, the Theater contributes to downtown Spokane and the Inland Northwest with an economic impact in excess of $16 million a year.

Restoration is costly business…but it’s often worth it. 

  • The Davenport Hotel:  some 20 years before the Fox was built, Louis Davenport was able to cobble together 100 investors and erect the Davenport Hotel for about $2 million.  After about 70 years of existence, the Davenport also declined and was finally closed in 1985.  It, too, was slated for demolition.  It would take Walt Worthy $6.5 million to buy it and another $36 million to restore it (for a total cost of almost $43million) in 2000. 

Restoration is costly business…but it’s often worth it. 


How do beautiful buildings get to the point where they need restoration?  It doesn’t happen all at once, does it?  It takes years of wear and tear, decades perhaps of neglect.  And before you know it, people are either deciding to tear the thing down or spend a lot of time and money to restore it.

But there is also something stately about many restoration projects, whether it is the local Fox or the national treasures of Williamsburg or the Statue of Liberty.  Restoration gives everyone who experiences it a new sense of appreciation for the artistry, beauty and inherent glory of past creations, eras and projects.  In a way, their former glory is enhanced by the new work of restoring something old.


In a way, the same is true for people.  It is possible to, over time, sort of take people for granted.  Everyone, no matter how wonderful they may be, fail from time to time throughout their life.  And after a while, those repeated and cumulative failures tarnish the shine of our estimation of them.  We may stop investing time and energy in the relationship.  We may drift apart and just figure that they’re never really going to escape their basic bent in life.

            But God views us so differently.  He knows that the work of restoration can bring out beauty and grace that was previously taken for granted, underappreciated or even absent.  And God never debates whether someone is worth it or not.  He’s always intent on renovation rather than demolition. 


John 21 starts by telling us the names of 7 men who were one of Jesus’ first restoration projects after his resurrection.  Let’s read John 21:1-2--Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias [Galilee].  It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.” 

            Last Sunday I gave you a quick run-down of how all the Apostles lived and/or died the life of a martyr due to the personal transformation they each experienced because of the resurrection of Jesus.  What I didn’t tell you was how amazingly human and messed up they all were prior to Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to them.  Instead of calling them “The Magnificent Seven”, I think it’s safe to label them “The Self-Absorbed Septet.”  Here’s why.

#1.  Simon Peter—he heads up the list.  Best known for his “open-mouth, insert-both-feet” style of leadership, Peter is a “recovering liar”…among other things.  He didn’t lie about just anyone.  He lied about God…and about some of THE most amazing experiences anyone has ever had with God-in-human-flesh, things like walking on water, multiplying one lunch to feed thousand and seeing the dead raised.   And he lied at the worst possible time…and he did it with oaths and swearing…in front of a crowd…in front of Jesus himself…in front of world history!  How many times since Jesus’ death do you think he replayed the tape of that night in his head?  Talk about a mess-up!


#2.  Thomas (meaning “twin”)

You could call him “Thomas the Slow Learner”…or just stick with his more enduring epitaph, “Doubting Thomas”.   While seeming to be Mr. Courageous back in John 11 when Jesus said he was going to go back to hostile Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead, Thomas affirmed he would accompany Jesus there even if he had to die too.  Later in John 14 he admits in front of everyone that he doesn’t understand or know where Jesus is going.  At least he was honest! 

            But his low-water mark in John 20 is what we saw last week.  It’s what earned him the “doubting Thomas” reputation when he refused to believe the other disciples who had seen the resurrected Jesus until he actually was invited by Jesus to put his hand into the spear wound in Jesus’ side and his fingers into the nail-holes in Jesus’ hands and feet.  Not exactly your paragon of faith!

#3.  Nathanael

 He’s virtually unknown as one of the 12 Disciples.  He only shows up in John’s Gospel, and that only in the 1st chapter.  He’s famous for his elitism and snobbery when he was first told about Jesus from Philip.  When he learned that Jesus was from Nazareth he said, “Nazareth!  Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  He ran away and deserted Jesus that night he was most needed too.


Next we have the 2 sons of Zebadee:  James and John

#4.    James--Probably the older of the two (almost always named first before John), James was 1 of the “inner core elite” 3 with whom Jesus spent most time.  It’s surmised that his daddy Zebadee was an upper crust man.  We know he owned several fishing boats and employed a number of servants to help in the business (Mk. 1:20; Lk. 5:11).  He most likely owned property in Jerusalem and hob-knobbed in the highest circles with the High Priest set of Israel.

              James, along with John, was famous for a couple of high-profile PR incidents that earned them both reputations as being loud-mouthed and arrogant.  Luke 9 records how they wanted to “call down fire from heaven” on a whole Samaritan village that wouldn’t welcome them on their way to Jerusalem.  That would have looked good in the papers the next morning!J

            Then there is Mark’s account (10:37f) of how James and John tried to weasel their way into the 2-top spots on Jesus’ Triumphant King Team by asking for the seats at Jesus’ right and left when He reigned in His glory.  Actually, they used their mother (Salome) to lobby for these appointments, probably because she might have been one of the more well-to-do women who supported Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Imagine how that endeared these 2 to the rest of the disciples! J 

#5.  John—He was most likely the younger brother of James.  He was also part of the “inside trio” (Peter, James & John).  Everything I’ve said about James applies to John—self-seeking, arrogant, brash, brown-noser, etc.

            One other thing I forgot to tell you about John and James.  They were asked by Jesus to accompany him farther into the Garden of Gethsemane during his most extreme agony that night while he cried out to God about his own suffering and for his own disciples.  They fell asleep on their watch…not once, not twice but 3 times!  Triple-failures seemed to be the norm for that night.  John bailed on Jesus that night too, though he made it as far as the courtyard of the High Priest.  He’s the only disciple actually recorded to have been at the crucifixion.


#6 & #7.  Unknown

We have no idea who these were.  What we DO KNOW is that they, too, bailed on Jesus at the most critical hour.  This class of graduates had more than their fair share of stand-outs. 


John seems to take note not only of the disciples’ triple failures; he takes pains here to show us how this is now the third time Jesus appeared to this “self-absorbed septet.” Jesus went after them with a holy love despite how they had run from him in unholy cowardice. 


Do we really grasp the kind of God we serve?  Why are we so often really not O.K. with the fact that Jesus seems to specialize in choosing “mess-ups” and entrusting them history-shaping messages?  Unfortunately, it’s the “good people” of virtually every age who seem to have more trouble embracing their failure before God and their need of a Savior.  But “mess-ups” like James and John and Peter and Nathanael and Thomas…they got it…because they knew they didn’t have it!  They knew they were sinners who couldn’t keep their promises, who didn’t have what it took to die for someone worth dying for, who were filled with the very stuff that plagues every one of us—jealousy, pride, arrogance, selfish anger, snobbery, lying, cheating, betraying and a host of other unflattering sins.


Back to John 21.  Jesus had told them that they should go to Galilee and he would meet them there.  So here they are, apparently just hanging out…waiting.  [Read Jn. 21:3-14.]

            You get the sense from the narrative in John 21:3 that Peter, the man of action, can’t take it any more. You can almost hear him blurting out, “That’s it!  I’m going out to fish.”  Either he was expecting a very poor catch that he could handle alone OR he was anticipating that the others would follow him, which they did.  It was probably late afternoon/evening.  They keep fishing throughout the entire night…throwing the nets, letting them sink, pulling them in, gathering them up again, and throwing them out once again.  It was tedious work.  It got you all wet.  10…20…50…150 times you would cast that same net.

            It wasn’t a “bad” catch.  It was a “horrible” catch! J  It was NO CATCH…not 1 fish!  In other words, 7 guys worked all night for a combined time investment of probably 70-100 hours for NOTHING!  No minimum wage.  No health insurance.  Nothing.

            The sky is just beginning to get a little hint of light. They are out from the shore about 100 yards, the length of a football field.  Someone on shore breaks into the silence of the morning and the emptiness of their thoughts with the one question fishermen love to hear when they’ve had a good catch…and the last one they want to hear if they haven’t:  “Don’t you have any fish, boys?”  (A question that expected a “no” answer and addressed them as “children” literally… “guys” or “boys” today.)

Don’t you hate it when you have to acknowledge all your best efforts and hard work have come up EMPTY?    


Face it, there is a lot of life that’s outside our control.  They couldn’t control where the fish would be that night…any more than we can control the weather, or the financial markets, or how people are going to treat us. 

            Sometimes Jesus has to wait for us to get to the place where we have to confront our limitations and inadequacies.  That’s actually when He works best.  Oh, we may not even recognize that it’s Jesus.  It may look or sound like some stranger on the beach.  It may feel like it’s someone who is trying to make us look even worse than we are. 

            That’s often where we need to be if we’re going to accept help and take suggestions.  Jesus told the unknowing disciples, “Do something you’ve been doing all night already.  Just change things slightly this time.  Try the right side of the boat.” 

            You can almost hear the Skunked-7 muttering to one another:  “Who’s the genius on shore?  Another loud-mouthed land-lubber.  Nah, probably your boat repo-agent, Peter.” I wonder how many more casts on the left side they made before they tried the right-side cast? J  It was undoubtedly plenty of time for Jesus to collect some firewood, start a beach fire and get some fish and bread of his own cooking! 

Then they tried following His directions.  And the catch was so big they couldn’t even get it in the boat! That was their first clue that this man on the beach was no ordinary man.  John sensed (or saw) him first.  He may have whispered to Peter, “Hey Pete.  It’s the Lord!” 

Wrong thing to say if he wanted help with their mega-catch.  Next thing everyone knows, Peter has grabbed his clothes he had taken off probably to keep dry that night and dove in with them to swim to Jesus.  Great heart, that boy Peter.  Just not great judgment all the time! J


I’ve always wondered what the conversation was like between Jesus and Peter before the rest of them got ashore.  I kind of envision something like the conversation between Aslan and Edmund in The Chronicles of Narnia when Aslan pulls him aside from everyone and has a personal talk the content of no one else ever knows.  Apparently it isn’t anything God felt we needed to be privy to.  It’s the later conversation after breakfast He wanted us to hear.


Jesus had A RESTORATION PLAN for all these guys that day…and it included their inadequacies. 

APP:  How about YOU?  Been confronted with your limitations and inadequacies lately?  Tried going back to the way things were before you met Jesus? Found that it just isn’t the same… and doesn’t satisfy? 

Jesus is the One who can bring the abundance and joy back into whatever it was you’re looking to for what you want in life.  But he won’t do it so you can just go back to “business as usual.”  He does it so you will recognize that it’s Him…and have a radical restoration experience with Him.


Sometimes Jesus lets us experience the emptiness of life apart from his involvement in it.  It’s not that he’s a long ways away.  It’s just that he doesn’t want us to forget that even what we are best at doing in life is empty unless it’s directed and connected to Him.  Maybe it’s time for you to let go of the NET and let Jesus know that getting close to him is more important to you than the best that life on the human plain has to offer.   

What have you been looking to for satisfaction in life that isn’t delivering presently?  Think about it.  Maybe God is waiting for you to recognize that everything, even the thing that means so much to you, is empty unless He fills it through His presence with you.  And even if you get all and more than what you think you want so badly, are you willing to let go of it all again in order to pursue Jesus and fellowship with Him?


In vs. 11, Jesus invites them to bring some of their catch and add it to His miraculous provision of breakfast.  What a great illustration of how Jesus works with us post-resurrection.  “You bring what you’ve labored for (which, by the way, I still enabled you to get) and add it to my provision for you and together we’ll experience life as it should be.” 

            It’s interesting that while Jesus tells “them” all to bring some of the fish they just caught, John tells us it is Peter who “went and dragged the net to land, full of large fish.”  I’m thinking the other 6 said, “Peter, you the man, Mister swim-and-skip-the-rowing part!  That job has your name written all over it, buddy.  Knock yourself out, pal!”  J  So he does.


Then we come to what looks at first like a rather painful dialogue between Peter and Jesus starting in vs. 15.  It’s about their new relationship and what Peter is to do with it and himself from here on out.  [Read 21:15-19.]

Rather than talk about the different Greek words Peter and Jesus use here for “love”, I want to focus on what it is that brings real restoration for Peter and what that tells us about how God deals with each of us after we have failed


I don’t know about you but I often wish Jesus were more of a softie.  I mean, if I were orchestrating this scene, I’d have Peter take a long walk with Jesus along the beach, away from others so he wouldn’t be embarrassed by Jesus 3 times asking him the same question, “Peter, do you love me?” 


Not Jesus.  He deals with people personally…but also in relationship with others whom we have or will affect. Public sin really calls for public restoration.  Can you imagine how Peter’s leadership in the Early Church might have been in jeopardy or at least under suspicion if Jesus hadn’t matched Peter’s 3 denials with 3 commissions to take care of God’s flock?


The reality was that all of them had failed Jesus, every one.  But Peter had certainly failed him most deeply…3 times…with oaths…despite declaring so boldly and assuredly his allegiance in advance.  So here Jesus is, taking THE BIGGEST mess-up of the remaining 11 and making sure everyone knows that he’s got God’s calling on him to be one of the pastors/shepherds of the first Church in the world—Jerusalem.  A little different from what we might have expected, no?  It’s wonderfully different from what most churches do today with fallen saints. 


I wonder.  In how many churches today would Peter not have been so quickly reinstated as a leader…if at all?  Probably too many.  Yet here, just days after THE biggest spiritual failure of his life, Peter is being commanded and called multiple times to assume a role as spiritual caretaker of God’s people.  Talk about grace! 

What’s happened to the church in 2,000 years!  There isn’t a whole lot of sin that’s much more offensive to God than denying that you ever even knew his Son Jesus, is there???


So what’s YOUR “mess-up” that you think should keep you out of serving your Savior Jesus among his people?  Anger?  Promiscuity?  Hatred of someone?  Lust?  Materialism?  A loose tongue?  Murder?  Rape?  Drunkenness?  Witchcraft?  Prostitution?  Lack of forgiveness towards someone who has hurt you deeply?  Bitterness? 

            You can try hiding behind those sins if you want.  But if you’ll really come face to face with the resurrected Jesus, you will find that there is no sin too big for him to forgive.  There is no person too sinful for him to restore.  The only way your worst sin can ever separate you from God is IF YOU LET IT…if you believe the LIE that it’s too big for God rather than believing JESUS that his death took it away…forever! 


The question is, “Who will I put my faith and trust in?  What someone else…or my own mind…or the devil says about my sin OR will I put my faith in JESUS???


Know what else is true about meeting with Jesus after you’ve messed up without him?  He doesn’t just forgive your sinful failure and restore you to fellowship.  He usually wants to use that very failure to become the foundation of a whole new chapter of helping other people. 

            The best spiritual leaders in God’s family are often those who have tasted deeply the bitterness of their own failures …AND have been humbly restored to God and his people through a fresh, restorative relationship with Jesus and His grace. 


TESTIMONY:  Over the past year or so, some of you have had the privilege of getting to know Bruce & Susan in our fellowship.  This is the second to the last Sunday they will be with us as Susan is about to be released from her work-release program and they will be living in Lewiston after ____ years of separation from each other due to Susan’s incarceration. 

I’d like to ask them to come and share with us about the renovation God has been doing with them during that time and I want us to pray for them as they again pick up the torch of serving Christ together in this world.

  • What was your life like before it all came tumbling down ____ years ago?
  • Then what happened?  (arrest, trial, conviction, prison)
  • How have you seen God working to renovate and restore your life?  What is better now?


[Pray for them.]


APP:  So what’s the past “sin” or “failure” you’re hiding behind?  Jesus wasn’t trying to beat Peter over the head time and time again with shame or guilt.  He was giving PETER the opportunity to deny his denial…to affirm his love for Jesus…more loudly and publicly than he had denied his association with Jesus when facing the threat of persecution.


Ever feel like you’ve failed Jesus terribly?  Feel like you couldn’t possibly have much to offer people now after what you’ve done?  Feel like it’s probably over for you as far as being used very significantly by God to do much of anything significant for His Kingdom? 


Then you need to meet Peter…and Jesus…and about 10 other guys Jesus really loved. 

            You need to hear Jesus ask you, “My son…my daughter…do you love me…do you love me more than these…do you truly love me?” 

            You need to press through the humiliation, the guilt and the shame to look Jesus in the face and say, “Oh, Jesus, you know all things.  You know that I love you!”  And sometimes the people near you need to hear you say that…just as you need to say it out humbly, vocally and publically.   


Then you will hear Jesus say,

“Then go and do what I’ve made you to do in my Kingdom. 

            Go and feed my sheep.

                        Go and bless my church. 

                        Go and help others who have fallen just like you. 

Go and use what you’ve learned about my grace and your weakness to build people up in Me.”