A Case of Identity

by | May 6, 2019 | Sermons

A Case of Identity

Who are we as followers of Christ? In our passage from John this morning this is the question that Jesus puts to Peter. The response is surprisingly simple. 

Feed my sheep. 

Scripture: John 21: 1-19

Jesus seems to have a way with catching fish. For a carpenter from Nazareth he always seems to know exactly where to lower the nets. It is really rather impressive. There is a lot for us to pull out of this passage. We can talk all about the fish, 153 of them, the actions of the disciples. The fact that Jesus once again invites them to join him for a meal. Just as he will do for us in a few minutes. I want to focus on the later part of the passage this morning. A passage that is often labelled the reinstatement of Peter. Afterall, Peter denies Jesus three times before he is crucified. Expect that Jesus doesn’t forgive Peter because Peter doesn’t need forgiveness from Jesus. Peter needs forgiveness from Peter. That’s an important distinction. However, it goes deeper than just the issue of forgiveness. I believe this is a passage about identity. It is wrapped up in silly antics: Peter getting dressed, only to jump into the lake. Peter swims when he was in a boat that could have sailed in. Peter running ahead of the others, when he could have travelled with company. Let’s look at the question Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Jesus asks this question. You have to imagine that by the end of it Peter is throwing his arms up in the air shouting “Yes Jesus I love you!” I actually imagine the biblical version of the scene between Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr in the movie Gerry Maguire “Show me the money!” That movie interesting enough, is all about identity. But we know by now that three times seems to be the norm. It also signifies something larger than the present issue. But why does Jesus ask Peter over and over again if he loves him? It’s all in the answers that Jesus provides back to Peter after Peter affirms his love. Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep. Loving Jesus comes with an identity shift. When Peter rejected Jesus, he rejected his identity as a follower of Jesus. This is where the words that are actually in the text have an impact and why we can’t just assume we know the story. Let’s go back to the events of Good Friday and Peter’s denial. In the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke Peter is asked if he knows Jesus. Peter replies, “I do not know the man.” Then we turn to John’s gospel. Now John’s gospel is also well known for the seven I AM statements that Jesus makes. I am the bread of life (John 6:35) I am the light of the world (John 8:12) I am the door (John 10:9) I am the good shepherd (John 10:11) I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26) I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) I am the vine (John 15:5) These are seven statements that Jesus uses to help us identify who he is and what it means to believe in him. In John’s gospel when Peter is asked the second time about Jesus, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” “I AM not” comes Peter’s reply. I AM not. Peter’s denial of Jesus is easy to understand if we take a look at it. Jesus has been arrested; things just got real. Peter is trying to figure out what all this means, for him and the other disciples. Most of us would do the same thing. When Peter denies knowing Jesus, he denies his true identity. He denies himself as a follower of Christ. The passage today isn’t about forgiveness. It isn’t about Jesus forgiving Peter. It isn’t about reinstating Peter as a disciple. It is about Jesus reminding Peter what his true identity is. An identity as a follower of Christ. Jesus doesn’t need to chastise Peter or us. We are good at laying the guilt on all by ourselves just find. Sometimes we need to focus in on what our core identity is. On Anniversary Sunday we look at our identity as a community committed to Christ. What does that mean, what does it look like? We turn to the words of Jesus: Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep. In a few minutes we will join in a simple meal of bread and wine. We will allow Jesus to feed us, a reminder of how easy it is to feed others. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This