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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, February 21, 2016

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).

Please turn to John 21:15. It’s on page 1145 in the Scofield Study Bible. Please keep your Bible open there.

Jesus had risen from the dead. He saw Peter first, and then He saw the others with Peter, in a room in Jerusalem. He ate with them and opened the Scriptures to them. He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Now the Disciples went up to the Sea of Galilee. I think they were waiting to see Jesus again. Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” The others said they would go with him. It was night. They often fished at night because it was more cool. But that night they did not catch any fish.

When the sun rose the next morning they saw Jesus standing on the shore. But the Disciples did not know it was Jesus. Jesus called out to them, “Friends, have you caught any fish?” They yelled back to him, “No.” I hope you will not have to say “no” when Jesus asks you how many people you got saved while you were on earth. Sometimes we are so busy getting names to follow up on that we don’t even see how many “fish” we have gotten in the church. One of our people complained to me last week that we got very few. I read to her a list of thirty-three names of young people who have come into our church in the last few months! Thirty-three people have come in, but she didn’t seem to realize it. If 33 people all came in at once she would see it. But she didn’t because they come in one or two at a time. Here is a list of people who have come into our church in the past several months! We have to be careful that we don’t neglect the ones who come. They are very important, as we will see in a minute.

Jesus shouted back to the Disciples, “Throw your net on the right side of the ship and you will find some.” They did what He said and were not able to haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. We have to be very careful as we fish for souls. You can get so excited when you see a large number of visitors that you lose them all. You will say, “Wasn’t it great last Sunday?” But you will be disappointed the following Sunday when none of them come back! You have to be very careful to talk with them and make them feel at home or you will be like the Disciples who “were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (John 21:6).

When that happened the Apostle John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” It seems that Peter was so busy trying to haul in the fish that he didn’t see that it was Jesus calling to them from the shore. There is another lesson in that. The first lesson is to focus on the ones who come, or we will lose them all. The second lesson is that you must not be so busy getting names that you forget to focus on Jesus in prayer. Isn’t it obvious by now that without Him we can do nothing? Prayer is all-important in this work of soul-winning.

When Peter hears that the man on the beach is Jesus, he pulls on his fisherman’s coat and jumps into the sea. Peter wants to get close to Jesus as quickly as possible. Jesus had pardoned his sin, and Peter would never again deny Him. He loved Jesus and swam ashore to be with Him.

The other Disciples came in their boat dragging the net full of fish. Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you have caught.” Peter climbed into the boat and pulled the net onto the shore. It was full of 153 big fish. They saw Jesus beside a fire of burning coals with fish cooking on it, and bread.

Jesus said to them, “Come and eat!” None of the Disciples dared to ask Him who He was. They knew it was the Lord. Jesus took the bread and gave it to them. Then He gave them the fish He had cooked. This was the third time Jesus appeared to His Disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Please stand and read aloud verses 15, 16, 17.

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

You may be seated.

Why does Jesus ask him three times, “Do you love me?” It has been said that Peter denied Him three times, and now Jesus has him affirm his love for Him three times. It looks like the three questions are the same, but they are different in the Greek text.

Jesus calls him “Simon, son of Jonas.” That was his old name. Earlier Jesus renamed him Cephas, which means “rock man” in Aramaic, and Greek it is Petros – in English Peter. Here in these three questions Jesus goes back to use his old name, Simon, son of Jonas. This reminds Peter that he had not acted like a “man of rock” when he denied Jesus a few nights earlier. Jesus does not do this to shame him, but to remind Peter that he is weak and needs the Lord to make him a “man of rock.”

Then Jesus said, “Lovest thou me more than these?” – more than these other Disciples love me? Peter says, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” The word Jesus used for love was agapaō. The Greek word for friendship is phileō. But agapaō is the highest form of love. It is the word the Bible uses for the love of God, and Christian love for one another in the church. But Peter answers him with the word phileō rather than agapaō. He said to Jesus, “You know that I love you like a friend.” I think he was still embarrassed because he had denied Jesus – so he used a lesser word, “I have affection for you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Feed my baby sheep. This applies to us as well. If we truly love Jesus we will take care of the new people, the baby sheep.

Years ago we had people in our church who said they loved Jesus, but they were very mean to my two little boys. They treated my little boys very roughly in the Sunday School. I didn’t find out about it for a long time. But people will often do that to a pastor’s children. And the reason they do it is because they do not love Jesus. If they loved Jesus they would take good care of the little sheep. The assistant pastor was the Sunday School superintendent – and he and his cohorts were very mean to my boys. We should not be surprised that a cruel man like that tried to destroy our church a few years later. He did not love Jesus – which was proved by not loving the baby sheep in his Sunday School. It made me sick at heart when I found out about it later. I pray that my boys will be able to get over his cruelty. I am sure he wanted to ruin their faith. May the Lord overrule his wickedness and use it for their good instead. Jesus said to Peter, “If you love me, take care of my little lambs.” Much more wickedness is done in our Sunday Schools than people realize. That’s why I did away with it in our church. We bring the children into our church services now. Many people who work in Sunday School are not qualified to take care of the lambs. That’s one reason our churches lose over 88 percent of their children before they are 25 years old – and of course there are some other reasons, but that is one of them. I know of a person whose daughter is a prostitute. That person leads a Sunday School. Ridiculous! If she couldn’t raise her own daughter how could she help anyone else’s children?

The second time Jesus leaves out the words, “more than these.” But still Peter cannot bring himself to use the word agapaō. He still uses phileō – “Lord, you know I have affection for you.” Jesus says, “Shepherd my sheep” – take care of them. It’s not possible for a pastor to do that if the leading people in his church are not converted. In the 1960s (for two months) I was the interim pastor of a church with only two sheep in it! All the rest were goats! It was truly horrible! A nightmare! Many pastors today are trying to “teach” goats to be sheep. I was around goats and sheep as a young boy out on the desert in Arizona. I know by experience that you cannot shepherd a goat. And you can’t “teach” a goat to be a sheep either! They must be converted (epistrephō) from a goat to a sheep. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). I don’t expect people to be perfect, but they do need to be converted from goats to sheep – or pastors can never shepherd them! Jesus said, “shepherd my sheep.” In the Last Judgment, Christ will “set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left... Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:33, 41). You cannot shepherd people with goat-like natures. They must be converted – or consigned to Hell. Those are the only two options!

The third time Jesus said, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” This time Jesus used the word phileō – “Simon, do you have affection for me?” Peter was grieved because Jesus used the word for mere friendship instead of Christian love (agapaō). Peter still couldn't bring himself to use the higher word. He says, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” Jesus says to him “feed my sheep.” The older sheep need feeding too.

It is clear what Jesus meant. He had loved them. He had fed them. Now He tells them to do the same for others. Take care of them. Love them, “as I have loved you.” At the Last Supper Jesus told the Disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

Our love is not only to be shown to Christians, but even to those who are not Christians and do not love you. Christ said, “Love ye your enemies...and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

When I was a lost 13-year-old boy, Dr. and Mrs. McGowan were kind to me. They took me to church. They often fed me. They even took me with them to Disneyland, to the beach and to the mountains, and other places. I would certainly not be a pastor, not even a Christian, if they had not loved me, as Jesus told Peter to do.

When I was 19 years old I went to the Chinese Baptist church and was finally converted in a chapel service at Biola College (now University). I would never have made it if a young Chinese couple, Murphy and Lorna Lum, had not taken care of me and been kind to me. To this day, I am grateful to these two couples for shepherding me and “feeding” me when I was young and helpless.

If you love Jesus, then show that love to others – especially to those who are not yet saved. Love them! Invite them to the birthday party at church. Bring them yourself. And when they come, take care of them. “Feed my lambs.” Talk with them. Spend time with them. Take care of them. Love them before they are converted. Continue to love them after they are converted.

Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin.
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.
   (“Bring Them In” by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).

Sing it with me!

Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin.
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.

Will you help us bring in the lost sheep and take care of them? If you will help us, please come here and kneel at the altar. Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

Some of you are still not converted. I ask you to receive the love of Jesus. Though you are a sinner, Jesus loves you. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. His Blood will cleanse you from all sin. Trust Jesus and He will save you – and He will keep you saved for all time and all eternity, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for [you]” (Hebrews 7:25). Amen. You may go back to your seat now.

Mr. Griffith, please sing Dr. B. B. McKinney’s song again.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: John 21:12-17.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Lord, Lay Some Soul Upon My Heart”
(by Dr. B. B. McKinney, 1886-1952).