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Joh 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

                                                              Lovest thou Me?

Sept. 8, 2006                                                                                     Kathleen Maples

The disciples had experienced an amazing three and a half years. They had walked and lived with Jesus. They watched Him deal mercifully with the hungry, never scorning them for their condition. They saw Him heal the sick, raise the dead, put the religious crowd in their place with expertise never seen before. They had seen Him reach out to the children, the elderly, the oppressed, the possessed, and they'd watched Him command the unclean the spirits. They had themselves been given authority to do some things, to heal the sick, the cast out devils, to preach the gospel. They had experienced the provision of the Master, they'd fed on His wisdom, they'd seen Him persecuted, and watched Him stand strong. They had seen the Lord walk on water and command the wind and waves to be still and watched in awe as everything in the storm stilled. They saw Him heal leprosy, reaching out to touch the untouchable. He would reach out to the outcasts of society, and heal them of their infirmities. They saw Him feed thousands with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. Three of them saw Him transfigured, and visited from on High. They saw Him raise Lazarus, the widow's son in Nain, Jairus' daughter. They saw Him turn water into wine. They saw Him set a man free that had lived in the tombs for years, tormented, and possessed with many spirits. They saw Him have mercy on an outsider, the Syrophonecian woman, and with His word, He rewarded her faith and persistence and humility and her daughter was delivered, sight unseen from the devils vexing her. They watched another outsider, a Roman Centurion, receive deliverance for his servant from the Master, because the man believed. They saw the Lord's reaction to that kind of faith, they witnessed His mistreatment by the Pharisees and Saducees. They saw Him cleanse the temple, in outrage over the condition of the people there, the carnality and merchandising and materialism that had entered what was supposed to be a house of prayer, and worship. The disciples saw His love and affection and acceptance for and of the children, the littlest members of society. They heard His instruction and for 3 and a half years watched Him perform miracle after miracle. They saw the Lord do things no man could do. They watched the wisdom of His words shut the mouth of the religous crowd. They saw Him open blinded eyes, straighten withered limbs, heal the lame, the deaf, and dumb. They saw everything that came to oppose Him fail. They saw everything that tried to trip up the Son of God fail. Repeatedly, He warned them He would be handed over to death, to the very crowd who'd tried for so long to get at Him, and Jesus warned His disciples what would happen ahead of time. He told them before it happened that He would be betrayed, delivered into the hands of sinners, and crucified. He also told them He would not stay dead, that He would come back.

11 of these men had forsaken everything they had; they had left everything, and followed Him. They had staked their lives and futures on the Lord. They did not want to hear that He had to die at the hands of sinful, wicked men, suffering untold torment and torture and degradation. They could not understand such an awful revelation. As they watched the soldiers come for Him, saw Him meekly surrender, they wanted to fight, to protect and defend Him. That hasn't changed for us today, when we see the Son of God attacked by society, by wicked unbelievers who scoff at His Gospel, and His Truth, we want to lash out at them, as many did in Alabama a few years ago when they removed the stone statue of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse there. These folks were wounded at the insult to our Lord, at the rejection of His precious Word. There were vigils, and prayer, and protests, to no avail. We must be careful to understand the enemy will use situations like this to try to provoke us into reacting in wrath because he knows the Scripture is true and the wrath of man worketh NOT the righteousness of God. (Jam_1:20)If the enemy can provoke us to anger, most likely we will say or do something we will regret-and it won't be very Christ-like.

The disciples watched the Lord be led away, they scattered, panicked, afraid, confused and suddenly not sure of anything anymore. They didn't see the whole picture, like we can now. They hadn't been able to understand and even though the Lord warned them to let His saying sink into their ears-they couldn't receive His words about His impending death. They did not want to hear the Lord had to die. They didn't understand it, and the thought hurt their hearts, and they didn't want to believe it.

They watched in agony as Everything they believed in, Everything they had hoped in, trusted in, and followed was beaten, led to a cross and nailed to it, a bloody mess. They saw the people taunt the Lord from the foot of the cross, unable to allow Him a brief moment of dignity or peace. They watched Him die. They watched His body placed, dead, in a tomb, and a great stone rolled in place to prevent anyone from stealing His body, and guards posted to watch. For those 3 days they suffered all kinds of misery, confusion, and torment of the heart and mind. I believe they were shamed by their failures, by their fear and desertion of Him. They were stunned I think, by the fierce hatred and scorn heaped on the Son of God by the crowd-that mob mentality that was so evident when Pilate brought Jesus out before the crowd, seeking to spare Him. But the crowd was malicious and merciless, demanding He die. The disciples were horrified at this, disbelieving. They had watched the Son of God do nothing but good to the people for these past 3 years, and how could it be that society would turn so viciously on Him-Him who had never hurt or injured or mistreated anyone. Their hearts were broken, and grieved by what was happening to the Lord right before their eyes and they were helpless to prevent this outrage. When He died, they fled, they hid behind locked doors, frightened, and worried the same Jews who insisted the Lord die, would come after them. But then came that third day, blessed be the name of the Lord!

Their world is shattered, their hopes seemingly gone. And here comes the Lord on the scene, appearing in their midst, and what does He say? "Peace be unto you." Imagine their surprise...can you see their stunned faces as they look, and behold the One they grieved for stood before them, triumphant, glorified and resurrected, fresh from His Father's throne where He had taken His sacrifice and placed it on the altar of God for all of our sakes! Hallelujah!!!! Oh, thank you sweet Jesus...

They were glad, they were amazed and astounded. He spends some time talking to them, explaining some things to them, he told them and showed them many things, most of which are not written in the Scriptures for us to read. He encouraged them to have faith, and he commissioned them to go and preach the Gospel. He told them He gave them authority to do so, and to tread on the old serpent. When he left them, perhaps their emotions were just exhausted. They had experienced so much in such a short time, and their minds were still troubled. They knew they could not face the kind of treatment and pressure the Lord had endured in Gethsemane, in Pilate's hall, and on Golgotha. I believe they considered everything they had learned, and seen, and looked inside themselves and saw they were bankrupt of resources to endure such testing times. I believe discouragement, the knowledge they were not strong enough to stand such knowledge as the hatred of their own people, their own teachers, and lawyers, for the Word made flesh....they had watched Him die, and now here He was again, alive. Surely they felt overwhelmed, uncertain, battled unbelief, and confusion.

They had seen everything they'd ever been taught throughout their whole lives had been completely misrepresented by a religious crowd who didn't even know the One they were supposed to minister to and teach the people about. I belive they were overwhelmed in their hearts and minds, and discouraged, walked away. Peter led them back, surely feeling defeated, empty, unable to cope with everything that happened. I believe he felt he was in over his head, and knew he didn't have in himself what it would take to face all this. So what does he do? Disillusioned, perhaps, discouraged, probably, and he goes back, seeking comfort in the familiar.

"I go a fishing." he says, in Joh_21:3. The others probably felt just as discouraged and confused, as he did, and quickly followed him. They went fishing, but couldn't catch anything. It wasn't the same as it was before. The satisfaction in casting the nets, feeling the spray of the sea on their skin, the sound of the waves, the smell of the sea, the creak and groan of the boat on the water, none of it satisfied or soothed their troubled hearts as they had hoped. They sat out their on that lake all night, and found nothing. They caught nothing. There was no comfort in the familiar things anymore. Nothing was the same, and everything felt out of whack. 

Then, the morning came. The sky lit up, and Jesus was standing there, waiting, on the shore, a distance away. He calls out to them, knowing they are hungry, and tired, and discouraged. And he doesn't rail on them for what they have done. He doesn't accuse them of betrayal, he just asks them a question. Have you anything to eat? Have you found anything that satisfies you back here? No, nothing. Then he said, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find." ( Joh_21:6) And when they did, there were so many fish that came into the net they could not handle it. Then they knew it was the Lord. They could not get to Him fast enough. He had prepared them something to eat, He had a fire going, and fish laid on it, cooking. And He says some of the most beautiful words I have ever read in this wonderful Book. "Come and Dine". He took the bread, and gave it to them, and the fish He'd prepared. I need to pause just a minute and consider this...carefully... for these folks were tired, weary, discouraged, confused, they had failed Him, they had gone back to the things of the world that they were familiar with instead of what they were called to do. He had appeared twice to them, and what does He do now? He prepares them a meal to eat. He says come and dine. Come regain your strength. What mercy...what love. This was the third time they'd seen Him since He rose from the dead.

Joh 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jona, 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.

They had come so far with the Lord, they had seen so much, they had left behind everything, only to watch all their hopes and misconceptions die. They had never fully understood the plan of the Lord. I believe He was reaching with His words into the very heart of Peter. Do you love Me enough to leave everything you have known before, to step out in faith into a way you have never been, a life you never knew was possible, to trust that I am your provision, that I will meet your every need, I will provide the needy, all you have to do is minister what I give you to them. I will give you the Bread to feed them. All you have to do is be a willing vessel. Follow Me. Let Me guide you. It's not about your methods of catching the fish-that won't work. You have to do it MY way. You have to let ME bring the fish to you, just like I brought the animals to the ark so Noah could feed them, I'll send them to you in need and you help them. You seek ME for the Bread to feed those I will bring to you. I'll draw them, I'll prepare the food, all you have to do is work with Me, and minister what I give you to the people. Do you love Me enough to do that? To trust Me with everything, and go where I'm going to send you? The lambs and and the sheep eat different food, there is a difference, so feed the sheep, feed the lambs, only that which I will give you. If you love Me, you will feed those I send you the Bread of Life as you get it from ME.

Joh 21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jona, 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.

Joh 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

He was telling Peter of his death, but I know He was also talking about how Peter's dependence on his own flesh had to die, and he had to trust the absolute and total leadership and provision of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was beyond Peter's comprehension at the time as to how this would be achieved. I can imagine Peter thinking, me, a fisher of men- how can I possibly do this? I can imagine the wild thoughts racing madly through Peter's mind, ME, Lord? You want ME to do this? After I denied you, after I ran in fear and left you there? After I made such a complete mess of everything, and cursed and swore I didn't know you? You want ME to do this? How can I possibly do this? How could you want me to? I'm not worthy, Lord! I failed you time, and time again. Look what a mess I made of everything...!!But the Lord knew how it was going to be worked out and handled. He just said "Follow Me." But then, Peter starts questioning about the others..what about them? Oh, we just need to concern ourselves with what the Lord says to us, follow Me...

Joh 21:21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Joh 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

John couldn't have known that the Lord already had it in His heart to one day give him a complete revelation of who He is on Patmos. We have to look to HIM for everything. He is the Resource of His people. He is the Life, the Way, and the Truth. How hard that is to comprehend. How hard it is to stop depending on our flesh to do everything. We are raised to depend on ourself and taught to have pride in ourselves by society and He has to strip all that away. It's a spiritual circumcision-this stripping away of our self-confidence, pride, and tendency to look to self and flesh for resources and ideas. It is a painful, but necessary process. Our flesh and our carnal mind will always let us down. They were told in Acts 1:4 to "wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me."

Act 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

That word "power" is dunamis, in the Greek. It means "force, ability, abundance, strength, violence, mighty work, miraculous power. They were in the upper room in one accord. They weren't arguing, striving or contending with one another any more for who would get the best seat in heaven. They weren't arguing about who was going to be the greatest any longer. They weren't showing respect of persons any longer. They weren't holding grudges against one another. The pride and self sufficiency was gone. They had all come to realize they could not do what the Lord had called them to do unless He empowered them and they didn't understand how He would do so, they just obeyed and went to the upper room and waited and prayed, in unity. It doesn't say this, and it's speculation on my part, but I wonder if as they were praying, they didn't remember what the Lord had taught them about prayer. How he'd taught them to recognize their help came from the Father who was in heaven. This name was holy, hallowed. That He would provide their daily bread, all the provision they needed. That He expected them to forgive others, so He could forgive them. How they could ask not to be led into temptation and to be delivered from evil, with the understanding it was His kingdom, His power, and His glory they were partakers of. I wonder if they were praying "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in me as it is in heaven" when the Holy Ghost came...

Heb 10:36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

Heb 10:37 For yet, a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.

This is what we need as children of God-a fresh and full infilling of the Holy Ghost. I believe we must empty ourselves of our own ideas, thoughts-and I mean carnal thoughts, I don't mean go to prayer with a blank mind and just sit there-that is dangerous. I believe we must desire His will, and His way above our own. We must be hungry to be filled. We need Him. There are things coming upon the face of this earth and we will not stand ifall we have is our own carnal ideas and the mistaken impression that we in our own strength can withstand the days ahead. Things got very unpleasant and very demanding and very trying on the children of Israel in Egypt before they cried out to God to be delivered. I believe things in this nation will get very hard for the children of God-and this is designed I believe, and I might be wrong, but I believe it is the express purpose these troubles and very hard times ahead will be allowed and designed to produce that cry for the Bridegroom to come. How many of us today would gladly leave our comfortable homes, our comfortable lives to go be with the Lord? How many of us today are so satisfied with the way our lives are going now, that we want to have time to enjoy ourselves before He comes? I want eternity ever before my eyes. There are souls out there on the brink of the abyss, souls our Lord loves and created, and wants to reach. We have an enemy that fights us when we try to pray, when we try to read our Bibles, when we try to do what is right, our flesh fights us. There is a pull and drawing of the world that adds to the war inside the child of God. The Spirit of God inside the saint of God is drawing with an upward pull. The flesh and the carnal mind is drawing with a downward pull. My God in Heaven, cut the cords that would hold me and your people here, earth bound. Help us truly set our sights and hearts and hopes and faith on things above, where Christ is seated in heavenly places, at the right hand of GOD Almighty, help us to determine not to trade off Heaven for the rubbish of this world. The best this world has to offer is worse than garbage when it is compared with that glorious city of God. Nobody cuts up children there. Nobody abuses the innocent and throws them away like trash up there. God's children don't argue with Him and tell Him they wish they weren't His children up there. There is no rebellion, no hate, no malice, no cancer, no death, no separation up there. There is no darkness, no devil, no danger, no emptiness or depression up there. MY Lord, My God, why would we want to stay here? I hate the kind of world my children are growing up in. It's getting to where I can't hardly stand to pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV and watch the news. The commercials are even sensual, and will drag you down. You can't keep your mind pure watching TV-you can't keep it on spiritual things. Our Father's commandments are broken repeatedly on that box. Sin is gloried in. Children are so impressed with the appearance of things-Oh God, wean us from the things of this world, help us not to be so comfortable. I want that Holy Ghost conviction of my sins. I want to bring myself to your presence, before your throne, for a garment inspection. I want the wrinkles and the spots and the blemishes taken care of and removed now. Lord, help us as your people present ourselves to you, and help us not to bow before the things of this world, our flesh, or our carnal minds. Help us to know it if and when we are...and forgive us....

Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Col 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

I just have a question-for myself....if Christ is not my life now, when He shall appear will I even know Him? Or will I be ashamed at His coming? If He is not my life now, if His ways, and thoughts and love and compassion which He has freely offered to any who would take it, just receive it, seek it first, He said (Mat 6:33) Ask and receive, Seek and find, knock and it shall be opened, so I have no excuse except apathy and unconcern if I'm not receiving and finding. If I am not walking in HIM, and HIM walking in ME and reaching out to others, outside my little comfort zone, smashing my carnal thinking, and the cringing of my flesh to smithereens, then I have to question who is truly on the throne of my heart? Self or Christ? This awesome Christ-consider this:

Mat 8:2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

Mat 8:3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Can you imagine the horror of having this disease? Being unable to live with your family, being cast out of the city, having to constantly murmur "unclean" if others passed you by to warn them to keep their distance from you? It doesn't say how long this man had been a leper but Christ reached out and touched him, unafraid. I can't imagine the depths of love and compassion in our Savior's eyes as He reached out to this man and touched the untouchable. He loves the unlovable. He wants to draw those who aren't accepted or thought much of by this world. I want to love what He loves and hate what He hates and know the difference. When I read His precious Holy Word, I want to bow my heart before His Word, because it is LIFE to the believer, and receive it with meekness, embrace it with passion and let it crowd out the flesh and carnality that would destroy me. His Word is the Final Authority. To do all these things we must have the Holy Ghost reigning and ruling in us, given free course. We will not stand what is coming without HIM. Without Him to reveal Christ to us, to make it real to us, to teach us and guide us, we will not make it. We will fall. But HE is our strength, and He is our promise...and an ever present HELP in time of trouble.

Rom 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

2Pe 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

We have been given the promises. Let us boldly go to the throne of Grace, and find help in our hour of need. Let us passionately reach out and embrace what we have been promised. Let us pray God make it a reality in our lives, for the sake of the lost and dying world around us, and for HIS glory.

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And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32