Cleveland Prayer Group Website

Follow Me
A Sermon given by HG Dr. Mathews Mar Severios of the Indian Orthodox Church
Cleveland, Ohio, April 27, 2002

By Dr. Jacob Mathew

Today's bible reading is from John Chapter 25 verses 15-25.

I would like to read verses 15-19 and discuss a few points to ponder on these words of God.

After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others?" 
"Yes:' Peter replied, "You know I am your friend." 
"Then feed my lambs," Jesus told him.

Jesus repeated the question: "Simon, son of John, do you really love me?" "Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know I am your friend." 
"Then take care of my sheep," Jesus said.

Once more he asked him, "Simon, son of John, are you even my friend?" 
Peter was grieved at the way Jesus asked the question this third time. "Lord, you know my heart; you know I am," he said. 
Jesus said, "Then feed my little sheep.

"When you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will direct you and take you where you don't want to go."

Jesus said this to let him know what kind of death he would die to glorify God. Then Jesus told him, "Follow me."

John 25:15-19. The Living Bible

What Jesus is doing here is to establish and strengthen the faith of Peter and to get him ready to face the trials and tribulations that lie ahead of him.

This happened at the third time Jesus appeared after his resurrection. The events leading to the crucifixion had been hard on the disciples especially to Peter. He had denied Jesus three times when Jesus was captured. The same Peter who proclaimed to Jesus earlier that he will never abandon Jesus even if he has to die, rejected him three times before the rooster crowed three times as Jesus predicted. Jesus knew that the mental agony that is facing the disciples had to be corrected and won over. For every time Peter had denied him earlier, Jesus asked him, "Simon Peter, do you love me?" And each time Peter answered, "Yes."

Jesus had to establish the foundation of faith after His resurrection. Bible scholars suggest that this was the reason He repeated the question three times.

Resurrection and the appearance of Jesus are tokens or symbolisms of our own resurrection and admission into the kingdom of God.

Earlier Jesus said that those who believe in Him will not die, but will have everlasting life. It does not mean that they will not "die" as we know of death. There will be a temporal or physical death. But then we will have a resurrection. Jesus explained to us the reality of resurrection and the manner of resurrection.

Jesus said: "Those who eat my bread and drink my wine will not die. He will resurrect with me."
The manner in which our resurrection will take place was explained in Philippians 3:21.

When he comes back, he will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer all else everywhere. Phil. 3:21

Our bodies will be transformed to be in conformity with the body of Jesus Christ.

We were born with a great body. Unfortunately, we have destroyed our bodies with our sins. Our bodies have been sentenced to death because of our sins and mistakes. So, in order to have everlasting life, our bodies need to be transformed by Jesus at our resurrection. That is the victory of death.

This is a good time to contemplate the difference between the old and the new testaments on what happens to us when we die.

Both old testament and new testaments state that we are made of dust (soil) and we will become dust after our death. But, new testament gives us a new promise. Corinthians chapter 15 describes this promise and explains how that happens. The key is verse 53.

All the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too. For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever. (1 Cor. 15:52-53)

35 But someone may ask, "How will the dead be brought back to life again? What kind of bodies will they have? 36 What a foolish question! You will find the answer in your own garden! When you put a seed into the ground it doesn't prow into a plant unless it "dies" first. 3 And when the green shoot comes up out of the seed, it is very different from the seed you first planted. For all you put into the ground is a dry little seed of wheat, or whatever it is you are planting, 38 then God gives it a beautiful new body-just the kind he wants it to have; a different kind of plant grows from each kind of seed. 39 And just as there are different kinds of seeds and plants, so also there are different kinds of flesh. Humans, animals, fish, and birds are all different.

40 The angels in heaven have bodies far different from ours, and the beauty and the glory of their bodies is different from the beauty and the glory of ours. 41 The sun has one kind of glory while the moon and stars have another kind. And the stars differ from each other in their beauty and brightness.

42 In the same way, our earthly bodies which die and decay are different from the bodies we shall have when we come back to life again, for they will never die. 43 The bodies we have now embarrass us for they become sick and die; but they will be full of glory when we come back to life again. Yes, they are weak, dying bodies now, but when we live again they will be full of strength. 44 They are just human bodies at death, but when they come back to life they will be superhuman bodies. For just as there are natural, human bodies, there are also supernatural, spiritual bodies. 
45 The Scriptures tell us that the first man, Adam, was given a natural, human body" but Christ is more than that, for he was life-giving Spirit.

46 First, then, we have these human bodies and later on God gives us spiritual, heavenly bodies. 47 Adam was made from the dust of the earth, but Christ came from heaven above. 48 Every human being has a body just like Adam's, made of dust, but all who become Christ's will have the same kind of body as his-a body from heaven. 49 Just as each of us now has a body like Adam's, so we shall some day have a body like Christ's.

So I tell you this, my brothers: an earthly body made of flesh and blood cannot get into God's kingdom. These perishable bodies of ours are not the right kind to live forever. 51 But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies! It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too. 53 For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.

54 When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true. Death is swallowed up in victory."

56 O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? For sin-the sting that causes death-will all be gone; and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge.

57 How we thank God for all of this! It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!

58 So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.

Corinthians 15: 35-58

New Testament promises that those who are with Jesus, will have their bodies transformed into a new being; and we will taste the victory over death.

Our bodies are more complex than that of animals. We are created in the image of God. We are spiritual beings - the animals are not. We are eligible for transformation after our death. This means that we have to keep our bodies holy. Our bodies are there to rejoice and glorify the God according to 1 Corinthians 6:20.

For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because he owns it. 1 Cor. 6:20

This brings back to us on the price God paid to "buy" us. The scripture says that God is Love. Even though we do not love God, He loves us.

We may depart from God; but He will never abandon or forsake us.

God's love has no limits. It is to be experienced; we cannot describe it.

The fact that God loves us does not mean that He cannot punish us. Every father who loves his child will punish the child when the child makes a mistake. This punishment is aimed at correcting the error and to point out that it is wrong. The punishment is a sign that the person cares for the child or one who is being punished. For example, when we walk down the street and see someone doing a bad deed, we will just pass. We don't care. But if that person means something to us, we will stop over and advice the person that wheat he is doing is not right. This is what God does too.
God only punishes us because He loves us.

Like the prodigal son, we can always go back to the God, our father.

We need to experience the true love of God.

It is different than the love of our parents or our love to our children.

The love of God has no limits; it is endless.

How can we dare do things that hurt our God, who loves so much?

Jesus told Peter, "Follow me!" 

Jesus said the same thing to Peter once before. The venue is the same: the Sea of Galilee. 
At the beginning of the ministry, Jesus passes by Peter who was busy fixing the fishing net. Jesus told him, "Follow me." Peter left everything and flowed him. Peter never left Jesus from that day on till at the court of Pilate. There he left Jesus and quit following Him. He lost his faith.

Jesus recognized that.

For Jesus, it was very important to re-establish that faith of Peter.

Now, after the resurrection, Jesus meets Peter and others at the same place, working on their fishing nets.

There is one thing different this time though. Jesus, does not simply ask Peter to follow him like he did three years ago. He asks him three times whether Peter loves Jesus. After making sure that Peter's faith has been reestablished, now Jesus asks Peter to follow Him.

The first time Jesus asked Peter to follow Him, Peter did not know the ramifications of following Him. But now Peter knows it very well. He had seen what Jesus had undergone. He barely escaped getting caught with Jesus; he barely escaped by denying Him. And Jesus himself had warned them earlier what it means to follow him. It is not going to be a pleasant experience in the short term. For example, in Mark 8:34-35, Jesus warned them:

"If any of you wants to be my follower," he told them, "you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throwaway their lives for my sake will ever know what it means to really live. Mark 8:34-35

In order to follow Jesus, one has to be willing to accept the cross and everything that comes with it. Peter could not do that earlier. When it got rough he ran after denying Jesus.

Jesus wants to make sure that this time Peter knows that what he is taking on. After asking him three times and getting an affirmative answer, Jesus now asks Peter to follow Him again. Peter should know that this means he should be willing to accept the consequences.

Bible tells us the consequences. Peter had to undergo numerous trials and tribulations. He stood his ground. Finally, he was caught and jailed. An angel appeared to him at night. Peter escapes from the jail. He is running to the harbor at the hope of getting into a ship and escape from death. On the way, Jesus appears to him in the middle of the road.

"Where are you going?," Jesus asks Peter. Peter confided to Jesus that he is running away from crucifixion. Jesus started walking towards the prison Peter escaped from.

"My lord, where are you going?," Peter asked Jesus.

Jesus answered that He is going to Rome to be crucified a second time, instead of Peter.

"I am going to die a second time for you; because you are not willing to die for me once!"

Peter cannot Jesus to do that. He realized what he had to do. He returned to Rome; to the prison and accepted martyrdom.

So following Jesus is not easy. We should be willing to accept the consequences. But the rewards certainly are worth the troubles. Jesus promises that if we follow Him, we will never die; we will be transformed. We will have eternal life. And Jesus made one another promise:

"Don't be afraid. I will never forsake you."

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