Recently I went to a motorcycle rally near Savannah Tennessee to minister.  There were over 400 in attendance, and during the event I got to speak with many , if not most of them, and then did the Sunday morning devotional service before everyone started home. It’s surprising how easy it is to tell people about Jesus if we just take the time to listen to people first.  In just 5 minutes of really listening, you can learn what someone is like, their needs, who or what they love, and where they stand with God. Why did I go?  Well, if you like to fish, you go to the water, right? I like being a fisher of men, so therefore, I go where they gather.  Of course, I like motorcycles too, so that gives me a common bond with motorcyclists, and therefore a fishing spot.

     Using whatever tool is at hand, in this case a motorcycle, I strike up a conversation with someone.  Then I listen. After a while, I tell them that in 1993 I was diagnosed with 5 melanomas and liver cancer and was given about a month to live. Of course, their response is, you’re still alive.  Then I tell them about God’s tender mercies. Simple, huh?  Each of us have our own story of how God has been good to us if we think about it. There’s not a one of us who doesn’t.

     Any Grandma is eager to show her grandkid’s pictures to anyone who will look. Why? Because she just loves those kids. Shouldn’t we love Jesus enough to share Him with others? I can’t think of any easier way to do that, than to tell people about His tender mercies. 

    Psalm 145:8-9 say, “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works.”  Face it, friends, if it weren’t for the tender mercies of God, we might all be crispy critters like they were in Sodom and Gomorrah.  God could have said, If they want to be saved, that’s fine, but I’m not getting involved.  Let them find their own way.  They got themselves into this mess, they can get themselves out.”  But He didn’t, did He?  No.  Wouldn’t it have been easier for Jesus just to stay in heaven with His Father?   I mean, who gets up in the morning and says, Well, Dad, I’m going to the cross for a bunch of jerks today so they can join us in heaven.  But Jesus did.  For YOU and ME.  Why? Because of His tender mercies.

    In Matthew 16:13-19 it is written, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the son of man am?  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.   Wow!  Peter’s riding high here.  He’s blessed. Heard from the Father who Jesus really is. Given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Not bad for a day’s work, right?  I can see Peter looking at that heavenly keychain, all gold and glittery.

    Now, let’s fast-forward to Matthew 26:31-34.  Then saith Jesus unto them, All of ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.  Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.  Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.   Peter said unto Him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.  Likewise also said all the disciples.

    Well, we all know the rest of the story.  When the going got tough, the tough got going….away. And just like Jesus said, Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times that night.  And the rest of His disciples jumped ship, too.  I think we’ve all made our “faith declarations”.  I have, anyway.  And then, just when we think we couldn’t get any stronger in faith, the devil turns the fire on under our little frying pan.

     Ah, yes, so you’ve been in the frying pan too?  Not just me?? 

    But notice something….Jesus didn’t ask Peter for the keys back when he failed!

Let’s face it, the disciples failed miserably, like many of us have done. Oh, we’re really not that much different.  They walked, talked, and lived with Jesus for 3 1/2 years, witnessing all the miracles He did, and even after all that, when the pressure came, they folded. Hello?  Am I speaking to anyone out there?  But there’s more mercy available than the allocated number of mess-ups.  No matter HOW much we mess up, there’s the tender mercies of God to make it right.  Let’s read on in John 21:1-17.

    After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. (James & John) Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.

    I guess after having denied Jesus three times, Peter figured he was washed up as a fisher of men. Three strikes, yer out, right?  And what about the others?  Well, they went back to fishing, too.  Even though they had twice before seen the resurrected Jesus, they still had apparently given up hope.

They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately: and that night they caught nothing.  But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

    Do you remember when Jesus said His meat was to do the Father’s will? They answered Jesus rightly….they had no meat…no hope of doing the Father’s will.  Sound like us when we mess up?

 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

    In spite of our misnakesxxxxxxmistakes, God is in the tender mercy business. Even went beyond mercy and overloaded them with a material blessing!

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.  And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.  As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.  Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, a hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

    I’d like you to notice something here.  They were in the presence of the RESURRECTED JESUS! And Peter?  All he could think of were 153 fishes.  Oh, excuse me, these were GREAT FISHES, not little bitty fishes!  Yeah, that makes a difference.  Well, anyway, Peter should have had his eyes upon Jesus, but like most of us, he had his eyes on the circumstances.  He needed tender mercy, and was about to get it.

 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.  Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jona, lovest (#25 Agapao) thou me more than these?

 These WHAT?  I can just see Jesus standing there with His arm around Peter’s shoulder as Peter stood staring at that pile of 153 GREAT FISH  But here’s the point I wish to make.  There are two Greek words that were used for “love” in these verses;  #25 “agapao” meaning God’s unconditional “agape” love, without limit or compromise, and #5368 “phileo“, which means to be a friend to, have affection for (personal attachment as a matter of sentiment or feeling), I like you. the former 25 being chiefly of the heart, and 5368 of the head.

He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (#5368 Phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

     Notice here, Peter didn’t answer with the same word Jesus spoke…..very notable. Jesus said Do you LOVE me? Peter said Yes, Jesus, I LIKE you. You’re my friend.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jona, lovest (Agapao) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (Phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

      Peter’s got to be wondering, How could Jesus still love me and want me in ministry, even after I’ve told Him I just LIKE him?

 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jona, lovest (Phileo) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (Phileo) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (Phileo) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

    Here’s the biggie that had always had me stumped before God gave me the revelation of these verses.  Why was Peter grieved the third time?  Because not only had Jesus asked him three times, but because the third time Jesus said, Simon, do you at least like me? Then feed my sheep. Peter was just being honest with Jesus.  He had bragged that he would never deny Jesus, then did it not once, but three times!  He wasn’t about to make that mistake again.  He was saying to Jesus, Hey, I’d like to tell you I love You unconditionally.  I thought I did, but I don’t.  This is all I have to offer you, Jesus.  I’m fond of you, I’ll do the best I can, you’re my friend.  And Jesus was saying, I know you don’t love me like I love YOU, but I’ll take what you are offering me, and I’ll give you MY unconditional love.  Get back to the ministry I called you to. You’re fishing for fish. That’s not your job anymore.  I called you to be a fisher of men.  Go to work, Peter. You’re forgiven.  You’re restored. You always were forgiven.

    Now, my friend, we’ve all failed God, and messed up.  Sinned, if you will.  Even if you’ve denied Jesus like Peter did, Jesus forgives you.  His shed blood restored you to Sonship (or Daughtership, whichever applies).  There’s no more reason for you to be feeling like God doesn’t love you, or can’t use you.  He does, and He can.   And He will use you if you’ll just accept His forgiveness.  His tender mercies are real, and they are for YOU!!!