On not stretching the text too thin

Next month I’m supposed to preach on John 21. I’m undecided as to whether I want to deal with the passage directly (the appearance of the risen Jesus in Galilee and the reinstatement of Peter) or whether to just use it as an excuse to pull out a bunch of N.T. Wright’s material on the centrality of the resurrection. Hmmmm.

What is funny is that I’ve come across a lot of studies and commentary on John 21 – most of it focusing on the three “Do you love me?” questions that Jesus asks Peter. It turns out that different combinations of Greek words are used for the six occurrences of “love” in the conversation. Entire sermons are written around this fact, trying to dredge up some hidden significance to the use and timing of “agape” and “phileo”. At one point I went back to an old go-to source from my youth, the NIV Study Bible notes. What did they have to say? The scholars there briefly point out that John seems to use the two words interchangeably and that it’s probably just part of his writing style and has no deeper meaning. Ha ha! Oh no, we can’t have that. We’ve got to be expository preachers and yack about this verse for 40 minutes! Come on! There’s got to be something else there. Errr, maybe not. Let’s stop trying to stretch the text so thin all the time.

I think my favorite verse in the passage is where Peter asks about John and Jesus tells him to mind his own business (John 21:21). I think of this verse every time Aslan tells someone in Narnia that “no one is told any story but their own”. I am certain this is the passage Lewis had in mind then.

Back to the books. Hopefully I can come up with an outline soon that isn’t too wonkish.