The Trouble with Tribble's

preached @ Robin  Aylor March 2018

John 21:22 …“what is that to you? You follow me!” 

On December 29, 1967, NBC released the 44th episode of the original Star Trek series entitled: The Trouble With Tribbles. It was hailed as one of the best of all the episodes in various respects by The New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today and others. 


Here’s the plot line: In the episode, the starship Enterprise arrives at Deep Space Station K7 to guard a consignment of grain and deliver it to a starving planet. At the space station, there is a peddler who sells these furry, purring, hungry little creatures called Tribbles as pets. They kind of look similar to a Donald Trump wig… it's true… He gives one to Uhura.  Everyone loves it except the evil Klingon spies who are at the space station. They are scared to death of it for some reason we never find out. Tribbles purr or vibrate when you pet them and there is something almost magical about the vibration waves that soothes the central nervous system. Even Spock gives in to them a little. Interestingly, the more they eat the faster they multiply. In only 3 days one tribble turns into over 1 million 700 thousand according to Spock’s calculation. They almost destroy the Enterprise clogging up the food processors and the Engine. They finally learn to quit feeding them and that colder temperatures slow their metabolism and hinder them from bearing offspring. Scotty cunningly beamed them all to the Klingon Ship… just before it went to warp. Lol!


Today we will be talking about something that wants to clog up our engine... destroy our life. Self righteous Confidence or Pride, Jealousy, Suspicion, Envy, Strife, Bitterness and Gossip… They are some of the Tribbles the disciples face in today’s message. But there are others that the Lord may bring to mind like lust, greed and hate.


Even traces of these in our heart grow and multiply… FAST!


The more we feed them and pet them the more they will eat up and devour our love and patience. They gobble down our joy and peace. The satisfaction that the Tribbles promise can bring us to the brink of destruction. They must die! We must beam them to the Cross if we are to live for Jesus.


All week I have been preaching this sermon to myself… constantly feeding and starving and beaming Tribbles to the Cross. It has been one of those weeks and I am thankful.

I would like to narrate a bit of the background of todays message. It’s about trouble with the disciples… In particular, a short timeline in Peter’s life… some inner battles with Tribbles he faced… We cannot say for certain all that went on in his heart, but we know he was a mere man and therefore can consider some possibilities as though we were in his shoes. The scripture is clear he was going through a crisis. Then we will settle into the text in John 21. 

At the last supper before Jesus went to the Cross, he told his disciples someone at the table was going to betray him. His disciples ask is it I Lord. That sounds humble right… But get this: Luke 22 says they begin disputing about which one of them would be thought of as the greatest. They had done this at least once before in Luke. It seems the disciples were feeding the Tribbles of both jealousy and pride.


Jesus had told Peter satan wanted to sift him as wheat. Peter boasted his self confidence …“Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:35) They would rather die than deny! When they came for Jesus Peter sliced off the ear of the servant of the high priest and all the disciples fee. Then Peter denied Jesus 3 times. 


So here at the end of their Rabbi’s life they all must have felt like a complete failure. Other Rabbi’s in Jesus day had followers who hung on their every words, meditated on and memorized their sayings… Even today among the Orthodox Jews this practice still continues. Tonight, these would fail their Teacher and Lord miserably! 


Cato Oil and Grease Company in Oklahoma City sent a number of us to take courses at Rose State College. A prerequisite we all had to take was Spelling. They tested us at the beginning of the course and again at the end to see how much we improved. Well… sad to say… as a whole… the class tested more poorly after afterwards than we did at the beginning. FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!


After spending years under the tutorage of their Rabbi and Lord… that may be a little bit of how the disciples felt.



Depression usually follows failing God doesn’t it? It has in my life. Matthew 26:75 says of Peter: …And he went out and wept bitterly.


Why did I do that? I said I was willing to die for him. I lied. How can I trust my own feelings.. my own words… my own heart ever again? I am a counterfeit, a fake, a fraud. Who am I really???


Have you ever ask yourself something like that? I have.


I think if I were Peter I would have gone into a deep state of depression. Yes, I would have wept like Peter and prayed to God for mercy and wondered if he could ever forgive me and if I could ever really know if my heart had found true repentance or if I would ever deny him again. 


How could I tell someone else that I was a follower of Jesus and loved him after I denied him three times in a row? 


During these difficult days, I can imagine Peter not at peace, unable to focus, cant sleep well at night, didn't want to talk much… His sinful actions kept running over and over in his mind.


He really needed to have a little talk with Jesus.

Now to John 21


It is now at least 8 days after Jesus resurrection. 


After Peter and 6 other disciples fish all night and catch no fish… Someone appears on shore calling out for them to cast out on the right side. They did and caught many fish. When they realized it was Jesus, Peter jumped in to swim a football fields length to shore. 


Thats a good lesson for me. Don't wait! Go to Jesus for his forgiveness… Spend time with Him. Delight in your Lord.


1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 


When Peter met Jesus on shore we do not know for sure how long they had for private conversation or what words were exchanged. I can imagine Peter falling on his face before the Lord asking his forgiveness. And even see the Lord holding him in his arms. Maybe Jesus said something like you help your brothers bring in the fish and let us eat together… then you and I will get that talk you have been wanting.


When the boat full of disciples and fish arrived Jesus had a fire going with fish laid on it and bread. They counted the fish and ate. They even had an amazing fish story that was true and didn’t need embellished.  

Next Jesus has a one on one, eyeball to eyeball personal conversation with Peter. 


John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.


We see Jesus asking Peter if he loved him… Remember, Peter may have been asking himself the same question over and over the last few days.


First off, Jesus was asking Peter did he love him more than what?

Do you love me more than the other disciples? Possibly... because he had said that even if all the other disciples denied him he would not. He may have thought he loved him more than them… and yet he was the one who denied Jesus. 


But I think the question for me every day is: Do you love me more than… this or that or him or her, this iPhone or this free time or this sleep or movie on tv… Do you love me more than always having to have the last word or be right or get your way… or rather anything in life?

We might also  consider how the first two times Jesus ask Peter if he loves him he uses the Greek form of the word Agape which is the highest love… a love that goes all the way, unconditional even to lay down your life for another. 


That may have been what Peter had been asking himself over and over… How can I know? I said I loved him that way but I didn’t. I ran away! I denied!


Both times Peter only responds with a Phileao type of love saying he loved him as a friend. Peter may have not known if he truly had the unconditional Agape love that persevered even unto death; that was his current crisis… but he knew he loved Jesus as a friend.


The third time Jesus switches and ask if he loves him with a Phileao love (as a friend) and he says he does. 


Again possibly Peter’s heart was condemning him… saying you don’t love Jesus with agape love. The world tells us to always trust our heart but… 1st John 3:20 says: for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.


Jesus then tells him to tend and feed his sheep, his lambs. Jesus wanted Peter to not only be a taker of the love and forgiveness he was giving… but also to be a sharer and teacher of Gods forgiveness. That’s what he wants for us.


Next this is great!!!

I think Jesus settles all the doubts Peter has had over the last few days… ever since he denied him. Its like the crescendo... a grande finale for his crisis… 


Since he may be wondering:

Do I really love Jesus? Am I a true believer? Will I really follow Christ to the end? Would I die for him if need be? Can I even trust what I say when I say I love him? 


Jesus tells Peter something amazing and liberating; he lets him know his love for Jesus his Lord will persevere to the end. Jesus continued:

18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”


Free at last!!! What a burden must have been lifted off of Peters shoulders. I do love you with Agape love Jesus!!!!! Thank You Lord!!! I will go all the way for you even to death!!! 


That may not be a freeing thought for most people telling them the would be crucified... but I think that would have cleared up any doubts Peter may have had about Gods forgiveness. He must have felt like Superman!!! He could now be a Super Christian!!! He was accepted by Jesus!!! His burden was lifted! He will die for Jesus! He will die for Jesus! Yes!!!!! 

But Peter… like us… is still associated with that old nature. Positionally right but practically a work still in progress… Lets see what happens I suppose only a few seconds later.


20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 


Watch close… there is another Tribble still alive! Remember all it takes is one for them to multiply and take over again.

Don’t be surprised that satan tempts Christians to be jealous of one another… to question their character at times… and judge their intentions? 


Satan’s goal is to set Christians against one another. That will wreck the Kingdom Mission God has placed in our heart.

21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 

Was Peter wondering in his heart… will John be beheaded? Will he be boiled in oil or burned at the steak? Or, will he live out his life in peace while I die on a cross? So what did John’s future hold?


Foxes Book of Martyrs says this about John: “From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation..."

Peter and Jesus were now good and right away… he took his eyes off of Jesus and a jealousy Tribble began purring.


That is so scary to me. 

I remember thinking if I can ever quit doubting my salvation nothing will hinder me in service to Christ. When God worked that out… I found out satan was still alive and well and I am still a work in progress.

Can you remember another time Peter quickly shifted his focus from Jesus?… he looked at the waves around him and sank.


Here he quickly shifts his focus from Jesus toward John and immediately begins to sink. 

In the last year of C S Lewis’s life when he was sick in his bed, his friend Walter Hooper stopped by to check on him. Lewis ask him why he looked so glum that day. 


The reason for Hoopers glumness was because in their neighborhood was a fierce old atheist. He was about 97 years old and went out for a brisk walk every day. Whenever he’d see Hooper he would ask if C S Lewis was still alive. Hooper would tell him that he was still quite ill. The old atheist would invariably reply “Nothing wrong with me! I’ve got a long time yet!"


Hooper told Lewis he was tempted to tell Our Lord that he thought it was monstrously unfair that The Lord should allow the naughty old atheist to seemingly go on forever while Lewis who was only 64 was so near death. He ask Lewis what he thought the Lord would say to that. Lewis said with a discouraging look “What is that to you”.

And then Hooper says tenderly, Lewis comforted him in his sorrow.

And The Gossip Tribble's do multiply. 


23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”


We have wild imaginations. We imagine false things to dwell on and gossip about. We manufacture Tribbles ourselves and like the disciples, we spread gossip.

How do we deal with the Tribbles we face everyday in life? How can they be killed? Die you Tribbles!!! How do they get beamed to the Cross of Jesus?


As a Christian we cannot feed them. They promise satisfaction but bring death! We cannot pet them and keep them happy and comfortable close to our heart. They multiply. We kill the Tribble's as we die to self… the old man day by day every day. But we cannot even do that without the help of Jesus. We must go to him daily and stay and walk with him and when we slip we must go back to him. His will is our mission now, not the world. He is our delight and joy now, not the Tribble's. 


Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.


When we sin, remember, like Peter to go to Jesus… you are forgiven! Take his joy but remember you are to take up your cross like Peter. We must die daily and follow Jesus! 


I think it is quite interesting and telling that the last words of Jesus are not the great commission. It doesn’t end with him ascending into heaven with a promise to return.


The last words which Jesus says in the Gospel of John are these: 22 …what is that to you? You follow me!” 


John must have realized these tribble's can keep us from delighting in Jesus. They can keep us from joy. They can keep us from the mission Jesus entrusted us with.


We harbor bitterness toward those who have done us wrong. We hold envy and jealousy toward those who seem to have it better than us. We are suspicious of those who look at us wrong or seem short with their words. Heck, we even get defensive when people simply disagree with us. 


We need to have a talk with Jesus everyday.


Maybe some of those divisive things are keeping you from serving Christ in your family, your job or his church. 

Or maybe the jealousy and defensiveness and bitterness are a part of who you are. They are keeping you from coming to Christ in the first place. 


God wants us to turn away from delighting in Sin and delight in Jesus and his word. Put your faith and hope in him. 


Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus had no sins to pay for like you and me since he never sinned, therefore; he alone was able to step in for you and accept the wages of your sins on the Cross. He was buried and on the third day rose to justify those who delight in him and his word. He will stand to proclaim us innocent on Judgment Day. 

Whatever is going on in your life today… whatever the Tribble that is troubling you, whatever is keeping you from delighting in God and his word... Remember Jesus last words in Johns Gospel: …what is that to you? You follow me!”