Good morning, Friends!
It’s been three weeks since Easter. I expect most of you all have probably moved on since then. We’re back to our daily routine. Things haven’t changed that much for us.
For Jesus’ friends though, the changes were still going on. It was still pretty fresh and new for them. They weren’t that sure what was going on. Jesus kept popping up and appearing in places they didn’t expect. They didn’t know where he’d show up next.
We’ve been reading the gospel of John together ever since New Year’s. This morning we’re going to finish it. The story didn’t end with Easter. And as we’ll see, John doesn’t think the story ends at all.
After this, Jesus appeared to his disciples again. It was by the Sea of Galilee. Here is what happened. Simon Peter and Thomas, who was also called “the Twin”, were there together. Nathanael from Cana in Galilee and the sons of Zebedee were with them. So were two other disciples.
Simon Peter told the others, “I’m going out to fish.” They said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat. That night they didn’t catch anything.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore. But the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, don’t you have any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat. There you will find some fish.” When they did, they couldn’t pull the net into the boat. There were too many fish in it.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Simon Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Peter heard that, he put his coat on. He had taken it off earlier. Then he jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat. They were towing the net full of fish. The shore was only about 100 yards away.
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals. There were fish on it. There was also some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat. He dragged the net to shore. It was full of large fish. There were 153 of them. But even with that many fish the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same thing with the fish. This was the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When Jesus and the disciples had finished eating, Jesus spoke to Simon Peter. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered. “You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
Jesus spoke to him a third time. He asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter felt bad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He answered, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. What I’m about to tell you is true. When you were younger, you dressed yourself. You went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands. Someone else will dress you. Someone else will lead you where you do not want to go.”
Jesus said this to point out how Peter would die. His death would bring glory to God.
Then Jesus said, “Follow me!”
Peter turned around. He saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following them. He was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper. He had said, “Lord, who is going to hand you over to your enemies?”
When Peter saw that disciple, he asked, “Lord, what will happen to him?”
Jesus answered, “Suppose I want him to remain alive until I return. What does that matter to you? You must follow me.”
Because of what Jesus said, a false report spread among the believers. The story was told that the disciple Jesus loved wouldn’t die. But Jesus did not say he would not die. He only said, “Suppose I want him to remain alive until I return. What does that matter to you?”
This is the disciple who is a witness about these things. He also wrote them down. We know that what he says is true.
Jesus also did many other things. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world wouldn’t have room for the books that would be written.
– John 21:1-24
On the surface, this seems like a pretty simple story. And in a way, it is.
It doesn’t say exactly when it happened. Probably a few days or a few weeks after Easter. They’d all gone back home, and they were working at their regular jobs again. And then Jesus shows up.
It was early one morning, probably sometime about dawn. They were out in the boat, tired after a whole night’s work. They’d spent all night out fishing, and hadn’t caught a thing. Not one blessed fish. Nada.
Jesus came along, and he stood down at the shore. He called out to them. “Catching any?”
They hollered back, “No, not a thing!”
Jesus said, “You’re throwing your net on the wrong side! Try throwing your net the other way! Throw it on the other side!”
I can just imagine what the guys in the boat said to each other. “What does he know? Who does he think he is? Dummy. Doesn’t know a thing about fishing!”
You know, there’s a little irony going on here. I mean, who knows more about everything – them or Jesus?
Actually, come to that, who knows more today – us or Jesus? This is one of those stories where the border between us and them, between then and now, the border is just a little fuzzy. Just a little porous. Some of what’s going on here in the story kind of leaks through to us, doesn’t it?
That business of “throwing the net on the other side” might just as well apply to us, as well. I certainly get tired of reaching out and trying to bring new people into the church. We all get tired of trying to keep things going, with fewer and fewer people to help.
Jesus told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat. Maybe we need to throw our net in a different place, or try catching people in a different way. We may need to listen to Jesus more. We’re all nice people and we work hard, but might could be Jesus knows more about catching fish than we do. Or catching people, too.
That’s lesson #1 from this morning’s gospel. Jesus knows more all this than we do. Maybe we need to listen to him. Don’t focus on whatever we’ve done that hasn’t been productive. Listen to Jesus telling us where to throw the net.
The net came up, and it was sagging full. There were so many fish, the net was about to break. It was so heavy they couldn’t haul it. Talk about succeeding!
The disciple Jesus loved – we don’t know his name. Some people think it might have been John, who wrote down the gospel – he was the one who figured it out first. He said, “It’s the Lord!”
You know, maybe every church needs somebody with the gift of recognition. We need people who can say, “This is Jesus here!”
We tend to go on, from one ordinary thing to another. We don’t stop and recognize when Jesus is present among us. We’re so used to the ordinary, we don’t even think that Jesus might be right here. We need people in this church, who have the special gift or ability to call us to a stop and make us see Jesus.
Peter heard that, and he jumped right into the water and headed for shore. That was Peter’s special gift – the gift of faith, the gift of getting out of the boat. Peter could be impulsive, but when he heard that it was Jesus, there was nobody going to hold him back. We need people like that here, too.
The other guys followed Peter with the boat. They weren’t too far off – about a hundred yards off shore. When they got there, Jesus had a fire going, and food all fixed and ready.
Some people wonder what it’s going to be like when Jesus welcomes us. A great banquet in a gold fellowship hall, some people say. A table spread out, with our defeated enemies looking on, says one of the Psalms.
I like to think that when we come home, it’ll be like a picnic down at the lake. Jesus will be there to welcome us. Won’t be any need to apologize for anything.No questions asked. Just, “Welcome home!” I think that’s what heaven’s like.
When breakfast was over, and everyone was full and comfortable, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Peter said, “You know I do, Lord.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Jesus asked him the same thing, a second time. Then a third time.
What’s going on, is that Peter is being set up for leadership. If we love Jesus, our job is going to be to feed and care for the all the people who Jesus loves. “Love me, love my sheep.” It’s pretty straightforward.
There’s no such thing as loving Jesus, and not loving our fellow human beings. It just doesn’t work that way. Jesus says so. Loving Jesus means loving the least of Jesus’ sisters and brothers. It means forgiving. It means sharing. It means caring. That’s the way it works. And we all know that.
The other thing that’s interesting is that Jesus asks Peter three times. “Do you love me?” Three times. I’ve got an idea about that
Do you remember, right before Easter, Peter told Jesus that he’d always be his friend, and swore that he would never abandon Jesus?
And Jesus told Peter, “I tell you, before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you’re going to deny you even know me. Three times.
That’s what happened. Jesus was arrested, and Peter followed along down to the courthouse. People there asked Peter if he was one of Jesus’ disciples, and Peter said, “Nope! Not me! Don’t even know the guy!” Three times.
So much for courage and friendship.
But here, today, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. In a way, this is Jesus forgiving Peter, giving him a chance to be friends again. Each one of the three repetitions undoes one of Peter’s denials. It’s like the rehabilitiation.
And you know, it’s like that for us, too. Jesus doesn’t ask us if we’ve denied him. Jesus doesn’t accuse us of failure. Jesus simply asks, “Do you love me?” and it’s forgiven.
Oh, yes, there’s something we need to do – if we love Jesus, he says, “Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep.”
Jesus also tells Peter that following him is going to be painful. Legend says that Peter died on a cross, too, in the city of Rome. I’ve been to the place where they think Peter died. Stood right there, and thought about him. He died in front of a crowd. I think Peter really did love Jesus, after all.
I love the whole gospel of John. Some people call John the Quaker gospel. But I think the thing I like best about John’s gospel, is the very end.
It says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world wouldn’t have room for all the books that would be written. . .”
It doesn’t talk about Jesus going up to heaven. It doesn’t lock Jesus away in the past. It doesn’t even say that everything Jesus did is in the Bible.
On the contrary. Jesus did lots of other things. He showed up in lots of other places. I just love that line – “If every one of them were written down, the whole world wouldn’t have room for all the books that would be written. . .”
I think we’d be one of those books. Our church would be one of those extra books. Our lives, our faith, our story.
The Bible may be finished. But the story isn’t over. It’s still going on, and we’re all a part of it. It’s up to us, to be the people in the story today.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Joshua Brown