The Third Sunday of Easter
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 21:1-19

MOST PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD AN INTENSE EXPERIENCE TEND TO REACT THE SAME WAY ONCE A LITTLE TIME HAS PASSED; THEY GO BACK TO THEIR USUAL WAY OF DOING THINGS AND TO WHAT IS FAMILIAR TO THEM. SO IT WAS WITH THE DISCIPLES. AFTER THE AWESOME EXPERIENCE OF JESUS’ APPEARANCE TO THEM IN THE LOCKED ROOM, AND THOMAS’ PROCLAMATION OF “MY LORD AND MY GOD,” THEY WERE LEFT TO WONDER WHAT TO DO NEXT. REMEMBERING THAT JESUS HAD TOLD THEM TO MEET HIM IN GALILEE, AT LEAST SEVEN OF THEM MADE THE TREK FROM JERUSALEM BACK TO THE SHORE OF THAT MOST FAMILIAR LAKE. SITTING AROUND WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN, I’M SURE BOREDOM BEGAN TO SET IN, SO EVER IMPETUOUS PETER SAID, “I’M GOING FISHING.” HE JUST HAD TO DO SOMETHING, SO HE WENT BACK TO WHAT HE KNEW, AND THE OTHERS, PROBABLY JUST AS BORED AS PETER, SAID, “WE’LL GO WITH YOU.”

THIS PASSAGE IS KNOW AS THE EPILOGUE TO THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. MOST LIKELY WRITTEN BY A HAND OTHER THAN THAT OF THE AUTHOR OF THE GOSPEL, IT DOES HAVE THE FEEL OF A REMEMBRANCE OF THE DISCIPLE JOHN, AND FILLS US IN AS TO WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THOMAS’ CONFESSION IN THE LOCKED ROOM AND BEFORE THE EVENTS OF THE DAY OF PENTECOST.

THEY WENT BACK TO DOING THE MUNDANE THINGS THEY USED TO DO TO EARN THEIR LIVING, YET THESE EXPERT FISHERMEN WORKED ALL NIGHT AND COULD NOT CATCH A SINGLE FISH. IMAGINE THEIR FRUSTRATION WHEN ALL THEIR SKILL AND EFFORT FAILED AT WHAT THEY HAD BEEN DOING THEIR ENTIRE ADULT LIVES. “NOW WHAT?” THEY MUST HAVE WONDERED; THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT JESUS, AND NOW THEY WERE USELESS AT WHAT THEY USED TO DO SO WELL. THE QUESTION SHOUTED TO THEM IN THE MORNING MISTS BY THE STRANGER ON THE SHORE MUST HAVE STUNG LIKE NETTLES; “CHILDREN, YOU HAVE NO FISH, HAVE YOU?” DEFEATED AND DISHEARTENED, WITH HEADS HANGING DOWN, THEY COULD ONLY ANSWER, “NO.”

JESUS WILL SHOW THEM, “NOW WHAT,” AND HERE BEGINS THE FIRST LESSON. “CAST YOUR NET TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BOAT,” SAID JESUS,” AND YOU WILL FIND SOME.” BY OUR OWN KNOWLEDGE AND STRENGHT WE CAN ACCOMPLISH NOTHING, BUT BY OBEYING THE WORD OF OUR LORD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. THE LORD WILL DIRECT HIS DISCIPLES, BUT THEY MUST DO THE WORK. WHEN THEY DID AS HE SAID, THE NET WAS FILLED TO THE POINT THAT THEY COULD NOT HAUL IT INTO THE BOAT, AND THAT OPENED THE EYES OF JOHN WHO SAID TO PETER, “IT IS THE LORD!”

THERE IS SOMETHING A BIT COMICAL ABOUT PETER THROWING ON HIS TUNIC AND JUMPING INTO THE LAKE TO SWIM ASHORE AHEAD OF THE BOAT LIKE A LABRADOR RETRIEVER. WHEN WET PETER AND THE OTHERS GOT TO SHORE THEY FOUND A CHARCOAL FIRE WITH FISH AND BREAD ON IT. THEN JESUS TOLD THEM TO BRING SOME OF THE FISH THEY CAUGHT TO ADD TO THE BREAKFAST. THE ONLY OTHER MENTION OF A CHARCOAL FIRE IS THE ONE AT WHICH PETER WARMED HIMSELF AS JESUS WAS ON TRIAL. AS PETER FOUGHT THE CHILL OF THE EVENING BASKING IN THE WARMTH OF THE COALS, HE DENIED HIS LORD THREE TIMES.

AS PETER, AND THE OTHERS, TOOK THE BREAD AND FISH FROM THE HANDS OF THEIR LORD, THE ECHOS OF THE LAST SUPPER MUST HAVE SOUNDED IN THEIR MINDS. HERE IS THE SECOND LESSON. THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS MUST BE SUSTAINED BY WHAT HE PROVIDES; NOT JUST IN TERMS OF PHYSICAL FOOD, BUT IN THE SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT BY THE BREAD OF HEAVEN WHICH IS HIMSELF.

AFTER BREAKFAST, JESUS TURNED HIS ATTENTION TO SIMON PETER, AS HE ASKED, “SIMON, SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?” WHETHER JESUS WAS REFERRING TO THE OTHER DISCIPLES, OR TO ALL THE THINGS OF PETER’S OLD FAMILIAR LIFE, OR TO ALL OF THAT TOGETHER IS UNCLEAR. WHEN JESUS ASKED SIMON PETER THREE TIMES IF HE LOVED HIM, IT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE A KNIFE DRIVEN INTO PETER’S SOUL. HERE IS THE THIRD LESSON. “DO YOU LOVE ME? FEED MY SHEEP.” “DO YOU LOVE ME? TEND MY SHEEP.” “DO YOU LOVE ME? FEED MY SHEEP.” THE GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS WILL ERASE ANY SIN, EVEN THAT OF DENYING HIM. WITH THAT GRACE, HOWEVER, COMES THE CALL TO DO THE WORK TO WHICH THE CHRIST OF GOD SETS OUR HANDS AND FEET. PETER WAS TOO FRIGHTENED TO FOLLOW HIM ON THE NIGHT IN WHICH HE WAS BETRAYED; HE WOULDN’T EVEN SAY THAT HE KNEW HIM. HERE, ON THIS SO FAMILIAR SHORE, THE GRACE OF GOD WASHED OVER PETER, AND HE WAS CALLED AGAIN TO BE THE TRUE FOLLOWER OF HIS LORD BY BECOMING THE SHEPHERD FOR THE LAMBS OF THE CHRIST.

HERE IS THE FORTH LESSON. BY BECOMING THE SHEPHERD FOR THE FLOCK OF CHRIST, THERE WILL BE A TERRIBLE COST. AT THE END, WHEN HE IS OLD, PETER WILL LOSE HIS FREEDOM, AND WILL BE LED BY OTHERS TO WHERE HE WOULD NOT WISH TO GO. PETER, AND ALL OF THE DISCIPLES EXCEPT FOR ONE, WOULD SUFFER THE DEATH OF A MARTYR FOR THEIR LORD, AND THE ONE WHO WILL ESCAPE MARTYRDOM WOULD DIE IN EXILE. BEING A DISCIPLE OF THE LORD IS NO EASY THING, AND ONE SHOULD CONSIDER THE COST BEFORE BECOMING A DISCIPLE OF THE CHRIST. YET, IN THE END IT COMES DOWN TO THIS; IF WE LOVE THE LORD WE MUST FOLLOW WHERE HE LEADS, AND DO WHAT HE DIRECTS US TO DO. ONLY BY FOLLOWING HIM, CAN OUR LOVE FOR HIM BE MADE MANIFEST IN THE FACE OF THE WORLD. “AFTER THIS (JESUS) SAID TO (PETER), FOLLOW ME;” AND SIMON PETER FOLLOWED HIS LORD AND GOD.

IT IS SO EASY, AFTER AN INTENSE EXPERIENCE, TO FALL BACK INTO THE USUAL AND FAMILIAR. WE CAME TOGETHER TWO SUNDAYS AGO TO HAVE THIS ALMOST ECSTATIC CELEBRATION WHERE WE PROCLAIMED TO EACH OTHER THAT “CHRIST IS RISEN!” WE ECHOED BACK, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!” THE QUESTION FOLLOWS; NOW WHAT? THE SUNDAY AFTER EASTER IS CALLED “LOW SUNDAY,” BECAUSE THE PEWS HAVE LOTS OF OPEN SPACES. PERHAPS THE KEY QUESTION IS, “IF THE WEATHER IS GOOD NEXT WEEKEND, CAN I GET A TEE TIME?” DOES THE PROCLAMATION THAT THE CHRIST IS RISEN HAVE ANY EFFECT ON WHAT I DO FROM DAY TO DAY, OR ON HOW I SPEND MY TIME AND EFFORTS? TO BE A DISCIPLE OF THE RISEN CHRIST MEANS TO LISTEN TO HIS WORD AND DO WHAT HE DIRECTS, BECAUSE BY OUR OWN WILL AND STRENGTH WE CAN DO NOTHING WORTHWHILE. WE MUST BE SUSTAINED AND NOURISHED BY HIS WORD, AND BY HIS BODY AND BLOOD WHICH HE HOLDS OUT TO US EACH WEEK. IF WE LOVE THE LORD AND DESIRE TO BE HIS DISCIPLE, WE MUST DO THE WORK TO WHICH HE SETS US, NO MATTER WHAT THE COST WILL BE IN TERMS OF OUR TIME, TALENTS, AND TREASURE; EVEN TO THE COST OF OUR LIVES. IF WE TRULY LOVE THE LORD, WE CAN DO NO OTHER THAN HEED HIS CALL TO “FOLLOW ME.”
AMEN

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