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

 


AFTER THE EXTRAORDINARY APPEARANCES OF JESUS TO HIS DISCIPLES, THINGS SEEMS TO HAVE CALMED DOWN FOR A BIT, SO THOSE FROM GALILEE WENT HOME. WHETHER IT WAS TO GET OUT OF JERUSALEM UNTIL THE CITY RETURNED TO NORMAL, OR BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THEY HAD SEEN THE LAST OF JESUS IS HARD TO TELL. IN ANY EVENT, THEY WENT BACK TO WHAT THEY KNEW; FISHING. SO PETER, WITH HIS USUAL TAKE CHARGE ATTITUDE DECLARED, “I AM GOING FISHING.” THE OTHERS DECIDED THEY MIGHT AS WELL GO ALONG, SO THEY ALL CLIMBED INTO THE BOAT AND SPENT THE LONG NIGHT CASTING AND RECASTING THE NET. WHEN THE SUN FINALLY ROSE, THE NET WAS STILL EMPTY AND THEIR LONG NIGHT WAS IN VAIN. AS THEY WEARILY STARTED TO PULL ASHORE, SOMEONE CALLED OUT TO THEM FROM THE BEACH; “CHILDREN, YOU HAVE NO FISH, HAVE YOU?” PERHAPS THE MORNING MISTS HID THE MAN FROM THEIR EYES, OR PERHAPS HE DIDN’T WANT TO BE RECOGNIZED JUST YET, BUT THEY OBEYED WHEN HE TOLD THEM TO CAST THE NET ON THE RIGHT SIDE. TO THEIR WONDER, THE NET WAS SO FULL OF FISH THEY COULDN’T PULL IT INTO THE BOAT. NOW, THE EYES OF JOHN WERE OPENED, AND HE YELLED OUT, “IT IS THE LORD!”

IN THEIR PRIOR MEETINGS WITH THEIR RISEN LORD, JESUS HAD NOT ADDRESSED PETER DIRECTLY, AND I IMAGINE THAT PETER WAS FEELING RATHER GUILTY ABOUT HOW HE HAD DENIED JESUS THREE TIMES ON THE NIGHT HE WAS ARRESTED. HOW HIS HEART MUST HAVE BURNED IN HIS BREAST WHENEVER JESUS APPEARED TO THE DISCIPLES AND DIDN’T SPEAK TO HIM. SO WHEN HE RECOGNIZED JESUS, HE COULDN’T WAIT FOR THE BOAT TO BE ROWED TO SHORE, BUT JUMPED OUT AND SWAM TO BE THE FIRST TO REACH JESUS. WHEN HE GOT THERE HE FOUND JESUS COOKING SOME FISH AND BREAD OVER A CHARCOAL FIRE, THE SAME KIND OF FIRE AT WHICH PETER WARMED HIS HANDS WHEN HE DENIED JESUS, BUT JESUS DOES NOT SPEAK TO PETER; HE TELLS THE DISCIPLES TO BRING SOME OF THE FISH THEY CAUGHT. PETER, WITHOUT A WORD, AND PROBABLY WITH SLUMPED SHOULDERS, TURNS AROUND BACK TO THE BOAT TO HELP HAUL IN THE NET ALMOST BURSTING WITH 153 LARGE FISH. IT IS NOT UNTIL BREAKFAST IS OVER THAT JESUS AT LONG LAST SPEAKS TO PETER.

WHAT JESUS ASKS HIM MUST HAVE STUNNED PETER TO HIS CORE; “SIMON, SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?” THE QUESTION IS NOT MERELY DO YOU LOVE ME MORE THAN THE OTHER DISCIPLES, BUT MORE THAN YOUR LIFE AS A FISHERMEN, MORE THAN YOUR FAMILY, EVEN MORE THAN YOUR SELF. WITH HOPE IN HIS HEART, PETER ANSWERS, “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.” TO THIS AFFIRMATION, JESUS SAYS, “FEED MY LAMBS.” I IMAGINE SOME TENSE SILENCE FROM PETER AT THIS POINT, UNTIL JESUS AGAIN ASKS, “SIMON, SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME?” WITH HIS HEART IN HIS THROAT, PETER DECLARES, “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU;” TO WHICH JESUS RESPONDS, “TEND MY SHEEP.” IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO GRASP THE PAIN OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE ASKING YOU IF YOU INDEED LOVE THEM TWICE IN A ROW, BUT THE THIRD TIME MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE A DAGGER IN THE HEART WHEN JESUS ASKS. “DO YOU LOVE ME?” YOU CAN ALMOST HEAR THE SOBBING OF PETER WHEN HE REPLIES, “LORD, YOU KNOW EVERYTHING; YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.” JESUS SAID TO HIM, “FEED MY SHEEP.”

IT IS TOO SIMPLE TO SEE THIS EXCHANGE AS JESUS TESTING PETER’S LOVE FOR HIM, BECAUSE AS PETER SAYS, JESUS KNOWS EVERYTHING. WHAT JESUS IS DOING IN THIS THREE-FOLD ASKING IF PETER LOVES HIM IS RESTORING PETER TO HIS PLACE IN THE COMMUNITY OF THE DISCIPLES. IN HIS DENIAL OF JESUS THREE TIMES, PETER MUST HAVE CARRIED THE GUILT OF THAT ACT EVER SINCE THE DAY OF RESURRECTION, AND IT SURELY AFFECTED HOW HE SAW HIMSELF, AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHERS. IN HIS AFFIRMATION OF HIS LOVE FOR JESUS, PETER IS RELIEVED OF HIS GUILT BY HIS LORD, BECAUSE JESUS ACCEPTS PETER’S LOVE, AND HE SHOWS THIS TO PETER BY GIVING HIM A NEW ROLE IN THE COMMUNITY OF FAITH; HE IS TO BE THE LEADER THAT FEEDS AND TENDS THE SHEEP OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD. JESUS CAME TO HIS DISCIPLES, TO THIS BEACH ON THE SHORE OF THE SEA OF GALILEE, TO BRING BACK TO THE FOLD THE ONE WHO WAS TO BECOME THE SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP OF THE LORD.

IN OUR LOVE FOR OUR LORD AND GOD, JESUS, THERE IS FORGIVENESS IN HIS ABUNDANT GRACE, THAT OFTEN SEEMS BEYOND OUR ABILITY TO TRULY GRASP. THAT IS THE POINT OF THE NET FULL OF FISH; THE DISCIPLES WANTED FISH, SO THEY GOT 153 LARGE FISH THAT ALMOST OVERWHELMED THEM. THIS WAS A SYMBOL AS A PRELUDE FOR THE GRACE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS THAT WOULD SET PETER FREE FROM THE CHAINS OF HIS CONSCIENCE, AND A REMINDER TO US OF THE OVERWHELMING GRACE THAT COMES TO US FROM OUR GOD IN CHRIST. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE IN THE PAST, HOW YOU HAVE FAILED, HOW BROKEN IN PIECES YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN, BECAUSE IN YOUR LOVE FOR THE LORD THE LOVE OF GOD POURS OUT UPON YOU AND INTO YOU, AND YOU ARE RESTORED TO THE LIFE THAT GOD HAS WANTED FOR YOU FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME. THAT LIFE IS THE COMMUNITY OF LOVE OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND IN THAT LIFE YOU WILL FIND A NEW ROLE, A NEW PURPOSE, THAT WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE DIFFERENT FROM WHAT IT WAS, AND A PLEASING OFFERING IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.

THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST CHANGES EVERYTHING. IT MOST CERTAINLY CHANGES YOU AND ME.
AMEN