Monday, April 19, 2010
Sermon - Easter 3 - John 21:1-19
April 18th, 2010
“What Jesus Knows – What Jesus Gives”
John's Gospel is wrapping up. He tells us today a third appearance Jesus made after his resurrection. Now on the shore of the Sea of Galillee, Jesus the risen Lord appears to his still dazed and confused disciples.
They seemed out of it. Bored. Peter abruptly announces he's going fishing. The others join him.
And here comes Jesus, with a familiar miracle – a catch of fish after a night of nothing. He had done this before, when he was first calling his disciples to follow him. That was then, but this is now. The catch seems even greater. They can't haul it in, but the nets aren't breaking. Jesus, of course, knows fishing better than the fishermen.
Before, when Peter saw such a miracle he trembled in fear. That was then, but this is now – and Peter throws himself into the water just to be all the closer to Jesus as soon as possible. Wouldn't it be nice if we were so eager to be with Jesus – to come hear his words, and receive his gifts?
Now he who has renewed all things by his death and resurrection is renewing his commission to them in word and deed. Soon he would be charging them as his under-shepherds – feed my sheep – be pastors.
But first, he wanted to feed them. The last meal they had together was different. It was a Passover meal, in which he gave them a New Testament in his body and blood. Now, breakfast on the beach. And while this meal isn't the sacrament per se, it sure reminds us that Jesus the host and provider of the meal is always the one to feed us.
Then, as now, Jesus feeds his disciples, his people. He's still the host of the meal. He still invites us to the table. He still prepares and provides what we need. All physical and spiritual blessings, undeserved, from his grace and mercy. For even in his glorified and resurrected form, he is not too humble to serve his people.
After breakfast, Jesus singles out Peter. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” What a formal question. Not calling him by his nickname, “Peter”, but by his given and family name. Something official is about to happen.
Peter answers yes, and Jesus asks again. After the third question, Peter gets the point. And he is grieved. In a not so subtle way, Jesus was reminding him of his sin.
Peter, who had denied him three times. “Oh, no, Lord, I'll even die with you if I have to!” But Peter failed when the going got tough. Oh he would wield his sword and cut off a man's ear – but would he stand and boldly confess Jesus? Peter would fight the soldiers, but when questioned by a servant girl, he crumbled. He denied, denied, and denied again, just as Jesus said he would. And then their eyes met, and Peter bawled like a baby.
Does our sin bring us to grief? Do you know and feel your sin like Peter? Do we realize just how much and how often we let the Lord down by our own denials of him? We surely act like we don't know him. And even if we think we can put on a good front, Jesus knows all things. He knows that we don't love him as we should. He knows we don't love our neighbor as ourselves. We want to... but like the disciples, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
But even in his grief, Peter still trusts Jesus. He appeals to the one who knows everything. Jesus knows Peter's sin. He also knows how sorry he is.
But he also knows his love for Peter, a love that drove him to the cross, a love that death could not contain. And so he restores Peter, forgives him, and even re-commissions him for work in the kingdom. So does Jesus do for us all.
This formal conversation was needed to clear the air, and restore Peter from the denier he was, to the pastor he would be. The shepherd of Jesus' flock. Feeding and caring for the sheep by distributing the gifts of the great Good Shepherd himself. Just as pastors do today – in the word, in the sacrament, in baptism and holy absolution. We pastors give to you – formally - what we also receive from Christ – all for the love of Jesus which he first shows us.
He deals with our sin. He forgives and feeds us. Then he puts us to work. Fishermen become fishers of men. Wayward sheep become shepherds of his flock. Wanderers in sin become followers of Christ.
No, we're not all called to be pastors, but we all need restoration and forgiveness. We're not all going to be shepherds of the sheep, but we support the ongoing work of the Good Shepherd. And we receive his gifts as he gives them, always giving thanks.
And a final cryptic saying from our Lord. He predicts how Peter would die. Tradition tells us Peter was crucified in Rome, upside down. Jesus, who knew all things, surely would know it was coming. And perhaps he tells us here to remind us that following him will come with opposition, suffering, and even sometimes death. But a death in Christ always glorifies God.
Yes, Peter would follow Jesus to a cross, and to a death. But he who restored Peter from denial will also restore him and all believers from death itself. Just as he conquered the grave, so a resurrection awaits his people. And we will live, like Jesus lives, forever.
This good news sustains us, his sheep. This promise feeds our faith, and strengthens us to follow him. So be fed by him, you sheep of the Lord. And follow him – in life, in death, and in new life forever. Just like Peter.
In Jesus Name, Amen.