I LOVE the Bible - Week 1
Passage: John 21:1–21:19
04.08.2018 I LOVE THE BIBLE 1
Scripture: John 21: 1-19
Next steps for connect card: Memorize John 21:15 ; Package meals Rise Against Hunger April 15; Volunteer Wednesday nights at Streetlight; Come to Pub Theology April 17
Happy Easter! Let me say it again, Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! (He is risen indeed!)
No, it’s not that I’m mistaken or a week late or have no idea how a calendar works. Although the way Easter moves around you might understand if any of those were the case. Instead, we say Happy Easter today because Easter isn’t just one day. We often celebrate it as one day and I imagine none of your families had baskets filled with candy or egg hunts this morning. My family on the other hand has egg hunts all year round and I’d love to say its based on theological reasons like how Jesus is risen everyday, but really its cause my kid is weird. We don’t celebrate today like we did last Sunday, but nevertheless today it is still Easter.
Easter is a season in the life of the church. Easter is a fifty day period during which we celebrate the resurrection and the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. And we need Easter to be a season rather than a day. The reason for that is the point of today’s sermon.
If Easter is a day that we celebrate than what we are celebrating is an event. Easter as a day is about remembering and celebrating that Jesus, who was crucified, came back to life. Which is certainly an event worth celebrating. But that isn’t all that Easter is about.
If Easter is a season then Easter is not just about commemorating an event, but about being invited into a new way of living. It’s about getting caught up in something. It’s about how we live and the choices we make and the rhythms of our lives. Last week the college basketball season ended. It culminated in the National Championship game this past Monday night. During the college basketball season, I develop new habits and have different rhythms to my life. I watched 30 or so UNC games this year. Which means that my time, my schedule, was oriented around the UNC schedule. Most weeknights our tv was tuned to a basketball game of some kind. For the last month, starting with the conference tournaments and then March Madness, I have been watching college basketball non-stop. And this weekend I literally had no idea what to do with my time. What do I watch? What do I do?
Seasons change us. Seasons change things up. Seasons cause us to develop new practices and rhythms. And when seasons finish, we realize something is different.
Easter is a season because the resurrection of Jesus is not just something that happened to someone else a long time ago. The resurrection of Jesus is something that changes the way we think, the way we live, and the world that we live in. The season of Easter invites us to live as Easter people, as people marked by and changed by the resurrection of Jesus.
What does that change and transformation look like? For that we turn to Scripture. But I want to give a note on what our sermon series will be this Easter. It’s called “I LOVE THE BIBLE.” We look to the Bible for what it means to live changed lives, transformed by the light, message, story, and season of Easter. But the Bible is filled with these stories of people transformed by God. The Bible is filled with crazy, beautiful, strange, awesome, surprising stories of God’s grace rocking and changing the lives of people who, upon closer examination, behave a whole lot more like we do than the saintly image we often project onto people in the Bible. So I want to tell some awesome, strange, wonderful, profound, what-do-you-mean-that’s-in-there stories from the Bible. And I hope we will all see how real, how living, how human, how divine, how gracious, and how deep this book is.
Our first story comes from John’s gospel. But before we get into it, let me set the stage. John recounts the resurrection in a similar way to the other Gospels. We read it last week. Women go to the tomb and they find no body. They freak out. Other disciples come and find no body. Mary sees Jesus and finds he has been raised from the dead. She tells the other disciples. Then John talks about how all of the disciples minus Thomas encounter the risen Christ. And Thomas hears about it and doubts. Then Jesus appears to all the disciples including Thomas. And Thomas believes. I tell you all this as context for the following story. We are gonna read it through and then walk through it.
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 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, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “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.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Let’s walk through this story because there’s a lot going on here. Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus ), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Fishing was what Simon had done before he met Jesus. Fishing is what the sons of Zebedee had done before they met Jesus. When Jesus calls them he tells them to put down their nets for he will make them fishers of men. And yet, here they are, after Jesus has died going to fish for fish. They’re going backwards. They’re returning to their old life.
Which would make sense if they were coping with their grief. If they were dealing with the sadness from Jesus’ death, I could understand going to fish. Returning to normal life now that their movement has failed. But here’s the thing: they knew Jesus was alive. They knew he had been raised from the dead. Jesus has already appeared to them multiple times. They should known what’s going on here.
And yet they go fishing. They still go backwards. In some respects we can see spelled out here that the disciples don’t know what to do next. They don’t know how to move forward in the light of Easter. Their problem is our problem. We suffer from the same thing. Sometimes we can not be sure how to move forward in light of Easter. Sometimes we want to resume our old lives and go about as if nothing had happened. The problem is, it doesn’t work.
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, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
They go fishing and they can’t catch anything. Nothing. Experienced fisherman can’t get a nibble. Well, that’s not how they would have fished, but you get what I mean. Going back to their old life doesn’t work out for them. How often is that true for us? We go back to life as we’d lived it after experiencing God’s grace and God’s love and God’s new life and our old life just doesn’t work. It doesn’t yield the same results, or the results it yields are no longer meaningful or important to us. We don’t get any fish.
Then as they are brining a boat in, a stranger appears on the shoreline. Catch any fish, he says. A dejected Peter says no. He says, did you try the other side? To have been a fly on that boat when this dude asked if they’d tried the other side. Um we’ve only been out here all night haven’t caught a thing but why oh why didn’t we think to try the other side!
I don’t know what brings them to try the other side, I know I wouldn’t have, but they do. And lo and behold it finally works. They haul in more fish than the nets can hold. They can’t even pull it onto the boat. So they walk the net in. And it is in that moment that the disciples realize that its not some rando who’s been telling them to try the other side, but its Jesus. I imagine they were overjoyed to see Jesus again and yet also a tad embarrassed that they have been caught returning to their former way of life.
So they go ashore with their fish and they have a little fresh catch for breakfast. Quick tangent: John’s gospel is full of Easter stories that involve people touching Jesus or Jesus eating or Jesus doing embodied things. That’s because Jesus didn’t come back as a super real looking spirit. Jesus didn’t appear as an apparition. It’s important for John that his readers realize that the risen Christ with whom the disciples interacted was real. In a body. A real body. A physical body. The resurrection body does strange things like come in and out of locked doors, but it’s a body we can touch. It’s a body that needs food. It’s a body that can be hugged. It’s a real body and our hope of sharing in Christ’s resurrection will involve a real body. This isn’t a fairy tale. This isn’t a metaphor. It’s real. It’s embodied. Like you and me.
Back to the story. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “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.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
After breakfast Jesus has a conversation with Peter. Only in this conversation Jesus calls him Simon. Simon do you love me, Jesus asks. Simon is Peter’s name before Jesus calls him. Jesus renames him Peter after Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God. When Jesus calls him Simon he is affirming that Peter has gone backwards. But Jesus wants to bring him forward. So he asks Peter if Peter loves Jesus. And Jesus tells Peter what to do in this new resurrection life if indeed he loves Jesus. Feed my lambs Jesus says. Take care of my sheep Jesus says. Feed my sheep Jesus says.
Jesus wants Peter to return his focus to people. Who are Jesus’ sheep? Previously in John’s Gospel Jesus has called himself the shepherd and say that his sheep hear his voice and they follow. Who are Jesus’ sheep? They are the people who listen to Jesus, who followed Jesus who need to move forward in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. They need to be fed. They need to be taken care of. They need to be led. They need a pastor. They need a shepherd.
Being an Easter person means taking care of Jesus’s sheep. It means feeding people. It means clothing people. It means healing people. It means befriending people. It means caring for people. It means loving our neighbors, our coworkers, our acquaintances. It means loving the guy standing in the median. It means loving our boss. It means loving the people who annoy us, the people who inconvenience us, the people whom we want so badly to ignore. It means actively reaching out to the people that hate us, the people that want to harm us and saying we love you.
It means coming to church and packaging thousands of meals to send abroad to impoverished areas like we are doing next week. It means going and feeding the hungry and homeless in our community like folks from this church do every. Single. Week. It means helping children learn the stories of our faith, whether on a weekly basis at church or during an intentional mission to children in our community this summer at Community Vacation Bible School. I means engaging in mission and ministry within our community.
But lest we pat ourselves on the back too much, we do need to look at the tricky bit there at the end of the story. Jesus says this very cryptic thing to Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Jesus tells Peter that following Jesus, loving Jesus, living into the resurrection of Jesus will mean that Peter will die in a way that glorifies God. He will be led to his death. He will be executed. Then Peter is told to follow Jesus all the same.
When I think about Peter returning to his old life, when I think about Peter going fishing, and doing so even in light of knowing Jesus had risen from the dead, I wonder if deep down Peter somehow knew that following Jesus would lead to his execution. If Peter thought if I do what I know I need to do I will suffer the same fate as Jesus. And that’s why he goes fishing. He goes fishing not because fishing is the most satisfying thing to do, not because it’s the thing that gives him meaning, but because it’s the safest thing. If Peter follows Jesus and continues to spread the Gospel message, Peter will likely be executed. If Peter goes fishing he likely won’t die.
Was it fear that drove Peter to fish? Was it fear that drove Peter to resume his old way of life? Was it fear that drove Peter away from taking the Gospel message that Jesus whom the Romans crucified was now risen? Was it fear that kept Peter from feeding and taking care of Jesus’s sheep?
What does fear keep us from doing? How does fear keep us from stepping forward fully into a life following Jesus? Who does fear keep us from loving? Are we worried that if we are generous we will face financial ruin? Are we worried that if we love that person what hurts do we open ourselves to? Are we worried that if we fully follow Jesus we will have to give up something we hold dear? What are we afraid of? What fears do we have from fully becoming Easter people?
I wonder if that’s why Jesus asked Peter if he loved him? I wonder if that’s why Jesus couched it in terms of love. Not are you my disciple. Not do you believe. But do you love me. And I wonder if its because the only thing that can compel us in the face of fear is love? What could make Peter overcome his fears? What could make fear seem surmountable? Love.
We started all this with the question what does it mean to live in light of Easter, in light of the resurrection. And meanderingly we find the answer: it means to love Jesus over and above our fears. It means loving Jesus so much that we are willing to risk. Loving Jesus so much that we are willing to be vulnerable. Loving Jesus so much that we are willing to have hope. Hope that no matter what happens to us in this life, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead will be faithful to us. As we learn to love Jesus, let us also follow him. Let us pray.