Easter IIIc (April 14, 2013)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter twenty one.
Jesus has risen from the dead. The apostles have seen Him not once, but twice. Maybe even more. Even Thomas has acknowledged Him with the words, “My Lord and my God.” So now what are the disciples supposed to do? Wait. They are to wait until Pentecost, when they will receive power from on High. So like any good Jew from the shores of the Sea of Tiberias, Peter and his friends go fishing.
A lot of life is about waiting for something to happen, isn’t it? Any time there is a big event in your life, there is some kind of a waiting period afterwards, where you have to digest what this really means. A graduation, getting married, having a child, job change, and of course, the ultimate change would probably be death itself. Experts will tell you not to make any big decisions after one of these life changing events, because your judgment may be impaired. You may not be completely making sense at the time.
So they go out and go fishing. All night they fish. All night they ply at their trade, which for many of them had been their very livelihood for most of their lives. Jesus called out to them three years before and said, “Follow me.” Well, Jesus has risen from the dead, but He isn’t there in the flesh to follow. So they go back to what they know, and wait.
Our text then says the following, “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:3 ESV) It seems that even though Jesus had risen from the dead, they still couldn’t provide for themselves on their own. Do you remember that episode near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when He tells them to go fishing and they don’t get anything? This has happened before to them.
But this isn’t just about them. It is about you. You are baptized, or Lord willing you will be. You have eternal life as your inheritance. You have the very kingdom of God as your possession. You have the ear of the King and the Son of God Himself calls you brother or sister. It is all yours in Christ. But you still can’t catch any fish without Him.
Now I’m not talking about fishing here, not really. I’m talking about the day to day way that you live your life. It is tempting, oh so tempting, for the Christian to put Jesus in a box and want Him to come out for an hour on Sunday, but then to put Him back in the box and keep Him on the shelf until some kind of emergency happens. Maybe it should be a glass box and have a label on it, “If things get really bad, break this glass!”
What we do by nature, time and time again, is try to go it alone. We continue to try and make it so that we don’t need Jesus. Prayer remains a last resort tactic. Hearing God’s Word and receiving His forgiveness and counsel, well, let’s just say that it is not a priority in our lives. It was true for Peter and the disciples. It is true for you and me.
But notice what happens next. Jesus appears to them, but they don’t know it is Him. Hear again this little interchange:
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” (John 21:4–6 ESV)
There wasn’t anything special about the right side of the boat. That wasn’t the point. The point was that Jesus instructed them to do it. His Word and promise are sure and certain. Even when they don’t make sense. And if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes Jesus’ Word and promise don’t make sense.
But His call still goes out, “Follow me.” Jesus calls you to follow Him in a life of service to your neighbor. Why? Because He has served you even to death itself. Because of everything our Lord has done for you, you are free to live not for yourself, but for those around you who need you.
You see, beloved, God’s mercy extends to all. What may look like a waste of time or failure to you may be exactly what your neighbor needs to hear and see and know and experience. I’m confident that Peter wasn’t happy about working all night and getting nothing. But without Peter’s failure, they would not seen the mercy of God in providing for them, body and soul.
In your weakeness and need, God provides for those around you. This frees you to be human, to suffer and be in want and not be ashamed. Why? Because Jesus’ death and resurrection points the way.
Eventually Peter and the other disciples knew the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread and the fish. Eventually they would cast out the net of God’s Word into the deep, and it would bring forth a harvest, a Church full of weak sinners redeemed by Christ the Crucified. You are a part of that harvest. It doesn’t happen because Peter was such a great fisherman. The Word doesn’t go out because of the power of the preacher, but because of the promise of the Lord.
That promise is yours today. Come, be in the boat which is His Church. Receive our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation. God in His mercy has caught you in His net, and it is a good place to be.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.