5/5/2019 Text: John 21:1-19
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia and Amen! This is great news and yet, has anything really changed because of it? The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. There are still 24 hours in each day and the years go by one at a time. There are still wars and poverty, sin and injustice, illness and death. So what’s different? What has changed? Does the resurrection really matter for us? And did it really have a lasting change on the lives of the disciples?
From today’s gospel, we can see that it didn’t take long for the impact of the resurrection to fall to the wayside. On Easter morn, the women went to the tomb and found it empty. They reported all that they had seen and heard to the disciples who considered their words the idle tale of a bunch of distraught women. Sure, some of them went to the tomb to peer in and see for themselves, but they went away without knowing what to believe until Jesus came and stood among them in the upper room. Then they saw; they listened; they believed – Christ is risen! But the roots of their faith didn’t go very deep. For, although they were the first to proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!” today we have them back where their journey began – on a boat, fishing…showing no signs of faith in the risen Lord.
We can imagine Peter brooding, thinking deep thoughts, not quite sure what to make of all that happened after he left his fishing nets behind to become a follower of Jesus. Jesus had liked him and included him and changed his name from Simon to Peter because Jesus felt that Simon would be strong, stable and solid like a rock…and he was, until the night when Jesus was arrested. When Jesus was arrested, he got scared, and ended up denying Jesus three times. The next day, it happened – Jesus was nailed to a cross and Peter was devastated, shattered, defeated and brokenhearted. But, then, three days later, the news came – the tomb was empty – Christ is risen! We can imagine Peter being both thrilled beyond belief and yet, confused at the same time for he had no idea what all this would mean about his own future. So, the joy of the resurrection faded quickly and Peter returned home with his friends in order to pick up his life where he had left it before his encounter with Jesus. And why not? Several days had passed and nothing had happened. Jesus was nowhere to be found, and the disciples were left to their own devices. So, Peter went back to his old secure life, the old life of being a fisherman. The others went along with him…as if Easter has never happened. As if Easter never happened, they turned their back on Jesus’ way and returned to living life their way. And, that meant – they went fishing.
Maybe they had been away from fishing for too long, or maybe it was sheer bad luck, but the disciples weren’t successful in bringing in a catch that night – and as dawn began to break, they headed in. They saw someone standing on shore, but they didn’t recognize him. They didn’t know that it was Jesus. They didn’t expect to see him – not there, not then, not ever again. It wasn’t until Jesus told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and they did it and brought in a huge catch of fish that they got that feeling of déjà vu. For, the disciples had had a similar fishing experience on the day they met Jesus.
Now, encounters with the Lord often happen through the events of ordinary life, as Jesus tends to come to us in ways and at times when we least expect him. It is faith that opens our eyes to the Lord’s presence in and through what is common place. And early that morning as the disciples were heading toward shore, it was faith that enabled John to turn and say to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
Upon hearing these words and recognizing the risen Lord, rather than staying in the boat where it was safe, Peter, excitable and impulsive Peter, became a risk taker. He dove into the water and swam to shore. He couldn’t wait and yet, waiting was something he had to do – for it wasn’t until all where together that Jesus’ cooked breakfast for them over a charcoal fire. After Jesus served them and ate with them, he took Simon Peter off to the side and three times asked him, “Simon, do you love me?” Jesus may have badgered Peter because Peter had denied his Lord three times. So, Jesus gave him three opportunities to affirm his love. And when Peter was unable to proclaim self-sacrificing love for Jesus that Jesus had given him, Jesus accepted the brotherly love that Peter was able to give. For Peter had shown his weakness and he was now honest enough with Jesus to no longer proclaim that he was able to be more than he was – a limited person who loved his Lord. With this verbal exchange and this acceptance of what Peter was able to give, the slate was wiped clean. Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored, and with this, the story ends exactly the way it began on the day Simon met Jesus for the first time by the seashore – with Jesus saying to Simon, “Follow me.” For Peter, life had now come full circle as Jesus did not let Peter or any of his disciples go on their own way and leave him behind. In their doubt and impatience, Christ reassured them that he had risen, that he is risen, indeed. So, they could leave their old lives behind and cling to the new life in Christ.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! The encounter with the risen Christ changed Peter’s life as he was given a new start, a firm faith and task, but how have the events of Easter impacted our lives? Has anything changed? The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. There are still 24 hours in each day and the years go by one at a time. There are still wars and poverty, sin and injustice, illness and death. And, yet, in spite of all that seems unchanged, in the risen Lord, our lives have come full circle. Our sins have been wiped clean. Our broken relationship with God has been made right. And we have been called and sent out to proclaim the good news. Through faith in Jesus, we are brought full circle to begin a new life in Christ. This life begins through God’s self-sacrificing love and is found in God acceptance of the love we are able to give. God invites us to serve as we have been served, to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to love as we have been loved. This is the life centered in God’s grace poured out for us upon the cross.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This is great news that has changed the nature of our lives forever – in the same way it changed the lives of Peter and all the disciples who were given a new life in a relationship with a living Lord. May we, who have not been blessed to see the risen Lord as Peter did years ago, be so overcome by Easter joy that we proclaim with confidence – Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.