HAVE YOU CAUGHT ANY FISH?
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Read John 21
John 21 is the extra scene after the end credits. It stages for what comes next. The last scene is just the beginning for the future.
Jesus appears and asks a question that is layered with meaning Have you caught any fish?
Why are they fishing?
Peter leads them. They all follow to the boat and fish all night for nothing. Notice who is at the top of the list after Simon Peter? Thomas and Nathanael. Remember them?
- Nathanael was the one who was skeptical when his brother Phillip brought him to Jesus. But Jesus impressed him and promised him that he would see greater things and he did.
- Thomas doubted too. He demanded to see the scars. He saw them and touched the wound in Jesus side. He saw greater things too.
Why are they fishing? Fishing:
- It means back to work, back to mediocrity, back to normal and okay.
- How could they return to fishing after what just happened? Previously they had seen Jesus appear in a locked room. He gave them peace and sent them as the father sent him. A week after that Thomas himself witnessed the scars and the wounded side and believed.
- Did they forget? Did they forget what they saw? Did they forget what they witnessed? Did they forget that they were sent?
Around the Fire:
- Notice that when Jesus meets them on the shore with breakfast (the start of a new day) he is sitting around a charcoal fire.
- The only other mention of a charcoal fire is when Peter warms himself around a charcoal fire during Jesus arrest and trial. (Compare John 18:18 My thanks to Richard Hayes for this observation: see Preaching John's Gospel: The World It Imagines (Chalice Press, 2008))
- There had to be unresolved tension that day Jesus appeared in the locked room. Sins were forgiven, but that wasnt the end of it. Peter had denied Christ and in doing so had denied himself.
- He was so confident that he would be right by Jesus side and he failed. He denied that he was a disciple with both words and actions.
- He probably didnt expect the opportunity to speak to Jesus ever again about this. If we can grant him the first and second resurrection appearances to manage the surprise over the resurrection and forgiveness, this third appearance is the time for Peter to become the sort of fisherman he really needs to be ...
- Forgiveness is the path that leads to love. Jesus brings Peter to the charcoal fire and shares a meal of fish of bread.
- Theres pain in this moment. The pain of hurt and betrayal. The pain of disappointment. The pain of failure. But Jesus has endured all of that pain and he can endure the pain with Peter as he asks him not just once or twice, but three times Do You Love Me?
Feed the Lambs:
- Its not that Jesus doesnt know the answer. Its Peter who needs to know. Its Peter who needs to hear Jesus invest confidence in Peter three times: Feed my lambs.
- Jesus is putting Peter back on the path. It wont be easy, but Peter will glorify God because he will follow Jesus.
Have we caught any fish?
Have we caught any fish? Do we love Jesus?
- What sort of fishing takes up our time?
- The sort of fishing that represents mediocrity, back to normal, just simply working and living.
- Can we really say that we are fishing for disciples?
- Its time for us to gather around the fire and endure the pain of anything unresolved.
- Forgiveness is just the start. Now we need to:
- Express our love for Christ. Even when it is painful and it seems like we are being tested rather than trusted.
- Feed the lambs Spiritual formation and nurturing disciples is not just indoctrination. It begins with love for Christ. Teaching people how to live.
- Jesus has sheep who are not of this flock. Notice that Jesus never gives up ownership of the lambs. MY lambs.
- Jesus has entrusted the care and feeding of these lambs to us.
- And our thinking is too small if we think that is limited to our membership.
- Jesus has lambs that he cares about out there and he has asked us to feed them.
- Cast our nets on the other side. So lets go fishing, but not for ourselves.
- Perhaps weve been busy fishing the wrong way. Weve limited the gospel and evangelism to our techniques. The method is not the mission.
- We are more interested in how the catch will sustain us rather than how it glorifies God.
- We are giving too much attention to our own interests. (Jesus asks Peter: Do you love me most of all?) We can get so anxious about a number of things that really dont have to do with gospel and evangelism. Worry, fear, unresolved matters get in the way.
- As a congregation Lets be careful that resources, nostalgia, and techniques (old or new) do not become a stand-in for fishing.
- As individuals Lets beware of justifying our own interests. Peter denied Christ in word and deed. Jesus restored him by word and deed. Now consider your words and your deeds.
Have you caught any fish? Do you love Jesus?
Our answer to these questions shapes the way the story goes from here on out. Jesus also did many other things. Will he do many other things among us? The sermon is yours ...
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 May 2009
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