Jesus comes to us in our work
Text: John 21:1-17
If only wonderful holiday breaks like Easter would last longer! Unfortunately we have to go back to work. All too quickly our everyday routine engages us and the life-transforming message of Easter gets pushed to the back of our minds. The joyful hope the good news of Easter gives aims to lift your spirits to enable you to have a new zing in your step and fill your hearts with cheerful courage as you face the challenge of the weeks ahead.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that even Peter and six of his fellow believers have to eat, so no blame can be attached to Peter’s desire to go fishing. Characteristically, Peter takes the lead. Unfortunately things don’t turn out as they hope and all their efforts are unsuccessful and rather disappointing. They catch no fish. They were doing what they knew best and still failed. They soon discover that failure can be a blessing when Jesus enters the scene. We’re often more responsive to our Lord and His suggestions in our failures than we are in our successes. Jesus longs to come to us amid our disappointments at work too. He wants our disappointments to be His appointment with us.
Jesus’ followers were not expecting to experience our Lord coming to them in the middle of their work. One of the best questions we can ask others is “How are you doing?” Jesus, with gentle empathy, asks His disciples “Have you caught anything to eat?” Jesus then makes a helpful suggestion. Such is the power of His word that they instantly obey Him. They’re stunned by the unexpected result. John is the first person to realise who their helper is. He tells Peter “It is the Lord!” The effect is electrifying as Peter realises Jesus has come to turn their failure into an undeserved success.
Peter can’t wait to be alongside Jesus. We have the comic picture of Peter having to get respectably dressed before he jumps into the water to be with Jesus on the beach. Although Jesus has got a meal ready for them, He invites them to “bring some of the fish you have just caught”. Jesus credits them with the catch and wants to use it with what He has already prepared. In saying this, our Lord reveals His personal interest in what we’re doing and wants to use us and the results of our labours for His good purposes. All our work is but a gathering up of the gifts our Lord in His grace and mercy provides for us. The symbolic meaning behind a catch of 153 fish means that Christian work undertaken in Christ’s Name and with His blessing will be immensely fruitful.
The fact that although the net had so many different kinds of fish, yet did not break, refers to how Jesus will be able to hold together in harmony a vast variety of different kinds of men and women under His good and gracious rule. St. John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loves” because there’s something uniquely special about Jesus’ love for us, a love that’s both human and divine. Jesus makes God’s love real, tangible and concrete for us. Nothing can separate us from His awesome love, which comes to us now through bread and wine.
They all come ashore to a meal prepared for them solely by Jesus. Jesus reveals Himself in something as tangible as a meal, a meal of bread and fish. This is to remind them of the time He fed the five thousand with specially consecrated bread and fish. From that time on, fish quickly became a symbol in Christian art for both our Lord and His Holy Supper. As Jesus invites them to eat, they now have not the slightest doubt that all this is the Lord’s doing. It is His gift of love to them. It is in Holy Communion that Jesus can now be found. Holy Communion is His gift to us; His gift that strengthens and renews His relationship with us, and our relationship with Him. In Holy Communion, Jesus gives us His heaven-sent gifts of grace, acceptance, peace and encouragement. To His Sacred Supper, Jesus invites unfruitful failures, so that nothing that’s happened in the past will stop them serving Him in the present. First our Lord feeds us with the gifts of Holy Communion, before He sends us out to feed others with His life-giving Word.
The miracle of this great catch of fish points to our Lord’s even greater miracle of Holy Communion where He gives us all the benefits He won for us on the cross. That’s why Christians ever since have treasured this forgiveness-bestowing, grace-giving Sacrament, where Christ alone is central. It’s all about Jesus, our risen Lord, who in this sacred meal comes to rescue us from all of life’s discouraging and disappointing experiences, and so enable us to serve Him with new zeal and enthusiasm in the days ahead. After we’ve let our Lord down or failed Him, Jesus seeks to rehabilitate us by asking each of us singly, one by one, “Do you still love Me?” He wants us to leave past failures behind and make a fresh start in our relationship with Him.
Jesus specialises in making new beginnings with us. What matters isn’t our past failure, but whether or not we can stop loving Him.
Then follows one of the Bible’s most celebrated dialogues, as Jesus spends time with Peter on a one-to-one basis. He loves doing the same with each one of us. The soul-searching questions Jesus asks Peter are meant to rehabilitate His failed disciple rather than shame him. Jesus gives Peter the chance to wipe away the memory of his threefold denial of our Lord with a public threefold declaration of love for Jesus.
“Do you love Me more than these do?” Jesus asks Peter. His question presupposes the love for Jesus of all the other six disciples too. On Maundy Thursday Peter had bragged that he would be more loyal than the others. All such thinking has vanished in his failure. Jesus uses the word for divine love (Agape); Peter replies with the Greek word for friendship-love (Philia): “Yes, Lord, You know I’m Your friend.” Jesus doesn’t ask Peter about his faith, courage or ability. He doesn’t ask “Do you trust Me?” because we can trust someone without loving them. Jesus commissions Peter to “Feed My lambs”. Jesus’ lambs aren’t only children. They’re all the insignificant members of Christ’s sheepfold in need of special attention.
In the third question, Jesus comes down to Peter’s level and uses His word for love: “Do you love Me as your Friend?” Peter lets everything depend on Jesus’ knowledge of him: “Lord, You know everything. You know I love You!” Jesus graciously honours Peter with the care of His lambs and sheep: “Show your love for Me by loving the members of My Church.” Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. He says it to all of us: “If you love Me, keep My commandments”, the most important one of which is to love each other as Christ has loved us.
This is His assignment for us to engage in for the rest of our lives. When Jesus said that He came “not to be served, but to serve”, He reminded us of how He constantly put our needs ahead of His own. Jesus did more than teach us about His love for us, He was divine love in action for our lifelong benefit and blessing. We’re often slow learners, slow to put into practice our Lord’s will for us. But Jesus continues to show us endless patience and loving persistence and is delighted when the practice of our faith continues to slowly and unspectacularly grow, month by month, year by year.
Your Saviour’s love for you is limitless and loyal. It keeps no record of wrongs, because its constant focus is on the difference His love for you can make in the future, as it enables you to love people you found so difficult to love in the past. Today’s story of a fishing trip that initially failed reminds us of our Lord’s words: “You can do nothing without Me (John 15:5).” But if we make Christ and His Word our home, our lives become amazingly fruitful.
St. John’s first letter thrills with the belief that the dawn of Christlike Christian love in all its life-changing wonder has only just begun. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love one another”, St. John joyfully declares. To love our Lord and each other is the surest test of having life, the life abundant, in all its fullness and richness that our Lord is so keen to have us experience. His gift of a life totally shaped by love, transforms the routines of everyday life into celebrations of thanksgiving.
As the seven disciples experienced Christ’s presence in a totally unexpected place and situation, pray that each day of this coming week, you too will experience your Saviour’s presence in unexpected moments and places. What a wonderful discovery that will be. Christ’s love for us motivates us to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him and for those He loves so dearly. In our worship and in Holy Communion, we receive His love, so that our love will cause us to honour, praise and adore Him. When we love our Lord, we will go the second mile for Him. Love leads us to go beyond the call of duty for the One we love.
Jesus said that the woman who anointed His feet with perfume would be remembered forever because of her extravagant gesture of love for Him. May our love for Christ lead us to respond generously to His unfailing love for each of us. “We love because He first loved us.”
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love (Ephesians 6:24).” Amen.
This message from Rev.Vernon Kleinig is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at LCA third Sunday of Easter series c.