EASTER THRU THE EYES OF PETER!
April 12, 2015… 2nd Sunday of Easter
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“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.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6He 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.
7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
Once day, many years ago, a fisherman’s wife blessed her husband with twin sons. They loved the children very dearly, but could not think of what to name them. Finally, after several days, the fisherman said, “Let’s not decide on names right now. If we wait a little while, the names will simply occur to us.”
Sure enough, after several weeks had passed, the fisherman and his wife noticed a peculiar thing: When left alone, one of the boys would turn toward the sea, while the other boy would face inland. It didn’t matter which way the parents positioned the children, the same child always faced the same direction. So the fisherman suggested, “Let’s call the boys Towards and Away.” His wife agreed, and from that point on the boys were simply known as Towards and Away.
The years passed and the lads grew tall and strong. The day came when the fisherman said to his sons, “Boys, it is time that you learned how to make a living from the sea.” They loaded their vessel, said their goodbyes, and set sail for a three-month voyage.
Three whole years passed before the grieving woman saw a lone man walking toward her house. She recognized him as her husband. “My goodness! What has happened to my darling boys?” she cried. The ragged fisherman told his story.
“We were just barely two days out to sea when Towards hooked into a great fish. Towards fought long and hard, but the fish was more than his equal. For a whole week they wrestled upon the waves without either one giving up. Yet, eventually the great fish won the battle, and Towards was pulled over the side of our ship. He was swallowed whole, and we never saw either one of the again!”
“Oh dear, that must have been terrible!” cried his wife. “What a huge fish that must have been! What a horrible fish!”
“Yes, it was,” said the fisherman, “but you should have seen the one that got Away….”
Go ahead and groan. That was bad!
But this morning I want you to also hear a different fisherman’s story—one that is told by John—a story of fact, not fiction—a story that has the potential to change your life.
Yes, this morning we meet the disciples after an amazing and bewildering turn of events. We’re at the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Simon Peter and his fishing buddies are out on the lake, trying to put their lives back together after witnessing the simultaneously awful and awesome spectacle of Holy Week. In their grave of grief, Jesus appeared to them, undeniably alive and full of power, announcing that he had conquered death!
Now, a few weeks later, the disciples are still trying to gain some perspective, some grip on the tumultuous events they have witnessed. Their entire world view has been turned upside-down.
So what do they do? They retreat and return to their comfort zone, a place where they can clear their heads and sort through things. There is something reassuring about the soft rocking of the boat, the briny odor of the water, the rough feel of the nets in their calloused hands. We can empathize with them, can we not? Sometimes you just have to go back to something you know when your life is full of upheaval.
These disciples spend the entire night out on lake fishing. Maybe their skills have grown a bit rusty, or maybe it’s just bad luck, but by daybreak their nets are still empty. And I imagine they are feeling a mite bit frustrated.
- JESUS IS LORD OF REVELATION
They are just about ready to hang things up, fishing a while longer in the shallow water near the shore, when a stranger calls out to them from the beach. “Caught anything?” he inquires. “No!” They respond. They cannot make out who he is—it’s that time of morning when shapes cannot take on color or features for lack of light.
He tells them to “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll find some!” Yeah, right. As if that will make a difference! But no one has
any better ideas. The sun’s coming up and the fishing will soon be over anyway. So they throw the net over the right side of the boat, and the rest, as they say, is history. The net is so full of fish it’s about to pull the boat over!
John shouts, “It’s the Lord!” Peter does a double-take, and he, too, sees that it is Jesus! He throws a tunic over his boxer shorts, hops in the water, and flails his way to shore to greet the risen Christ, leaving John and the rest of the fellows to drag the boat and fish in!
Yes, the first point this closing chapter of John’s gospel offers to us is this: Jesus is Lord of Revelation. Jesus reveals to us the proper direction for our lives, if only we will listen to him and obey him.
You see, many of us spend our lives fishing from the wrong side of the boat. We are headstrong, seeking our own will, relying on our own wisdom and strength, offering only lip service to Christ. We make major decisions about schools, homes, careers without ever once seeking the Lord’s will for our lives and futures. We become anxious, frazzled, burned-out. We wonder why our nets seem so empty at times.
Jesus says to us, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all these things will be added unto you!”
Go to the Lord each day seeking his will for your life. Listen as he speaks to you through his word, through prayer and through other believers. And then obey what he tells you. Cast your net on the right side of the boat. And he will reveal to you the proper direction for your life.
Jesus is Lord of Revelation.
- JESUS IS LORD OF RESTORATION
As Peter and his buddies come ashore, they find Jesus tending a charcoal fire on the beach. Now that’s interesting—the last time such a fire is mentioned in John’s gospel, Peter is warming his hands over one as he denies knowing Jesus.
Jesus is cooking breakfast—the smell of smoke and frying fish is wafting through the cool morning air. He and the disciples eat their fill as they share in this joyful reunion.
Next comes a very poignant scene: When they finish eating, Jesus turns and says to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter says to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And Jesus says to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Without missing a beat, Jesus asks again if Peter loves him, and after Peter says that he does love him, Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.”
Then again, as though the question had not been asked, Jesus inquires about Peter’s love. Peter is hurt by this persistent questioning, and he blurts out, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus commands him once again, “Feed my sheep.” Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. What is Jesus driving home in this dialogue with Simon Peter?
Jesus is giving Peter the opportunity to cancel out the three cowardly denials he made during Holy Week. Although Peter had insisted three times that he was not a disciple of Jesus, now he affirms three times that he loves his Lord. Each question and each answer cancels out one of Peter’s shameful denials.
What we’re talking about here is restoration. Jesus is Lord of restoration. When we come to him seeking forgiveness, he restores to us hope for the future because we no longer have to be defined by the sins of our past. The slate is wiped clean, a new beginning is given.
An old friend of mine, Don Cullen, is the owner of Classic Auto Body in Waynesboro. He’s my go-to guy whenever I or someone in my family has a fender-bender, and we’ve pretty much footed his son’s college education over the years.
Don’s real passion, though, is restoring vintage automobiles. His work is amazing. For instance, he recently sold a 1962 red Corvette he spent years working on–replacing worn parts, overhauling the motor, detailing the interior, meticulously repairing, sanding and repainting the exterior. That broken down, rusted-out sports car was literally given new life and purpose–you talk about one sweet machine!
In the same manner, Jesus restores Peter and us to new life and purpose when we allow his to strip away the rust of sin, opening our hearts to receive his forgiveness, and then we strive to embrace his will from this day forward.
And just what might his will for us be?
III. JESUS IS LORD OF RECIPROCATION
We are freed from sin so that we will be free to serve. If we truly love the Lord who gives us forgiveness, we will feed his lambs, tend his sheep, feed his sheep. There are vulnerable persons all around us. People who are struggling in a myriad of ways. People who need a word of faith and a hand of strength to uphold them. They are the sheep of our pasture. And just as Peter was commanded to care for the flock entrusted to him, so Christ gives us a community to tend to as well.
Isn’t it a whole lot easier to put a dollar in a collection plate than to put your life next to someone else who needs to experience Christ’s love? It involves sacrifice to reciprocate the kind of love Christ has shown to us. And yet, as he has loved us, so he commands us to love others.
We reciprocate our love for him—yes, we prove our love for him—not by the sincerity of our emotions or intentions, but by our actions.
Peter would pay the ultimate sacrifice for such devotion to his Lord. He would one day be executed on a cross in Rome. And he would request to be crucified in a downward position for he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me!” And, yes, it does cost something to follow the Lord of Revelation, the Lord of Restoration, the Lord of Reciprocation. But, as Peter would wholeheartedly agree, it is the adventure not just of a lifetime, but of an eternity.
Well, baseball season is now in full swing. My Dodgers and Nats are off to a pitiful start!
One of my favorite baseball commentators of all time was Joe Garagiola. He tells about a time when Hall of Fame slugger Stan Musial came to the plate in the 9th inning of a critical game. Musial was at the peak of his career, ripping one home run after another.
The opposing pitcher in the game was young and nervous. Garagiola, as his catcher, called for a fastball and the pitcher shook his head.
Joe signaled for a curve and again the pitcher shook him off. He then asked for one of the pitcher’s specialties and still the pitcher hesitated.
So Joe called “Time, Ump!’ He went out to the mound for a conference. He said, “Look, son, I’ve called for every pitch in the book; what do you want to throw?”
“Nothing,” was the pitcher’s shaky reply. “I just want to hold on to the ball as long as I can!”
That’s where many of us in the church are today. You’ve received Christ’s revelation, giving you direction for your life. You’ve received his restoration, having been forgiven and set free from the sins of your past and had your eyes opened to a promising future.
And yet, you’re scared to reciprocate the love he’s shown for you. You look outside the comfortable walls of this church and your home and you see sheep in your neighborhood, on your job, at your school who need to be fed—yes, you see persons who need to experience Christ’s love through you. But you’re afraid to step out in faith and make a difference for your Lord.
Jesus is telling you this day to quit holding the ball. Throw the pitch! And trust that he will accomplish wonderful things through the life-changing love you share!