Isaiah 35:1-10, John 21:1-14
April 30, 2017
So far, Jesus has called these fishermen to be his disciples, and he has led them on an amazing journey! For three years, they traveled together, they learned a lot from him, they heard him speak to the crowds, and they saw him do amazing things!
Then at the end, it all went bad! Just as his fame was reaching its height, as everybody began to see him as the hope of Israel, as the crowds hailed him as a great leader, perhaps even a king, it all came crashing down. They thought there was a great future ahead, a future of hope, even a future of freedom. Then, literally overnight, this man was taken from them, violently, and all their dreams, and all their hopes, were crushed.
Can we even imagine what that was like? Maybe you’ve experienced something like that. Maybe something you had been hoping for our future, something you wanted to continue, or you assumed would always be part of our lives, all of a sudden ended completely. For them, the days of this man Jesus were over! Then add to that the personal devastation of losing one so close to them, someone so beloved! Think about that for a moment.
Then… something happened! Something even more amazing than the things they had seen this man do. Somehow, he had come back to them! They had seen him! They had touched him! He was with them on several occasions! Somehow, beyond all hope, Jesus was alive!
So then, the question became, “What happens next?” Ok, Jesus is back. At least he’s not dead, anyway. What happens? Do they start all over? Do they pick up where they left off? Do they resume traveling around the countryside, hearing him tell everyone about the kingdom of God and his love for them? They didn’t know. But apparently, that which they had gotten used to over the past three years was still not in the cards for them
So, what were they to do? Well, Peter answered that question in his own inimitable way. He said, “I’m going fishing!” I think we know what that means! I’ve said this before. Peter wasn’t suggesting they go out and “drown a few worms!” Peter, the fisherman, was suggesting that they go “back to work.” And his “fisherman colleagues” joined him. This wasn’t recreation! This was vocation! And I have to wonder how that went – what with their three year hiatus!
Apparently, it didn’t go so well! They spent all night fishing! And they were apparently fishing the way I fish. They caught nothing! I’m really good at that! And what happened next was a “replay” of something that happened before. Jesus was on the shore, and he said, “Cast your nets on the other side.” And notice, there was no reaction this time. If you remember, when this happened before, they answered him. They said “Hey! We’ve worked all night and caught nothing!” “You’ve got to be kidding!” “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” This time, however, no reaction!
Do you think maybe this time they remembered what happened the last time? Do you think there even might have been some anticipation here, as if something was about to happen? I don’t know about you, but I’m sure both of those things were true!
Sure enough, they caught, once again, a huge number of fish. In fact, they caught a “plethora” of fish! I was so excited when I learned that the first time. They literally caught, in Greek, a “plethos” of fish – one hundred and fifty three of them! (Apparently, that answers the question, “What is a plethora?” – 153!)
So now they have this huge net full of fish! It was so big, they could not get it in the boat! Can we picture that struggle? Can you see the boats rocking, the water splashing in, the men hauling on the ropes? And all this time, as John pointed out, the net didn’t break. He says it as though that would be expected of such a large catch! So the miracle here was not just the fish, it was the nets, too!
When they saw this all happen, the “disciple who Jesus loved” – in other words, John – that disciple said “It is the Lord!” He said it, but I’m sure he only voiced what they all knew it at that moment!
So Peter leaps into the water and swims ashore, as I said a few weeks ago, like Forrest Gump, when he learned his mother was sick. Do you remember that scene. So we know Peter could swim. He only started to drown in the previous story because he saw the wind and waves!
So there they were, all together again, Jesus and his disciples, sitting together by the lake. (Or at least the fishermen disciples.) And I love that image! And there they quickly learned that the journey with Jesus had not ended, not by a long shot!
But it would be different this time. From now on, they would still be telling people about the kingdom of God, but he wouldn’t be with them – not in body, anyway. He would always be with them, of course, but in spirit! Now they would be the leaders! And of course, that’s what they did! They changed the world with Jesus’ message!
As I think about all that, I wonder if they remembered, at that moment, his words to them three years earlier. It was the time he first found them, by the sea, maybe on that very spot! Do you remember what he said? He said, “I will make you fishers of men.” And then he said that day the words that John’s Gospel nearly ends with, “Follow me!”
That brings things full circle – not to an end, but full circle! Because that would be the pattern for the next two thousand years! Jesus would call people to service, to be like him, to love like him, to tell others about him. And to all of them, down through the ages, he would give the same promise. “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”
Well, I think you know what I’m going to say here. All of that means us, too. We too are called to follow. We too are called to tell others about his love and his mercy. And even more than that, we are to called to “show” those things!
That’s what I want you to think about as you leave here today. You are part of the long line of people God has called over the years, to feed his sheep. We’re going to talk about that next week. But in the meantime, think about the fact that you are those to whom Jesus has said the same words he said to these men by the sea long ago. To all of us, he says, “Follow me.”
Eternal God, you have placed your call on our lives. Help us to have the strength to do just that, to follow where you lead. Fill us with your love, that we may show your love to others. Helps us to be your people wherever you call us. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.