Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Easter
3 Sun Easter. John. 21:1-19 " A Cookout for a Dropout"
A shrewd worldly agnostic and a Christian clergyman, dressed in modest clerical suit, sat at the same table in the Pullman dining car. They were waiting for the first course at the dinner, a delicious Hudson River shad. Eying his companion coldly for a moment, the agnostic remarked: "I judge you are a clergyman, sir!!"
’’Yes, sir, I am in my Master’s service."
"Yes, you look it. Preach out of the bible, don’t you?"
"Oh, yes, of course."
" Find a good many things in the old Book that you don’t understand - eh?"
"Oh, yes, some thing."
"Well, what do you do then?"
"Why my dear friend, I simply do just as we do while eating this shad. If I come to a bone I quickly lay it on one side and go on enjoying the shad and let some fool insist on choking himself with the bones."
The agnostic wound his watch and went into the smoker.
I told you that story, because our gospel lesson this morning is about Peter who almost choked on his doubts, his misunderstanding, his disbelief of the resurrection of Jesus. Peter and the other disciples had been visited by the Lord twice, but it seems by this text they still didn’t understand or believe that he was alive, that he rose from the dead. They were still locked up in the upper room, they were struggling with their doubts, struggling with the appearance of Jesus, struggling with their thoughts of how can this be true. Life was changing too fast for them. They had spent three years of their life with this wandering preaching, giving up their homes, their security, their comfortable way of life, to live with this preaching from Nazareth who made their life - anything but comfortable.
They wandered around the country side preaching to all kinds of people, stirring up the religious leaders, he performed miracles that made them uncomfortable; he told them things that made them even more uneasy. Then in the last few weeks, things had gotten down right rough. The soldiers came and arrested him, he was given a very speedy trail, he was found guilty and then sentenced to death. He died on the cross, then when they thought it was all over, when they thought about going back to their old jobs, when the excitement, the hope, the glory, their dream had been put out by the cross and its horrible death, then, the ladies came and told them he was not dead, he was alive. The grave was empty. Life was changing too fast. They had not even had time to accept his death, now they were told he was alive. Then he, Jesus, came and appeared to them. He talked with them.
He spent time with them. Not only once, but twice. and he even said he was coming back again. But was it really him?? Could we have been dreaming, thought the disciples? Was it really Jesus? Yes, life was changing too fast for the disciples, they could hardly keep up with the changes.
So good old impulsive Peter suggests they go fishing. In this suggestion, Peter was saying: let us go back to something we understand, something we know, something we are familiar with. Let us go back to the security of our old jobs, the security of our families, the security of the familiar.
Some have suggested that in these familiar surroundings, the disciples could have struggled easier with their doubts, their uncertainty about the resurrection of Jesus. Some say they didn’t go fishing to abandon Jesus, but to get a handle on their fast changing lives.
Others say this was a move of open rebellion. They hadn’t understood what was happening. It had confused them so much that they decided it wasn’t worth the struggle any more. It was easy to go back to something they knew, something they were comfortable with, something they didn’t need to struggle with.
I happen to think it was a little of both. They needed to get out of the upper room. They weren’t used to being cooped up, there were outdoor men, men who were comfortable outside; who were used to making decisions outside. So, they went back to the familiar way to struggle with their faith, to struggle with their doubts, to struggle with the resurrection of Jesus. And maybe in their struggle, maybe in their fishing they were at a crossroads. Maybe this was for them a time to come to a commitment about this Jesus. It was a time as they struggled, for some to decide, to go home and some would decide to stick around a while longer to see what this Jesus was really talking about. This was ,I think, no ordinary fishing trip, but this trip was going to have some life and death consequences about it.