Summary: Main point: God reclaims your past to bless you into your future.
This sermon is by James Choung of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. You are also invited to visit James¡¦ blog at http://www.jameschoung.net/.
Ever let someone down? I mean, really let them down? They expected something of you, something reasonable, and you didn’t deliver?
The woman I was dating in college was graduating. We had been dating for two and a half years. I was a second year staff worker away at camp, and she made me promise not to be late to her graduation. Sure thing. "No problem. I’ll be there."
I can’t remember what happened. I don’t know if I dilly-dallied after a Scripture study. Or did I need to finish a game of softball? Or had too long a lunch? But all of a sudden, I realized that I was going to be late...
It’s not fun letting people down. Nor is it fun to be let down. It could be something simple. It can be as silly as the Matrix sequels. Or it could be something that makes you question the core: recently, one of my close buddies passed away. He spent two years in the hospital with a rare disease, and we prayed for his healing. But he died at the age of 32.
What do you do when your expectations aren’t met, especially in the things you feel like God had said would come to pass? What do you do when your dreams don’t happen?
The students of Jesus in the passage we’ll cover had sky-high expectations. They thought they were following the Promised One, the one that would overthrow the Roman government and restore the Kingdom of Israel. But this leader wasn’t like other violent Galileans, calling for uprising and revolt. His way had confused them for three years, but he could do great things: heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, raise the dead. He was amazing. He must be the long-awaited king. And they had left everything to follow him. They wanted to rule with him when his Kingdom was established. And it all came to an end after three years of learning and becoming like their rabbi: the Roman government had executed their rabbi and leader. The revolution was over. The Kingdom they hoped for wouldn’t come. And not only that, in the end they showed their true loyalties: every single one of them ran.
Peter, however, was the worst offender of them all. Full of bravado, always known to act before he thought, he was the outstanding pupil among Jesus’ twelve. And he swore that he would be loyal. But Jesus upbraids him with a prediction. Read slide: John 13. And to Peter’s terror, the prediction comes true. Read slide: John 18. How does Peter feel? Talk about major disappointments „o how does Peter look at himself in the mirror? Another passage says that he wept bitterly. He knew that he blew it.
I. We catch nothing when we go back to our old ways.
Read John 21:1-3. It would be easy to think that the disciples were elated about Jesus’ resurrection. Sure, they were. But some were freaked out. Some were doubtful. And they must all now sit in the guilt of failing their master. For all of their bravado, their nerve didn’t hold up. And they see him, and they’re reminded of their failures. Their early confidence is gone, and the dream of the Kingdom hasn’t awakened in them. So Peter does what anyone would do when loaded down with guilt: he tries to take his mind off of it. "I’m going out to fish." What else would you do to get your mind off of your failures? And they go out all night long. Fishing is backbreaking work. They have to go at night, because their nets aren’t made with the nylon they have today for trammel nets. They’re made of linen, and visible to fish in the day. So they have to do it at night. They have to set up their nets, a three-fold contraption with a corked top and a leaded bottom. And they throw these nets into the water to build aquatic fences, and create a commotion so that the fish would be scared into them. But they don’t catch anything. They try to take their mind off of it by doing something they’re good at, something they know. Yet still catch nothing.
Everyone’s got their go-to when they’re down and out, and feeling worthless. Isn’t it tempting to go back to the old ways? At least four of the twelve were fisherman by trade before meeting Jesus. They were good at it, and could live off of it. And in the middle of the failure, they look for something sure. They know they can fish. It’s something to do with their hands. And it will help them recover some sense of dignity, right? The old ways are comfortable, like old jeans. When things go poorly, we go back to what we know.