Summary: A sermon about transforming love and forgiveness.
“On the Beach with Jesus”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
Are there any smells that bring back memories for you?
Perhaps it is the scent of the perfume your grandmother used to wear.
For some, it might be the smell of freshly cut grass.
A friend once told me that he can hardly stand the smell of “musty books” because it reminds him of the first day of school.
The smells of Fall bring back memories for me…
…the smell of wood burning in chimneys, leaves which crackle underfoot, and the cool air on my cheeks cause me to become contemplative.
I feel like I’m a kid again and want to run and jump and live!!!
Sometimes smells can bring with them bad memories…
…memories we’d rather repress from the past.
Either way, they do have the ability to transport us to a different time and place.
And I think that is one of the things that is going on in our Gospel Lesson for this morning.
And it begins with a charcoal fire.
Back in John Chapter 13 Peter insisted, loudly, that he would never let Jesus down.
In fact, Peter went so far as to say, “I will lay down my life for you.”
Then, in Chapter 18, we watch helplessly as Peter tries to live into his declarations but fails.
He did follow Jesus after Jesus was arrested—all the way to the “high priest’s courtyard.”
But that was it.
“You are not one of his disciples, are you?” a girl asked him there.
“I am not.” Peter replied.
Three times Peter denies Jesus in Jesus’ hour of need, and then the rooster crows.
And it all happens beside a charcoal fire.
Think back to the smell of that fire, wafting through the chilly air.
After denying Christ, the writer of Mark tells us that Peter “broke down and wept.”
So, when we meet Peter at the beginning of our Gospel Lesson for this morning, even though Jesus has already appeared to the disciples…
…and thus to Peter twice…
…Peter was still a broken and crushed man.
He had failed the Lord, and in Peter’s mind this meant that he had missed the ultimate mark!
Not much of anything mattered anymore.
Life had lost its luster.
Have any of you ever found yourself feeling this way?
Have you ever failed the Lord so miserably that you thought God could never, never ever forgive you?
And even though people have told you over and over again that Jesus forgives you—you still could not
Is there anyone here this morning who has disqualified themselves from the race due to some indiscretion?
Do you ever feel as if you simply have too much baggage to follow Jesus?
Do you ever feel, that, you are somehow, just not good enough to make it?
We are told that after Jesus had appeared to His disciples, Simon Peter glumly said, “I’m going out to fish.”
I think Peter was so disappointed in himself, so down, so depressed, lost and confused that he decided to just go back to his old way of doing things…fishing for fish!
But after having experienced the transformation of life which occurs through a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can never be happy with anything else.
It just doesn’t work.
Nothing else fits.
We can never be happy without Jesus!!!
So even though Peter and the other disciples are out in the boat fishing, and not having a very successful time of it, Jesus is watching them from the shore.
Even though they had returned to their old ways, Jesus had not left them.
And as Jesus always does, He calls out to them.
And as is so often the case for us, the disciples did not realize it was Jesus!
“Friends, haven’t you any fish?” Jesus beckons.
“No,’ they answered.”
“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
And boy did they ever!!!
And then as soon as Peter realizes that the guy on the beach is Jesus, he jumps into the water and swims to Him as fast as he can!!!
Because life without Christ is a miserable life indeed!!!
And then there is the charcoal fire, and it seems, from the conversation which follows breakfast, that Jesus planned it that way!
When Peter and the disciples had finished eating, while the fire continued to glow Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
This conversation between Jesus and Peter is one of the most awesome in the whole Bible!
And the most remarkable thing about it is that, by way of forgiveness, Jesus gives Peter a job to do…