Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Eater Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore

3rd Sunday after Easter

John 21:1-19

" A Cookout Brings Faith"

"After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."" John 21:1-19, RSV.

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus who is the risen Christ. Amen

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 preacher, giving up their homes, their security, their comfortable way of life, to live with this preacher 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, they 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.

Now what happens. They go fishing at night as it was their custom. Remember these guys weren’t amateurs, they were professional fisherman, men who had made their living by fishing. And as we can remember by their call, some of them were very successful because they had hired men helping them. They weren’t just working alone to support their families, but they caught enough fish to sell, to be in business of selling fish. So they got into the boat, and put out from the shore. They fished all night. It would really be interesting if our text had given us some thoughts these men had about that night when they caught no fish. They had been away from their trade for about 3 years, they come back to it hoping it wouldgive them some confidence, a comfortable feeling, and they couldn’t even catch one fish. They probably were feeling even more upset now than before they started. Here they were professional fisherman, going back to fishing after being away for 3 years, and then they catch nothing. It might have made them wonder if they had lost their skill, if they had forgotten to do something important, ( throwing the nets correctly ), it might have even made them wonder if, they would ever catch fish again.

Then as they were ready to head for shore because dawn was breaking, a stranger calls to them, asked them if they had caught any fish. They answered no. Then he tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Now, it is really not important to this story whether you believe that Jesus caused the fish to be there, or whether from his vantage point on the shore, he could see a school of fish close to the boat that they couldn’t see.

The catch of fish is not the important part of the story. They cast their nets into the sea, and caught a whole bunch of fish. After the catch of fish, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recognized the stranger on the shore as Jesus. He tells Peter, and impulsive Peter, puts his clothes on, jumps into the water and swims to shore. There he finds Jesus who had breakfast waiting for him. There was some fish and bread on the fire and Jesus invites the disciples to join him for breakfast and to add some of their fish to the meal. Peter drags the heavy net full of fish to the shore places his fish on the fire and they all sit down and eat with Jesus.

Now, this encounter with Jesus was very important for these men and it also tells us something about Jesus These men were making a decision, they were struggling with the resurrection, they were struggling with their faith, they were wondering if their experience with this Jesus was over or only just beginning as he had said. In their struggling, in their doubts, Jesus comes. He comes to them where they are. He comes to them in the ordinary common tasks of life. He meets them there. And notice, he doesn’t confront them, he doesn’t scold them for returning to something familiar like fishing. But he accepts them, and he invites them to share in a meal. This meal is like the last meal they had together. It was a meal of reconciliation. It brought Jesus and the disciples together. Through the eating and drinking together, the bonds of trust, friendship, belief were made stronger. For the text says they didn’t have to ask Jesus if it were truly him, for they knew it, they knew in their hearts it was Jesus.

Jesus came to these men, he came not to scold, but to reconcile. He came to show them he had risen, he came because he knew they were struggling, he came to them where they were so that he could help them make a choice, a choice to follow him, to catch men instead of fish.

Jesus comes to us in the same way. He comes in our doubts, in our struggles in live. This has been a rough week for my family as one of my daughter’s friends was killed in a car accident. She was only 24 years old and the accident was not her fault. This is the third young person our family has lost in the last 3 years. My son lost a good friend in high school due to a brain aneurysm, a nephew was killed in an accident while at work, he was only 24, and now this friend of my daughter.

All of these kids were good people, people who were making a difference in this world. We cried out why God. We begin to doubt our faith, our joy at being in the Lord. But through all of this, we have not lost faith, but I believe our faith has grown stronger, becuase Jesus heard our cries of doubt, our struggles with the Easter resurrection and has come and ministered to us.

My daughter said that one of the Sister at the school where she works told her that losing her friend around Easter would make it easier because of the Resurrection, my daughter saidmaybe in the future, but not right now. The pain was too deep, but she was holding on to her faith and hoping in the light of the Easter Resurrection she would find the faith to carry on.

Jesus came to the disciples and built a camp fire and had a cookout and stirred the disciple’s faith in him. He comes to us, maybe in not so dramatic ways, but is there when our faith needs stirring.

Jesus comes to help us through our doubts and our struggles with live and gives us the will to carry on.

A closing poem says it well:

Dropping the doubt

Though it has no physical form, doubt can restrain you more surely than the strongest steel chain. Yet doubt is nothing but a thought, and has no power other than the power you give to it. Although doubt can stubbornly hold you back, you can do something even more powerful. You can let go of it entirely.

Doubt is nothing more than a thought. Any doubt, with a mere fraction of an effort, can be forever gone the moment you decide to remove it. If you fight against your doubt it grows stronger and more resilient.

Yet when you simply release it and empty it from your mind, doubt falls away from you and quickly withers into nothing. There is not one single doubt that is permanently attached to you. Any doubt you have is yours by choice. Let each of your doubts fall quickly and easily away. In the place where they once lived, choose instead to hold and nurture thoughts of positive, empowering confidence.

Ralph Marston

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With Jesus help, our doubts will vanish and we will live in faith through him.


Written by Pastor Tim Zingale April 14, 2004