Summary: The Christian life is a long walk with Jesus in the right direction.

Title: Tracking with Jesus

Text: John 21:1-19

Thesis: The Christian life is a long walk with Jesus in the right direction, i.e., staying on track.

The Season of Easter Series: When Jesus Shows Up

During the Season of Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ as he shows up in unusual and unexpected ways.

Two weeks ago we saw how Jesus understood the need for his followers to see him… seeing is believing! In seeing Jesus, Thomas’ doubts were allayed.

Last week we saw how Jesus walked with two of his followers. Just as Jesus accompanied them on their journey, Jesus accompanies us on our journeys as well. The Christian life is going the distance with Jesus as a companion. Eugene Petersen’s book title describes the Christian life as “a long obedience” or an arduous trek with Christ.

This week we see how Jesus knew he needed to encourage his followers to stay the course, so to speak. The Christian life is more than “a long obedience” or simply going the distance, it is also going the distance with Jesus – “in the right direction.” By that I mean, staying on track.


When I was in high school our house was near the Chicago Northwestern Railroad. So I have fond memories of trains rumbling through our little town. The train track divided Ogden into a north side and a south side. The major streets in our town crossed the track so the engineers tended to lay on the whistle all the way through town so it was noisy. But long before you could hear the throbbing diesel engines and the rumble of the cars, you could feel it. There was a picture on my bedroom wall that would begin to vibrate long before the train reached the city limits.

Just outside of town is a famous railroad bridge called the Kate Shelley Bridge. Today a new, modern, concrete bridge runs alongside the old steel bridge which was named in honor of a fifteen year old girl named Kate Shelley. The bridge is one of the longest and highest double tracked railroad bridges in the United States. It is a magnificent structure spanning the entire Des Moines River valley.

On July 6, 1881 there was a terrible thunderstorm and the creeks flooded and the river rose and the railroad track and some of bridges were in danger of washing out. In fact the Honey Creek Bridge collapsed plunging a pusher train and its four man crew into Honey Creek.

The Shelley’s lived nearby. Mrs. Shelley was a railroad widow and she and her five children lived next to the track. They heard the crash when the pusher train plunged into Honey Creek. Fifteen year old Kate, knowing that the bridge was out, knew that the Midnight Express would soon pass through so she crawled across the trestle bridge over the flooding Des Moines River to reach the Moingona Station where the station agent then stood out on the track in the rain waving his red lantern to stop the Midnight Express . In honor of her heroism they named the bridge The Kate Shelley High Bridge.

There is a virtual trainload trove of train wreck information online. Simply Google “Train Wrecks” and you can occupy yourself for hours sifting through the wreckage.

When I Googled “Famous Train Wrecks,” I was surprised to find one of the first web sites was titled, “Charlie Sheen and Other Famous Train Wrecks.” It occurred to me that we often refer to people who are about to mess up their lives as “train wrecks about to happen” or when they’ve actually done it we call them “train wrecks.”

People can derail and run off-off track just like trains. You could say that the most flamboyant and charismatic of Christ’s disciples was something of a train wreck. Peter was good at derailing and Jesus was good at getting him back on track.

When Peter went back to fishing he was not going forward with Christ.

I. Going back is not going forward

Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:2-3

Jesus was nowhere to be found so they went fishing. The story continues as John narrates the unfolding events. As they were coming in early that morning after an unsuccessful night of fishing Jesus was on the beach. He had built a charcoal fire and was cooking bread and fish. They did not recognize him until he called out to them suggesting they drop their nets on the right side of the boat after which they hauled in 153 fish.

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