4/25/04 , E3C

“Gone Fishing, Again”
John 21: 1-19

n this third Sunday after Easter we hear the story of another post resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ to his disciples. This time he appears to seven of his friends in Galilee . He had told them to go ahead of him and wait. So, here we find “The Big Fisherman” deciding that since they were waiting around, they might as well go fishing again. Thus, we find these seven Apostles on the sea all night, and they had caught nothing. Although many of them had been reared as professional fishermen, they had come up empty. However, the night is never totally wasted when men go fishing. There is a lot more to “Goin Fishin,” than merely catching fish. Camaraderie is the textbook name for just being together with buddies again in a fishing boat on the familiar Sea of Galilee . They were just guys being guys. Perhaps they were talking so much that they had scared the fish away. And they had a lot to talk about, for they had seen Jesus Christ Crucified, Dead and Resurrected. They knew that he would soon come to meet them in Galilee , but they did not know when.

There are ten specific appearances mentioned in the four gospels and two in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, 15: 6, 7. John, author of our Gospel story today, calls this the third appearance (v.17) but John was not aware of several other appearances that Jesus made to others. Indeed Acts first chapter says that there were many times when Jesus met with a large group of the first believers to hear specific instructions during the forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension.

At daybreak Jesus called out to them referring to them in a playful/kidding manner, as “Children, you have no fish, have you?” (John 21: 5, NRSV) I think I detect a bit of sarcasm in Jesus' greeting words. After all Jesus had already bailed out their failure as fishermen in an earlier, and similar, miracle of the great number of their fishes caught when they re-cast their nets on to other side of the boat.

Again, they acted like they did not recognize him at first. Perhaps they were embarrassed that a carpenter was rubbing in their ineptness as fishermen. As you recall from last Sundays appearance of Jesus to the disciples in the Upper Room, that they did not recognize him at first.

However, in this story, John recognized Jesus before any of the others, from his voice, when he first called out to them from the shore, John said, “It is the Lord.”

Here's the rub for us, oftentimes. Jesus has been with us all along and we somehow fail to recognize him. We find ourselves in the third week of trying to handle a serious problem at school, or at work, and we are at our wits end with no hope; and finally, we talk to a friend and they ask, “Since you go to church and seem to be religious, I am sure you have prayed about this problem, haven't you?” You are caught up with. You have to admit that you have not thought about consulting the “Higher Power.” But when we do we find Him again, it's likely that He has been beside of us all the way through the hardest time of our woes.

As the story continues, we hear Jesus calling them to breakfast. “Come and dine,” are the familiar words of Jesus. Some of us remember the old Gospel song with the line, “Come and dine the Master calleth, come and dine, we can feast at Jesus' table all the time.”

A significant point of Jesus' teaching to the first believers is that their situation would actually be better after he was ascended to the right hand of the Father because then they would have available His Holy Spirit at all times and in all situations. No longer would he be limited to one specific place. He could be at Galilee , Jerusalem , Carrollton and Clem all at the same time. This means that in our world we can eat breakfast with Jesus every morning, as we feel his presence in greeting the day. Having the Living Holy Spirit of Christ in our lives is not totally unalike having the memories of our deceased grandparents, parents and dearly departed friends in our memory banks. Aren't we often helped in making decisions, or in despondency, by our precious memories?

The Spirit of Christ alive in us is similar to that, but it is on a more powerful level. The Spirit is actually walking with us and talking with us every step of every day. It is God's great gift bestowed on true believers who open their hearts to His presence.

Every kid in school with his head on his desk crying in ever school in the world, could cry out to Jesus and he would answer. Perhaps he would say something like, “Cast you nets on the other side of the boat and you will catch some fish.” Or He might say, “Apply yourself to your homework and listen more attentively in class, I will help you, and your grades will improve.”

Have you had a fish sandwich breakfast with Jesus lately? He has the charcoal fire already going, the bread is made, and there are fish on the grill. You may add some of your fish, or bacon to the meal, if you have any. Jesus provides spiritual nourishment for us. But we must bring the appetite. Or, will be pout alone in the cold empty boat and refuse the hot meal? We have that freedom to hang back, if we choose to lose.

Then, when they had finished, Jesus put “The Big Fisherman” on the grill. Perhaps because Simon had lost faith by denying Jesus during the Crucifixion, Jesus wanted a renewed pledge from him. Three times Jesus pressed hard the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And Jesus responded to Simon Peter's affirmation of faith, “Tend my lambs.” “Feed my Sheep.” Peter was grieved because Jesus felt like he had to ask him these ordination questions three times, but Jesus was fortifying him for his tough years ahead in ministry and his years in prison, where he was forced to stay in cells where he did not want. And ultimately follow Jesus to a cross.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
4/25/04 , E3C