Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Now what? Do you get at least a little bit of that feeling when you hear about the disciples in the gospel lesson for today? They’d seen the empty tomb. They’d spoken with Jesus. They’d seen his hands and side. They’d heard his word of “peace,” not once, not twice, but three times. They’d been entrusted with the authority to forgive sins in Jesus’ name. All remarkable assurances that Jesus is indeed alive and has indeed entrusted his good news to them to share – but that was almost a couple weeks ago. Now what? Jesus told them to wait in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high, and that hadn’t happened yet. So, they waited. From the looks of it, it seems like Jesus’ assurance to his followers finally took. They’d exited their locked room in Jerusalem to face the new day of living in the world with a promise in their pocket from the resurrected Jesus. What to do now? Peter had the answer. I’m going out to fish. And you heard what happened next. Out all night and nothing to show for it – sound familiar? A voice calling from the shore, “Throw your nets on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” Sure enough there was a catch – a big one – 153 of them. Now that we’re at the very end of John’s gospel (chapter 21), do these miracles almost seem commonplace? Or maybe the better question is, how do you follow John 20?! Jesus rose from the dead (no small accomplishment) in chapter 20…and then in chapter 21 he appears with his resurrection power…to fill the disciples’ nets with fish? Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s a miracle…
But does it really seem to fit with the theme for our worship today? The risen Christ appears with power – and you heard all about that power in our Scripture lessons for today. The risen Jesus appears with glorious majesty to a persecutor named Saul on his way to Damascus to round up believers and put them in jail. The risen Christ’s power knocked proud Saul to the ground and transformed that persistent persecutor into a prolific pastor named Paul. Powerful stuff. Or how about John’s glimpse of heaven in Revelation 5? There was a scroll that contained information about the future and everyone desperately needed to know what was on it – but there wasn’t a single person who was worthy to open it – until the Lamb came forward. The Lamb had been slain, but lived again and had purchased humanity with his blood (sound familiar?). Then over 100,000,000 angels shouted out praise to this great Savior, Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! The risen Christ appears with power! He shines with glory on the road to Damascus and, victorious over death, he rules all things forever in heaven! But what about the gospel lesson? Jesus’ disciples weren’t travelling on the road to Damascus, and they weren’t in heaven yet. So, they got some fish. Maybe I picked the wrong lesson to preach on today…or maybe not.
What we see happening in the gospel lesson is how the power of the resurrected Jesus intersects with every-day life. These disciples had survived the roller coaster of Holy Week and cherished the post-resurrection appearances, but now they were waiting. And while they were waiting, they went fishing. They went back to “life.” They went back to the nets they’d left behind. This time, they weren’t trying to make a living, they were just hoping for something to eat, to no avail. But then, Jesus showed up. After they followed his word and threw their nets on the other side, and after they hauled in 153 big fish, listen to what happened, Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. As far as grand displays of resurrection power go, 153 fish for seven disciples is miraculous, but it doesn’t seem all that crazy. So what was Jesus doing? This wasn’t just about fish – this was about a Savior who sees your needs and meets them. Jesus was assuring those disciples that he’d be with them always and that he’d provide for whatever the future would bring. And Jesus goes about it in the way he always does – bringing abundance from nothingness, all with the power of his word.
So, the “why?” of this miracle is becoming clearer, but maybe the bigger question is “why now?” If this was only about God’s providence, the disciples could’ve/should’ve learned that lesson when Jesus fed the 5,000 and the 4,000. Why do this miracle now of all times? Why keep writing John 21? John had closed out chapter 20 of his gospel with a beautiful conclusion: These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. After Jesus rose, after he appeared to his disciples, forgave their sins and sent them to forgive; you’d think that would be a natural place to stop. Instead, we get to see the power of the risen Jesus intersect with every-day life. Now we have this miracle of Jesus. All the other signs and miracles of Jesus throughout the gospel accomplished the purpose John mentioned – so that you, right here, you dear Christian may know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Christ, your Savior, and in him you have life. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit has worked that miracle of faith in your heart – Christ is risen and he’s risen for you! Now what? Now the church carries out its mission to the world, bringing the good news of life and light in Christ to those trapped in death and darkness. And how do we do that? We do it the way Jesus says – just like those disciples learned to do.
At least a few of those disciples on the boat had been professional fishermen, who knew a thing or two about bringing in a catch. But on their own, that night, they caught nothing. Then Jesus shows up and tells them something completely counter-intuitive to all conventional fishing knowledge – everyone knows that nighttime is your best chance. But the disciples do it anyways, and look what happens: a catch – a big one – 153 of them.
This miracle isn’t a metaphor. It’s not just an allegory or an illustration. It’s a real miracle, but I can’t help but to think that we can learn a few things about how Jesus still operates as we carry out his mission to the world. The disciples did all they could and fished all night long, but got nowhere with nothing to show for it. Isn’t it still true that by our own efforts, we wouldn’t get anywhere? Those disciples didn’t have a thing until Jesus came along and put it right in their nets. Isn’t it still true, that ultimately Jesus provides everything we need? Jesus gave his disciples a method that ran completely against everything that seemed logical. Isn’t it still true that Jesus sends us to our task with a method that is completely counter-intuitive to all conventional wisdom about growing an organization? Jesus didn’t send us to offer a proliferation of self-help programs. Jesus didn’t give us our mission to make people feel good about themselves and their lifestyle choices. Jesus sent us into the world with a method that runs completely against worldly wisdom. Jesus sent us with a word – a message of sin condemned in the law and a proclamation of sin forgiven in the gospel. Jesus sent us with a handful of water and the name of the Triune God to wash people and bring them into his family. Jesus sent us with some bread and wine, and says “Celebrate my feast!” And look what happens – a catch – a big one – as many as the Holy Spirit will call.
When we talk about the power of Jesus intersecting with every-day life, this is where the trouble starts. It all seems so intangible. We talk about a promise, but I can’t put that in the bank. We speak frequently about Jesus’ presence, but that doesn’t go on the table to feed the family. “I could be a part of that mission to bring the gospel to the world if”…how would you finish that sentence? I could be a part of this church’s work to take the gospel to this community if…I weren’t so busy. I could bring an invitation to someone who needs it if…I didn’t have so many other commitments. I could encourage a brother or sister who’s slipping away if… the kids didn’t have me pulled in ten different directions every two days. I could support the work of the gospel in this place if…Well, if I don’t take care of myself, who will?! The resurrection power of Jesus intersects with every-day life, with a promise to meet all my needs - but maybe I’m not so sure.
So notice carefully, what Jesus does. Not only does he provide the method to carry out his work and the promise to bless it; he provides for all our needs. Did you see how he showed that to his first disciples? Apparently Jesus knew about the most important meal of the day, Come have breakfast. Jesus invited his disciples to eat and he provided the food. It seems like a small detail, but it’s remarkable. Especially if you consider when this happened. Jesus had gone to the cross for these guys! Jesus had died to pay for their sins. Jesus had risen from the dead to defeat their death and guarantee their eternity! Even after all Jesus had done for them, he’s still meeting even the mundane, daily needs of his people. Jesus had taken care of their eternity, and he’s still mindful of their breakfast! It’s not like Jesus took his victory lap after his resurrection and now he’s going to sit this one out and leave us alone. Jesus didn’t just provide for our spiritual needs and leave us to fight it out to take care of our physical needs. Jesus is always present – providing for our needs and blessing our efforts in his name. So, I hope you’re seeing how this gospel lesson fits beautifully with our theme for today – the risen Christ appears with power – not just on the road to Damascus almost 2,000 years ago, and not just up in heaven where he reigns forever and ever. The power of the resurrected Jesus still intersects with every-day life right now. The resurrection of Jesus means that he sets us free from our sins by forgiving them. He sets us free from worrying about our future by assuring us he’s always with us. He sets us free from concern about our daily needs because he’s promised to provide for them. In short, he’s set us free…to go fishing. Not for perch, but for people.
Jesus has set us free to carry out his work in the world – to cast out the net of the gospel and watch Jesus do what he does. You’re probably thinking that you’ve heard your fair share of mission sermons. You might not think you’re much of a fisherman. Who am I? What can I offer? That’s the pastors’ job! But the same risen Jesus who assured his disciples of his power and his presence is powerful and present with you. With that guarantee of Jesus, we’re free to think and plan how we can we cast that gospel good news out into our community and the world. How can we do that? Don’t overlook the sleeping giant behind you – the other 80% of this building plant. Every single day dozens of children and workers walk through those doors and when they’re here, they hear a message that is so rare – a proclamation of forgiveness in Jesus and hope for eternity. With your prayers and offerings, you can support that gospel proclamation both in our early learning center and our church. Chances are, you know someone who would benefit greatly from learning more about the hope you have in Christ – so invite them, offer to sit with them, go through new member instruction with them! How can we take that gospel good news to the world? Provide for your family – not just physically, but spiritually with the Word of God. Bring them to hear Jesus over and over. Bring Jesus to them again and again, and then watch what happens when the resurrection power of Jesus intersects with real life – his Word goes to work, bringing abundance from nothingness. Do you see how wonderful the Easter season is? Jesus has forgiven your sins. He’s taken away your fear. He’s walloped your worry. He’s destroyed your doubt. He’s set you free. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! Now what? Let’s go fishing!
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.