Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Apr 8, 2018

“Total Re-Call” 4-8-18

Luke 5:1-11 & John 21:1-13
April 8, 2018

Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus.  For us it is a victorious event that gives us assurance of the ability of Jesus to give us eternal life.
But as we think of that event and our assurances we need to remember that this idea of being raised from the dead in a somewhat supernatural body was a new thing for the apostles and for the rest of the world at the time.  It was an event for which the Apostles had no categories. 
That is why they did not understand Jesus when he spoke beforehand about the fact that he would be raised from the dead. 
My dad had a friend who after he served and was wounded in World War II, got a job with Bethlehem steel at the Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore.  He worked there through the late 40s, the 50s, 60s and 70s, eventually becoming a foreman in what was then one of the largest steel mills in the world.  That mill had its own ship yard, so they could bring iron ore in at one end of the plant, make steel from it, and then use that steel to build ships, right there in the same complex. 
I spoke to this man at around 2005 shortly before his death.  And he told me that if, during his career, someone would have told him that during his lifetime Bethlehem Steel would go out of business and that the plant in Sparrows point would be shut down, he would have thought they were crazy.  He had no categories for such news.  He could not have imagined a world without steel being made at Sparrows Point.
The Apostles could not have imagined a life without Jesus.  They had believed that he was the Messiah who would within their lifetimes bring in the Kingdom of God.  So, even though they were overjoyed to see him on Easter and another occasion afterward, they had no idea of what their lives would be like without him.
So, after a while, when 7 of them were gathered in Galilee at the shore of the sea of Galilee, Peter decided to go fishing.   I am not sure if Peter was fishing just for something to do, or if he was considering resuming his career as a fisherman.  John tells us that he and his brother James, (here called the sons of Zebedee) were with him.  You might remember that James and John had been partners in a fishing business with Peter and his brother Andrew.
All 7 of them went fishing.  They fished all night and caught nothing.  As the night ended, they were only about 100 yards from the shore, and they saw a man on the beach, or on a cliff overlooking the lake.  He addressed them as children and said, “You haven’t caught anything, have you?”
When they confirmed his suspicions, the man told them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and when they did, the caught a bunch of fish.
John seems to have been the first to understand that the man was Jesus.  I think he was remembering a similar event that had taken place over 3 years before. 
That event is recorded in our first lesson, from Luke chapter 5.  On that occasion also, Peter and James and John had fished all night and caught nothing.  Then this preacher named Jesus got into Peter’s boat and preached to a crowd gathered on the shore.  After the sermon, Jesus told Peter to take the boats out and catch some fish.  Peter said, “We fished all night and caught nothing, but if you insist we will throw out the nets.  On that occasion also, they caught a large number of fish after catching nothing all night.
After that, Jesus had called them to follow him and informed them that they would be catching men.
On this occasion after the resurrection of Jesus, John remembered that earlier occasion and said to Peter, “That is Jesus”.
Peter jumped overboard and swam and waded and lunged toward shore to see Jesus.
The others brought in the boat and the fish.  Jesus had a fire on which he was cooking fish and warming bread.  He invited them to bring some of the fish they had caught to the fire and join him for breakfast.  Then He fed them some fish and his bread.
This information alone would make us understand that Jesus was renewing their calling.  He had called them to follow him in similar circumstances some 3 years earlier, now, after his death and resurrection he is calling them to follow him again, or to serve him.
His calling of Peter again would be a little more complicated, because Peter and perhaps some of the other apostles probably doubted his ability to follow Jesus because he had three times denied that he knew Jesus.
It seems that Jesus and Peter took a walk on the shore, followed by John and maybe the others.
Jesus asked Peter if he loved him more than these.  We don’t know what the “these” refers to, but that is OK.
It could refer to the 6 men behind them, the apostles who had been fishing with Jesus.  Peter had implied that he loved Jesus more than the other apostles when he said “even though all of them abandon you, I will not”. 
Jesus may be asking Peter, “How about now, do you still think you love me more than these guys do?”
Or he may have been asking, “Do you love me more than you love these guys?”  Peter had not seen much of Jesus since the resurrection, but he was still with 6 of the apostles.  Does he now feel a stronger bond toward them then he does toward Jesus?
And it may have been that Jesus was not talking about the other men, but about Peter’s possible return to fishing.  He may be asking “Do you love me more than you love these things, the boats, the nets, and running your own business with your brother and best friends?”
Whatever Jesus intended by the question, Peter answered in the affirmative.  He said, “Yes, you know that I love You.  Jesus said, “Then I have a job for you, feed my lambs.”
But then Jesus asked Peter again, “Peter, do you love me?”  When Peter again answered in the affirmative, the job offer was the same “Tend my Sheep” I say it was the same because I think the variations between feeding lambs and tending sheep are style variations rather than substantial.
Jesus asked again, Peter do you love me?  Which gives us a clue as to what is going on.  After Jesus was arrested, Peter had denied 3 times that he knew Jesus.  Now Jesus is having Peter affirm his love for Jesus 3 times.  This might have been for Jesus’ satisfaction, but I think it was even more for Peter’s comfort and knowledge that Jesus had dealt with Peter for his denials and had reaffirmed his faith in Peter and his call for Peter to take care of his sheep, his believers.  Peter was recalled for his own good and for the good of those who were following them as they walked down the road.
Jesus then reaffirmed the calling of Jesus by talking about Peter’s freedom when he was younger and that when he was older, he would be compelled to go places where he did not want to go.  John understood this as a prophecy that Peter would later suffer for his faith and be killed for it.  He would not deny that he knew Jesus again.
John then adds a side conversation Peter had with Jesus about John.  Peter understood that Jesus had predicted his faithful death, and he asked “what about John?  Will he die for his faith also?”
Jesus answered, if it is my will that he remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  My information to you is that you are to follow me!
He basically told Peter to mind his own business and be true to his own calling.
This little conversation evidently started a rumor.  As time went on, John would outlive the other 11 apostles and the rumor was that he would remain alive until the return of the Lord.  John wrote this to specify that Jesus had not said that.
But I want to go back, or forward, to how Jesus’ questions to Peter are appropriate for us on the Sunday after Easter.
Last week we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection and claimed that it gave us the power to be in his eternal kingdom.  We also claimed that if we believe him, he would raise us from the dead when he returned.
Now, imagine that he has come to you this morning with the holes still in his hands, feet, and sides, and that he has a question for you.
The same question he asked Peter, Do you love Him?
If we are honest, some of us might say, “well, I came to you to keep my sorry self out of hell”, or “Well, I came to you when I could not handle my addiction myself”, or, “I was taught to believe that you are the son of God, so I guess so”.
Jesus loved you so much that he died for you.  Do you love Him?
If so, as with Peter, Jesus probably has a job for you to do.  Do you know what it is? 
Peter’s was to take care of Jesus’ followers.
What might yours be?


Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906