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 “What Next?” “What Next?”

A 2000 year old Galilean fishing boat
A 2000 year old Galilean fishing boat
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“What Next?”

Posted on Sun, Apr 14, 2013

John 21:1-19

April 14, 2013

Third Sunday in Easter

Gospel Text: John 21:1-19 “What Next?”


Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 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. 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6 He said to them, ‘Cast the net to 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 because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 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.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 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.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt 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. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’



Immediately after Thomas had finally come around to understanding that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, AS JESUS HAD PROMISED, and they had been gifted with the power of the Holy Spirit, AS JESUS HAD PROMISED, rather than going out and changing the world, accord to St. John, it appears that they have trekked back home to Galilee and resumed their old lives, as if they had never met Jesus at all…


But what are they to do? After Jesus has given his life and risen from the grave, what would they do for an encore? With Jesus fulfilling the promise of their salvation, they have a pretty tough act to follow with the: arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the severing and subsequent returning of the severed ear to the head of the Roman soldier, the kangaroo court with Jesus being dragged in front of Pilate and Herod, then came the scourging, the blood, then the actual crucifixion… Then, Jesus has to top it all off with his uber-natural rising from the dead, and then appearing in front of them asking for something to eat… emphasizing that Jesus is NOT a ghost…


If you were one of the disciples, what would you do? I know what I would ask! I would ask, “What’s NEXT?”


They need a Great Commissioning, or an elaborate ‘Installation Service,’ but that will come when they are ready.


They go back home to Galilee… I imagine, from Jerusalem to Galilee, they all walked in silence trying to digest all they had witnessed in the past three years, and they are all probably thinking, “What do we do now? Where is Jesus now?” What’s next?


After they return to their old stomping grounds, it appears they have no great epiphany and I can just see Peter just shrugging his shoulders and sounding like a good Norwegian Lutheran, he says, “I’m a going fishing…” What else is he going to do? Herd sheep?


Off they go, back to familiar work. And even though they are professionals, after an entire evening, they catch nothing. Good thing they have been away from home for a long time, their neighbors would have mocked them as “fishermen.” They might as well be janitors in the synagogue!


Then there is this figure on the shore. He doesn’t look like a fisherman, he is wearing regular clothes… probably a little cleaner than the others. It is Jesus.


Then Jesus asks this really cheeky and grammatically “Greek-like” question, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ First, he calls these grown strong-backed men, “children,” and then he asks this question that answers itself and highlights the failure of these so-called fishermen. “The landlubber says, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ Which also means, “Hey you little ones, I see you have no fish, and since you are ‘fishermen,’ you should have a boatload by now… but you don't!”


Out of being polite, or just being embarrassed by the guy on the beach, they answer, “no.” I’m sure none of them appreciated this guy on the beach highlighting their failure… and then he has the gall to tell them how to do their job by suggesting something that is absolutely ridiculous! The guy who could as well have been some landlocked person like a carpenter or something says, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’


First, how would he know they will catch any fish, they have been fishing all night and have failed; and second, the beam of the boat is only about 8-10 feet wide, dropping their nets on the right or left would not make enough difference to determine if they would catch fish or not! For some odd reason, they comply, or obey, and to their surprise, they bring up a net full of fish!


What does this man know that we don’t? Who is he anyways?


Then it is John, the one ‘whom Jesus loved,’ recognizes that the stranger is no stranger at all, but the one person who knows each and every one of them better than they know themselves! Peter hears John say, “It is the Lord,” and then he immediately puts on some clothes and dives into the water to meet Jesus as soon as possible. I have a feeling that feelings of guilt still persist in Peter, even though he has been blessed with the Holy Spirit, and he is desperate to be with the only one who can free him from his feelings of guilt and betrayal.


When they all gather on the beach, Jesus has a good breakfast waiting for them, some grilled fish and bread. What happened the last time Jesus had some fish and bread? Thousands were fed, now it is time to feed these chosen disciples because they are about to be sent out into the world in order to help usher in an entirely new world, through the power of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


BTW, that number 153? Ignore it. Theologians have been wringing their brains about what this specific number might have meant, but none really matter… they are just having fun with metaphors and numbers.


But then things turn serious; Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And each time, Jesus answered, Feed my Sheep. Tend my Lambs. Feed my Sheep. And each time, Jesus asks the question Peter begins to feel more and more uncomfortable. What is going on here?


Tell me, what does the word, “pastor,” mean? It means shepherd. 


The church is being born, and Jesus is calling Peter to be the first pastor. Peter, the man who is known for speaking before thinking and betraying Jesus when Jesus needed him most, has been called to be the churches first pastor. As Martin Luther describes all of us, we are all ‘saints’ and ‘sinners’ at the same time. (Simul justus et peccator)


What’s next? Peter asked?


One thing is for sure, for all those who have heard the call of Jesus and have decided to follow Jesus, there is no turning back. (This is the central message of the Gospel of Matthew, but we will talk about that on another Sunday.)


They have been redeemed by the death and resurrection of Christ, and have also been blessed by the Holy Spirit! Do you think Jesus went through all of that just for these clowns to go back to their old lives? They have a message, a great story to tell the world!!! They have news to share that they have all experienced on a very personal level, and now Jesus has great plans for each one of them, and not one of them will be called to go fishing!


At the end of the text, Jesus prophesies about Peters’ future, “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’”


Jesus is talking about how Peter will be martyred. He too, like Jesus will be crucified on a cross. But so that he cannot be compared to Jesus, he demands to be crucified upside down. In doing such an incredible act of obedience, even to allow himself to be crucified on a cross, he has shown total obedience and faithfulness, THEREFORE he has glorified Jesus.


You have been redeemed! You have been filled with the Holy Spirit! You have been equipped! You have been called! What is next for you? What is next for us, as a Body of Christ?


Above our doors it states clearly, “Beyond these doors your Service begins?”


We have been called to serve, as we have already been served by our Lord and Savior. Amen. 

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