Text: John 21:1-14
Some time has passed since Jesus last appeared to the disciples a week after His resurrection. With Jesus risen again, it would appear that things are going to be okay for the disciples. Jesus had appeared to them, but He is not here now. And what else are the disciples to do except what they know best, fish. Simon, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two others go fishing and John records for us, “that night they caught nothing.” That’s not exactly the result you want when you go fishing, especially if that was your primary vocation before becoming a disciple of Jesus. It would appear that the evening’s fishing outing had turned into a bust.
John continues: “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” After fishing all night and catching nothing, I suppose it would be time to return to the shore, with your tail between your legs. It would appear that was what they were doing until this unknown man yelled at them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Really! Someone has to pour some salt on the wound of fishing and catching nothing.
Things could be going a lot better for the disciples. They could be with Jesus right now, but they’re not. They could have a boat full of fish, but they don’t. Surely between the seven of them, they could have caught one fish but they didn’t. This unknown man then yells at the boat, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” This sounds vaguely familiar, as if it’s happened before. In fact, this very thing has happened before. In Luke’s account of the calling of the disciples, Jesus is in a boat with several of the soon-to-be disciples and He tells them to go out into the deeper water and cast their nets. After fishing all night and having caught nothing, they listen to Jesus and they caught so many fish, their nets were breaking and they had to call out a second boat to help bring in the catch. And so with today’s account, the lightbulb turns on and John exclaims, “It is the Lord!”
What joy this must have been for these disciples, that they once again had Jesus with them! Jesus had done exactly what He said He would do, and again, He has appeared to the disciples. Jesus would commission them to go and be witnesses – not just of Jesus and His earthly life, but of the resurrection as well. And that same risen Redeemer would reveal Himself to those who believed in Him.
After realizing it was Jesus, Peter left the others behind and made a mad dash to see Jesus. Eventually, after the others brought the boat to shore, they made their way to Peter and Jesus as well. That should be our response – making a rush to our risen Lord. You have already made that rush to Jesus, for you are where He will be found, gathered around His Word that gives eternal life. And in a few moments, you will make your way to where He is in His Supper, feasting on His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, for strengthening your faith, until that day where you will see Jesus face to face with your own risen eyes.
That is my hope and prayer for you, that you too will run to Jesus, proclaiming, “It is the Lord!” That should also be your hope and prayer, because that it what you have said that you will do. Although Confirmation Sunday was last week, it is always good for us to remember what we said all those years ago and the importance of those vows. Do you remember these words: “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” You responded, “I do, by the grace of God.” It is indeed good that you pledge to hear the Word of God and receive His supper faithfully, ideally weekly. But the even greater question that was asked of you was this: “Do you intended to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Again, you responded, “I do by the grace of God.”
Christ our Lord has done that for you. He did suffer all, even death, rather than to fall away from the work of salvation for you and for all of creation. Apart from Christ, we are unable to achieve eternal life. There is nothing that we can say or do to earn eternal life. Only when we are in Christ are we able to receive eternal life; not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done to us and for us.
Our lives outside of Christ are nothing, for there is no life outside of Christ. One might try to argue that they have a very good life outside of Christ. They may have a nice home, several nice cars, a well-paying job, a wonderful family; in short, the works. And some will say that Jesus didn’t help them get all of this, they did it themselves.
In order to experience success on the water, the disciples had to rely on the Lord instead of relying on themselves. They had to subject their will to the will of the Savior. Instead of being self-directed, they heeded the words of Christ. It was then that Christ resurrected them from their failures.
We too are resurrected from death and into life when we focus not on what it is that we can do for ourselves, but what Christ did for us – became death for us. He became death for us when He came into this world in the form of a baby. He grew up so that He could die for your sins. His death gave to you and to I the keys to heaven in the form of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Where does God give forgiveness? In His means of grace. Wherever His Gospel is preached and His Sacraments administered accordingly, Jesus is there to forgive. The hymn, “Salvation unto Us Has Come” tells us quite a bit in just the first two lines: “Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.” It has nothing to do with us. It can’t have anything to do with us. If it had anything to do with us, then it would mean nothing.
In the resurrected Savior’s appearance by the shore, we see Him bringing the resurrection to a broken relationship. The result was reconciliation. Peter had denied Christ. Yet when Peter heard that it was Christ, without hesitation Peter leaped for the shore, for forgiveness came from Christ.
The resurrected Christ brings about healing to our broken relationship, broken when death entered into creation. Christ’s death purged death from creation and His resurrection bridges the gap between death and the new creation that is in Him.
Through the resurrection, Christ brings new life – new life to Himself, but also new life to those that are in Him. This life is passing away. From it shall come a new heaven and a new earth. We too will pass from a life of sin and death to a life where sin and death have been defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection. All of this is evident by Christ’s resurrection appearances. These resurrection appearances give us the blessed assurance that death is swallowed up by eternal life. If that were not the case, Christ would still be dead, death would have overcome us and we would spend many years lying in a box in the ground.
You see, Christ is risen from the dead. And He who died to restore us to Himself didn’t rise again to abandon us. Despite our sinful reluctance to come into His presence for forgiveness, He still comes anyway. Thus, we give thanks to the Lord for His coming, for His patience, and for His most persistent mercy. And thankful for His persistence, we rejoice to confess our sins and draw near to Him. For here, by His means of grace, the present, risen Lord declares that you are forgiven for all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.