Scripture: John 21:1-19
The past few weeks I have asked what would happen if we really believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and how our lives would change if we lived as if that were the case. I know that it is an odd question because most, if not all of us believe this with our whole hearts. But do we live as if we believe that that power is available to us, even today 2000 years after the fact. Do we think of it as an ancient history that has no bearing on our current life or is the reality something that we can interact with even today?
This is a question that the apostles even 2000 years ago had to ask themselves. Their rabbi, their friend had been executed on a cross around two weeks before, they had been locking themselves in a room together waiting. Waiting. The greatest most amazing and unexplainable things have happened but they cannot leave this room out of fear. They had just spent the last 3 years of their life learning from and ministering with Jesus. Now the game had changed. Jesus is not physically at hand, he comes and goes like a mysterious wind, and they are at a loss for what to do. They are without direction and without a cause they lock themselves in a room and they sit in the cloud of uncertainty.
Then Peter gets tired of waiting and tired of sitting. He is a man of action and this waiting around is not for him. So he the leader of the apostles in many ways makes a bold statement, “I am going fishing.”
For those that like to fish this may seem like a very honorable thing to do and you would be at his heels, mainly because he has a boat. We might say that this statement of going fishing is a great way to relax and center down on God. But I want us to take a different look. Peter, James, John and Andrew were all fishermen by trade prior to becoming the apostles of Jesus. This is not a simple statement of let’s go out and enjoy the day fishing, but one of defeat.
“I am going fishing.” Peter proclaims. I am finished and I am going to go back to the life I once knew. For three years Peter and the others had seen the blind receive sight, the lame gain use of their limbs, they had even seen the lepers cleansed of their disease, they had seen great compassion on the vilest of sinners worthy of death, and had seen charity beyond their wildest imagination when a group of over 5000 was fed miraculously. Yet after all of that, when the situation changed they fall back to what they knew once before. “I am going fishing.” After seeing the empty tomb, after encountering the risen Christ not once but twice, after seeing and feeling the wounds on the hands and in the side of their teacher and friend. The friend who was rejected, tortured, and executed by the religious establishment and the government, yet had stood in the room with them not as a ghost but as flesh and bone. And he say, “I am going fishing.”
They not only have seen marvelous feats of God’s mighty hand but they had seen that hand raise the dead of a small girl, a grown man, and their beaten teacher. They shared meals with him, sat and conversed with him. They are confused and in their confusion they look back and say, “I am going fishing.” As far as they are concerned everything they hoped for in Jesus was buried, buried in an empty tomb. At that moment there was no future through this cloud and the only path left to take is the path back through the mists, back to a time and place where all that was needed and required was to toss a net and pull in the catch. “I am going fishing.”
They left the room, they shut the door on their hopes and they settled. They were standing at the gates of kingdom but instead of walking forward through the mist they settle for a life they once left because to walk forward takes a faith in something that is unsure. They fish all night; they toil in the darkness only to come up empty.
Then a voice cries out from the shore. “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They are transported back to the beginning, back to where they started; back again to the first day they met the man that would change their lives. “Throw the net off the right side.” The man says to them and there is a familiar tug, a resistance that only a fisherman knows and they realize that even in their unfaithfulness God is gracious.
Peter dives into the water swimming to the shore while the others drag in a catch. There on the shore the friend they all rejected, the friend they each turned their backs on was stoking the fire, cooking fish, and asking them to eat. They turned their backs on their Lord, they returned a past life, yet there was their Lord cooking fish for them and extending a hand of grace.
So often times we face the clouds and turn. Something comes into our lives that challenges our faith, challenges our understanding, or our traditions and we turn. Instead of moving forward along the path we have been lead to, we turn and walk the other way. We turn from the grace of God and we lean on our own strength. We look ahead into the mist and we say “lets go fish,” which is in actuality saying let us go our own way and use my own understanding. Why do we turn? Why do we throw up our hands, why do we lock our faith up in a room and bury it in an empty tomb?
It goes down to that base question, what would happen if we really believed? What would happen in our life if we actually believed and lived an expression of that belief in everything that we do?
Jesus sat down and ate with his friends. He ate without judgment; he ate the meal pouring out grace to a group of people that did not deserve any love. These men ran from his side when the cultural leaders came to threaten. These men locked themselves in a room and then turned back to their old lifestyles, yet Jesus cooked for them and loved them. These men believed with their heads but that belief did nothing for them in the world because that belief was just an empty tomb.
Jesus then pulls Peter aside. “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Do you love me Peter? Do you love me more than these others, more than these fish? “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.” Peter answers. Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asks again. Peter, do you love me more than these, more than a stable career and a steady income? Do you love me, Peter? “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Peter again answers and Jesus tells him to tend his sheep.
“Simon son of John, DO YOU LOVE ME?” Jesus asks for the third time. Simon, do you love me more than honor, more than power, more than status or prestige in the community? Simon do you love me more than clothes, more than education, more than politics or religion? Simon Do you love me? And Peter is hurt now, “You know everything; you know that I love you. “Feed my sheep.”
Do you love me? I can hardly speak these words because this is the question that Jesus asks every one of us. It is the question that I myself was asked about 14 years ago while I sat in a park eating lunch waiting for my next class to start. Do you love me more than… Do you love me more than wheat, cattle, or corn? Do you love me more than computers, music, or games? Do you love me more than your father and mother, your sister or you brother…do you love me more than your son? This is what Jesus is asking every single person in this room that says they believe. Do you love Him?
He gives a very specific answer to those of us that want to answer his question. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. If you love him there is something that you must do. It is not a suggestion. If we love him it will show in a very specific way.
We show our love by feeding the lambs. By making sure that the children in our community, the children around us at any moment of time are brought up in a way that fosters healthy growth. This takes on many forms because there are many ways a child grows. They need the basic nutrition to survive. They need an education. They need encouragement, inspiration, and discipline. They need to play and imagine, they need to read and listen. They need to be challenged and they need to have fun. Without these things the child will not grow into a healthy adult. A child needs a balanced and stable life. And if we love Jesus we will feed his lambs. That does not mean we vote a certain way, but we personally feed his lambs, we take an active role in their lives.
We show our love for Jesus by tending his sheep. This is more than just gathering them in and making a large assembly. To tend sheep on must push back the wool and bring healing salves to wounds, sometimes you must nudge them to turn around and go a different way. It is taking a stand to protect the weak, as well as encouraging them to expand the herd. Tending the sheep is giving counsel, sitting in the hospital room, it is giving a mother a break so she can rest, it is providing a shoulder to cry on, and ensuring that they have a place to lay their head. We feed the lambs or the children, we tend the sheep or the adults but it does not stop there.
We show our love by feeding the sheep also. We also have to feed the adults. If wounds are going to heal then we need nourishment. If a sheep needs to turn then we better have something in that other direction for them to go to. If we love God we will feed those around us, both physically and spiritually. Adults as well as children need to be challenged, encouraged, filled, and supported. If we love Jesus we will actively take part in the feeding those around us.
These things are the fruit of a people that believe in the risen Christ, these are the fruit of people that live a life empowered by a risen Christ. Those that live this way have seen God do amazing things, because if we do these things we are asking God to work through us. Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. If he loved him more than that past life that after a time of uncertainty he decided to go back to. He answered him by saying if you love me then you will continue the ministry that I started.
There are two types of belief. One is locked in a room, buried in an empty tomb, and turning back to former ways. The other is one walking in the way of Jesus, feeding lambs, and tending to the flocks. One belief is left bound in a room and sitting in a mist of uncertainty. The other is boldly walking through the mist and expecting God to do amazing things all around. One is an empty net while the other is abundantly filled.
Do you believe? If you believe will it change your life? If it changes your life will you walk in the ways of Christ or turn back to the boat?