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John 21 - I am going to fish

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I’m going out to fish!


John 21

Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish

 1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples,

        by the Sea of Tiberias.

 It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus),

       Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee,

       and two other disciples were together.

3"I'm going out to fish,"

       Simon Peter told them, and they said,

       "We'll go with you."

So they went out and got into the boat,

       but that night they caught nothing.

 4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore,

        but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

 5He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"
        "No," they answered.

 6He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat

       and you will find some."

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in

       because of the large number of fish.

 7Then 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.

8The other disciples followed in the boat,

       towing the net full of fish,

       for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there

       with fish on it, and some bread.

 10Jesus said to them,

       "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."

 11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore.

       It was full of large fish, 153,

        but even with so many the net was not torn.

12Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."

       None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?"

       They knew it was the Lord.

13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them,

       and did the same with the fish.

14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples

       after he was raised from the dead.


 15When they had finished eating,

       Jesus said to Simon Peter,

       "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
      "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
      Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

 16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
      He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
      Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

 17The third time he said to him,

       "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
      Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,

       "Do you love me?"

He said, "Lord, you know all things;

       you know that I love you."

 18Jesus said, "Feed my sheep….”

*What a remarkable story!

This Text is has so many different layers…

Here we see seven of the disciples after the death of Jesus   

       heading back to the sea

       to do what they knew how to do… to fish.

Then there is the mysterious interruption by the stranger…

       An act of obedience…

       And a miraculous catch of 153 large fish.

We also see the disciples sharing in communion

       with their master around the fire.

       There is bread and fish.

And then Peter is confronted with his failure…

       and ultimately restored

       to take on the responsibility of

       taking care of the sheep – the emerging Christian Church.


ILL. An old pastor stood up to testify to his faith

       During a Pastor’s meeting.

       Yet his testimony surprised a number of People.

The pastor stood up and looked at the group and said,

       “I am a lay pastor of a small church that is not growing.

        I am not ordained.

       I am not seminary trained.

       I was asked to leave both Bible colleges I attended.

       I am divorced and remarried.

       On any given day I am capable

       of being a jerk with my wife and family.

I am terminally insecure,

       which causes me to compensate with bouts of arrogance.

At times people irritate me,

       and I hide from them.

I am impulsive,

       which causes me to say things I shouldn’t

       and make promises I cannot keep.

I am inconsistent.

My walk with Christ is a stuttering, stumbling,

       attempt to follow Him.

At times His presence is so real I can’t stop the tears,

       and then, without warning, I can’t find Him.

Some days my faith is strong, impenetrable, and immovable—

       and some days my faith is weak, pathetic, helpless,

       knocked about like a paper cup floating on the ocean

       in the middle of a hurricane.

I have been a Christian for 45 years.

       I am familiar with the vocabulary of faith,

       and I am often asked to give advice about matters of faith.

But I am still a mess.

       I am light-years away from being able to say with Paul,

       “Copy me.”

I am 56 years old and still struggling—

       a flawed, clumsy, unstable follower of Jesus.

       I am a failer.”

Have you ever felt like you let somebody down?

       A spouse, a family member, a boss, a team-mate;

It’s not the best feeling in the world,

       especially when you had boasted

       how they could beyond a shadow of a doubt depend on you.

You could be trusted,

       you wouldn’t let them down.

       But you did.

To disappoint someone who loves you hurts.

And that is the story of Peter

       that we want to contemplate today.

Peter’s life was one of ups and downs.

       After boasting that he would never leave Jesus,

       Peter watched from a distance as Jesus was led away.

Peter followed at a distance,

       close enough to see Jesus,

       but not to close to be seen with Jesus.
And as Jesus was being tried in the court of the High Priest,

       Peter stood outside and warmed himself by the fire,

       and three times he was recognized,

       three chances he had to make a bold stand for his Lord,

       and three times he blew it.

And when the rooster crowed,

       Peter wept bitterly.

Three days later, the woman came with the amazing news.

       The tomb is empty.

Peter, like the other disciples was full of joy

       when Jesus appears to them.

Yet, I wonder what must have been going through Peter’s mind.

Will Jesus still consider him as friend,

       after he ran away as a coward?

I imagine that Peter was glad that Jesus was alive,

       but how would their relationship be now?

       Was the trust broken so badly

       that it was beyond repair?

Perhaps you can put yourself in Peter’s place this morning.

       You have sinned and went away from God

       and now you wonder,

       can God still love me after all that I’ve done.

       Is there still a place and purpose for me in His kingdom?
Or someone hurt you so bad,

       that the relationship seems to be beyond redemption.

In John 21 Jesus appears to the disciples for the third time…

       and he takes care of some unfinished business with Peter.


It seems that John wants us to take note of the similarities

       between the first call to discipleship

       and the reinstatement of Peter.

Both stories take place by the Sea of Galilee,

       both times Peter couldn’t catch a thing,

       both times Jesus told him to throw his nets into the water

       and both times there is a miraculous catch.

Sometimes when you have fallen,

       it’s good to go back to where it all began.

Here Jesus offers Peter another starting point,

       a second chance to make things right.

As these men are standing around the firepit,

       chewing some freshly fried fish

       and spitting fish bones into the fire

       Jesus turns to Peter,

       and in full view of all the other disciples,

       he confronts him.

Talk about an awkward moment…

Peter must have been full of doubts and mixed emotions

       about his relationship to the Master.

I suspect that he feared the day when

       Jesus might say something like,

       "Peter, why did you deny Me?"

Yet our Lord spoke with compassion…

       He did not push the knife of guilt deeper into Peter’s heart.

His goal was to remove Peter’s guilt,

       to cut out the pain of shame of his past failure.

“When they had finished eating,

       Jesus said to Simon Peter,

       "Simon son of John,

       do you truly love me more than these?”

Notice the name change here.

       Jesus doesn’t refer to Peter as Peter “the Rock”,

       simply as Simon.

The title of Peter no longer fit.

       A rock is strong and above all dependable,

       and Peter had been anything but dependable.

"Simon son of John,

       do you truly love me more than these?”

In the upper room Peter had boasted

       that his dedication to the master

       was stronger than that of the other disciples.

And Jesus was asking,

       “Simon, are you still willing to make that claim?”
Peter had been sure that he would never deny the Lord.

And many of us would confidently make the claim

       that we would never fall into the kind of sin that others do.

       But we never know.

King David never thought he would commit adultery

       leave alone – commit murder,

       Solomon never thought he would get caught up in idolatry,        and Peter never thought that he would deny Jesus --

       the one he had confessed as the Christ.

Let’s look at the exchange by the fireside…

In the Greek language,

       there are three words for our word love.

The first is Eros which is a physical love.

       We can compare it to lust.

The second kind of love is known as Phileo;

       which means brotherly love.

The final kind of love is known as Agape love,

       and this is the unconditional, self-sacrificing love.

Here in the text, Jesus says, “Simon, son of Jonah,

       do you “Agape” Me.”

Peter responded honestly.

       He knew that his actions didn’t match that kind of devotion,

       and that he wasn’t quite there;

       so Peter responds by saying,

       “Lord, you know that I “Phileo” you.”

       In other words “I like you as my brother.”

Jesus asks the question three times…

       as if to take him through the three denials,

       and he brings Peter face to face with his need for grace.

Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" - Agape

And each time Peter answers “Yes Lord, I like you a lot.” Phileo

And each time, Jesus instructs him to

       Feed my sheep…

       Take care of my lambs…

       Feed my sheep.  

In this encounter by the Seashore,

       Peter experiences a renewed call to serve Jesus.

Jesus extends compassion and forgiveness to him,

       and he rekindles a fire in his heart.

Jesus doesn’t shame Peter,

rather, he restores him

And enables him to rise above his failure

and to become a pilar in the early Christian movement.

Two thousand years after the resurrection

We gather to proclaim that Jesus

did not only rise from the dead…

but, that he raises us up from the death and devastation

of our own failure.

We too, must ask ourselves:

What is the truth about ourselves that we must face?

What is the healing and forgiveness that we need

if we are to be faithful in the call to discipleship?

What is it that we need to be freed from

if we are to take the next step of the journey?

We have often heard that

       the Church is not a Spa for the Spiritually Fit.

It is often a messy place…

       full of hurting people in need of grace and compassion.

We also hear from time to time

       that it is not safe to be a “Peter” in the church.

Failure is not tolerated…

       It’s not acceptable to make a mistake.

And for that reason we act as if

       we have to have it all together in our lives…

Like the “messed up Pastor”

       our attempts to follow Jesus often end up in failure

       and disappointment.

And we too must learn to admit like Simon Peter,

       “Lord, you know that I like you a lot like a true brother,

       but, I really don’t know if I could really

       walk through the fire for you…

I’ve failed you so many times.”

Today Jesus wants to meet the pain of our own failure,

       and he extends his grace and acceptance to us.

The Lord not only forgives us and restores us…

       He enables us to partner with him in

       bringing about the Kingdom of God here on earth.

May we, like Peter, accept his grace

       and be restored

       to proclaim the wondrous love of the risen Lord

       and to be a source of strength

       spiritual nurture for others.

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