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Easter 3 Sermon — John 21:1-14 (LSB Easter 3C)

April 18, 2010

April 18, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and He revealed Himself in this way.”

Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples in many ways. The Apostle John is concerned with telling you about these revelations. He records the words of Jesus that speak about His nature and identity. The Evangelist includes several of the signs performed by Jesus, signs that revealed His nature and identity. Last week, you heard the Evangelist’s desire that you have these in your hearts and minds: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Jesus’ nature and identity are revealed to you, so that you may have life in His name. This He also did for His first followers. The apostles had to know exactly who Jesus is and what He has done. For salvation comes through true faith in that. But there is another factor of importance: the identity of being an apostle is derived from who Jesus is and what He has done. And this He shows through His appearance to His disciples on the Sea of Tiberias.

This third appearance of Jesus to His disciples took place in Galilee. The disciples are back in their home region. Those who had first been called by Jesus are there: “Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and to others of His disciples were together.” And just what are they doing? “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.” The disciples returned to their nets, to the life they had been called to leave in order to follow Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. But note what happened when they went back to their old profession: “That night they caught nothing.” It is so, because that is no longer what these men have been called to do.

The appearance of Jesus at the lakeshore confirms His resurrection, but it also confirms the change in life that these followers of Jesus underwent. This revelation to these seven disciples shows this: “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?’ They answered, ‘No.’” Jesus is there, though the disciples did not initially recognize Him. But that changes. They know it is Jesus when He reveals Himself through a reprise of events that happened years before in Galilee: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of the fish.” And in that moment, the disciples remember. What Jesus had done and said before is brought back to their minds.

Seeing the nets strain to hold all the fish, John recognizes just who is standing at the lakeshore: “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” And not to be undone, Peter acts with his customary impulsion: “When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.” Jesus’ appearance reminds John and Peter of that first miraculous catch of fish on the Sea of Galilee, back when Jesus used Peter’s boat for a pulpit and then instructed him cast nets on the other side. In that moment, Peter recognized himself as sinful and Jesus as the Lord. And in this appearance of the Risen Christ, the same confession is made.

Yet there is more than the recognition of Jesus as One who controls nature. The fishing event early in Jesus’ ministry included His statement: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men!” The apostles’ remembrance of what happened earlier is combined with what had just transpired: Jesus’ death and resurrection and His first appearance to His disciples. Jesus once told Peter not to fear; He once gave Peter a new identity. And this was also repeated “on that evening, the first day of the week, when the doors were locked for fear of the Jews.” This is what you heard last week in Jesus’ words: “Peace be with you! As the Father sent Me, even so I am sending you. . . . If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” That is the new identity of the apostles. It stems from Jesus’ identity as the Sent One who died, yet rose again, and who possesses all authority in heaven and earth. That same Jesus once stood in Peter’s boat; He now stands on the lakeshore. And there He commands Peter to “feed His sheep,” not to work the nets.

This new identity that Jesus gave to these men of Galilee will be fulfilled. Jesus will not let them go back to the fishing boats and be successful. They will cast nets and catch nothing, because that is not what Jesus has called them to be. These men of Galilee are to be His ambassadors in the world, men sent carrying His authority. The authority is to speak Jesus’ words and apply it to sinners in need of forgiveness. They are to go and forgive the sins of any. As the Father sent Jesus, so He sends them. Others can take up the fishing nets; these men are to take up the mantle of apostle that the Lord has given them. Their old ways of life have died with Christ; a new life has risen in with Christ’s resurrection.

And so it is for you. Not that you have been called to be apostles. All but a couple of you in this room have been given that mantle and authority. Jesus has not sent you as the Father had sent Him. But you have been given a new life and identity by Him. For as you have been called to follow Christ and His ways, as you have been called to share in the salvation that He has earned, you have a new life. Once you were not so. Once you did not know anything about Christ, about His identity and work. Once you really were no different than Saul who was persecuting Christ. But now that has changed. The word of life has been placed in your hearts and in your mouths. It has been given you by those whom the Lord Jesus has sent. And with that comes a new way of life.

This new identity given to you through the word of life coming to you is dependent upon Christ’s identity and work. Consider the worship that the Risen Christ receives in heaven. You have heard it; the lyrics tell what Christ has done for you: “Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” Jesus is active and powerful: that is essential to His identity. Jesus did something for you! He was killed for you. And He rose to life again for you. So He has ransomed you. You have been delivered from sin, death, and Satan by His death and resurrection. And Christ gives you a new identity: being a kingdom and priests to your God. You are like the psalmist who said: “O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.”

You have been called away from the trivial to something great. Though you are still in the world, you are no longer worldly. Though you have earthly lives, you are no longer defined only by them. Though you will die, you are no longer limited to mortality. What Jesus bestows upon you is greater than anything you possessed or anything that your enslavers could offer. Given a new identity, you are led to fulfill it. You are not to go back to what you once were. Such a return is worthless; it makes everything vain. It can be summarized in the psalmist’s words: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it tell of Your faithfulness?” Going back to the former ways benefits you nothing. It makes Christ’s work for you null and void.

But the one who follows in His way gains everything. There is the great confession about what Jesus has done: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” This is what Jesus did for His disciples in His post-resurrection appearances among them. And so it is for you. When Christ reveals Himself and His goodness, reminding you of who He is and what He has done, your mourning and sorrow are ended. You have been drawn up; you belong to the divine kingdom. This is what Jesus has accomplished for you.

Like the first disciples, you also are reminded of Jesus’ identity and His work for you. Every time you trace the holy cross at the invocation of the Triune God, you remember your new identity given in Holy Baptism. Every time you participate in Confession, you remember the holiness that Christ bestowed upon you. Every time you participate in the Lord’s Supper, you remember that Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried and that on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. Your Lord does not let you forget what He has done or the life He gives. No, He reminds you again and again that He has ransomed you and made you His.

Jesus has called you away from the nets of this life and into His kingdom. He has called you to follow, not to turn back. Remember what He has done and the identity He has given you. For there is found your true calling and purpose—an identity that entitles you to join in the everlasting, celestial praise of your Lord, the Risen Christ.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


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