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LSB Easter 3C Sermon – John 21:1-19

April 10, 2016

April 10, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish].’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

Jesus appears again to His disciples. The Gospel Writer tells us: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.” But this revelation is a bit different than the others that took place after Jesus’ resurrection. You are familiar with those appearances, since you have heard about them during this and past Eastertides. The women see the Risen Jesus as they return to Jerusalem from the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene sees the Risen Jesus in the garden. Two followers of Jesus see Him on the road to Emmaus. And Jesus appears to His disciples behind locked doors. Each of those appearances took place on the day that Jesus rose from the dead.

John’s gospel also included a second revelation of Jesus to His disciples, as you heard about last Sunday. Jesus shows up behind locked doors again, a week after the first appearance. But that event served a different purpose than the others. It wasn’t simply to show Himself being alive. Instead, Jesus appears to bring Thomas to belief that the resurrection had taken place. Then Jesus speaks about people who would believe in His death and resurrection without having seen Him, calling them blessed.

But in today’s Gospel Reading, you heard about a third appearance of Jesus to His disciples: “After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and He revealed Himself in this way…. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.” The incident at the Sea of Tiberias has a purpose beyond Jesus’ showing Himself to be alive again. His risen status had been displayed enough. So there is something more to this appearance.

You heard the details about this event. Peter and some other disciples of Jesus are in Galilee. Peter decides to go fishing, and the others choose to join him. But their night fishing expedition doesn’t go well: “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” Just before dawn, they see a Man on the shore who asks about their fishing success: “Children, do you have any fish?” Their negative answer is given. But then this Man gives them a command: “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” And when that command is followed, something great happens: “Now they were not able to haul [the net] in, because of the quantity of fish.”

That great catch of fish leads to the revelation of the Man’s identity: “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” But why does this cause John to recognize Jesus? Because this type of event had happened before. A great catch had been caused by Jesus much earlier in His ministry. Back there in Galilee, when the whole calling disciples thing had begun, Jesus had commanded Peter to cast nets after a night of failed fishing. When that happened, the nets were filled. Then Jesus told Peter and the others that they would become fishers of men instead of catchers of fish.

But besides the hearkening back that previous event, this big catch that happens at Jesus’ command replays other episodes from His ministry. During His time with His disciples, Jesus had given various commands that when they were carried out, His determined purpose was accomplished. It started back in Cana at the wedding feast gone dry: fill the jars with water, draw it out, serve it to the steward; water becomes the greatest of vintages. There was the great feeding miracle: bring the boy’s lunch to Me; Jesus takes and blesses, making five loaves and two fish feed thousands. The raising of Lazarus in Bethany followed the same pattern: take Me to where he is laid; the command to come out is spoken, so that the dead is made alive and walks out of the tomb. Those past signs—and others—revealed Jesus’ identity.

So when Jesus reveals Himself on the seashore, He again does it through a sign. But this isn’t done to show that He is alive—His disciples already knew that! There is something else that He wants to teach His disciples. It all has to do with His commands being fulfilled. Jesus is showing His disciples how they will act as they take up the commission that He gave them. When Jesus appeared to them before, He gave them an assignment: “As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.” In that locked room, Jesus spoke of another task they would take up: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you.” And there would be the command spoken before Jesus ascended: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

These commands given by Jesus become foundational for His apostles’ lives. They are to carry out His commands. That is their calling. But that calling is more than external obedience, just doing what Jesus says. That calling also includes trusting that what Jesus says will take place—the promised results of fulfilling His commands—will be accomplished. When Jesus commands His apostles to be witnesses of His death and resurrection, people will come to believe and know Him as the Messiah. Since Jesus commands His apostles to make new disciples, the number of people in His kingdom will increase as baptisms are conducted and instruction is given. Because Jesus has given the command to forgive sins, people are absolved when they receive the words of absolution that His Church speaks.

What Jesus promises about these actions takes place, just as it happened with the nets on that morning on the Sea of Tiberias: “‘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 fish.” But this teaching given to Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and the other two disciples is also spoken for you to hear and believe. You also are directed to the commands that the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus has spoken. For you find your salvation through them.

Jesus’ commands are given, so that His atoning work would be proclaimed to be believed by you. Jesus’ commands are given, so that you would be brought into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus’ commands are given, so that you would share in His righteousness and holiness. Jesus’ commands are given, so that you also might die and rise to life again. Those are the intended results. But they aren’t just wished for. No, Jesus places His promise in these things, so that what He says is fulfilled for you.

That truth is foundational to your entire lives as Jesus’ disciples. It involves having Jesus as the object of your faith—the One whom you trust and rely on. You believe the identity of Jesus that has been revealed to you through the great acts of redemption that He performed, as the worship in heaven declared about Him: “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to 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.” Your trust is placed in that work done by Jesus, so that it achieved the result that He declared: that your salvation would be accomplished.

So when that Crucified and Risen Jesus gives His commands, you trust that the results that He promised will be fulfilled for you. You are baptized, believing that you obtain a new life and identity because of it. You gather together, being sure that the Lord makes Himself and His gifts present among His people. You hear the apostolic witness, relying on the testimony about Jesus’ work done for you. You confess sins, trusting that you will be absolved to stand righteous before the Father. You commune, depending on the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and blood atoned for your sin and guilt. You pray, knowing that the Father hears you and will grant what you need. You listen to Jesus’ teaching, confident that He will guide you in the life of discipleship.

You do those things and more because of the command that Jesus gives and the promise that He attaches to them. In other words, they are Jesus’ instructions to you. He says: “Cast out your net and collect the benefits that I have earned for you by dying and rising to life again. Listen to My commands and follow them, for the promised benefits are great. You will find what you need for your salvation. You have My word that it will be given to you.” And like those disciples on the Sea of Tiberias, you follow His commands, believing that the result will be done. For you know that the One who speaks them is the Crucified and Risen Jesus, the Lord who is worthy of praise and is able to fulfill what He promises.

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

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