Last week, we looked at John 21:1-14 and marveled at what it meant for those disciples that Jesus appeared to them again after all their failures. Last week, we read in awe of how Jesus keeps coming to us in his word with his forgiveness even after all of our failures. Today, I want to explore that third appearance Jesus made to his disciples and see how all of the details of this appearance highlight just how awesome our Savior is. Let’s look again at what it means that this guy in the text "is the Lord."
The disciples had been fishing all night. These formerly professional fishermen had caught nothing. And then Jesus appeared on the shore. There was too much darkness or distance or morning mist for them to recognize him yet, but he showed them who he is beyond a shadow of a doubt. But before we get to the big things — let’s notice the little details.
Remember, they had abandoned him, doubted, denied and failed him. And yet he comes to remind them who he is for them and for us — the Lord — the God of free and faithful and promised grace, the one that said he would never leave us nor forsake us. And it starts with a question:
"Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?" (Verse 5) This Lord cares about the everyday stuff: How’s your job going? What’s happening in your life? The Lord cares.
And this Lord has direction for you: Verse 6: "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." As much as we may think we are in control of our success or failure of so much of our lives, this simple, foolish command (foolish to a human way of thinking) demonstrates that it is the Lord in control.
Sure, maybe Jesus doesn’t appear at the side of your desk at work and tell you to check the spam folder and the recycle bin on your computer, where you’ll find all the data you needed — but his word is full of instruction for how you interact with everyone you work with and how you conduct yourself there.
Then, in the text, there is that miracle: the catch of fish, big fish, miracle fish, 153 fish. Our success or failure is in the Lord’s hands, so why not put all our efforts there too. He takes care of us.
And he shows that when those disciples get to the shore too. There he is, cooking them breakfast, taking care of their bodies, but also, just by being there, taking care of their souls, like we talked about last week. Remember again what his presence would have meant for those who had failed him in every way. Think of what it means for us.
He prepared a meal to share with them. He wanted to demonstrate their fellowship with the fish-and-bread breakfast. And he does the same for us. Remember the meal he prepared for us, the one he told us to celebrate regularly, in remembrance of him. He gives us his own body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine in communion for the forgiveness of our sins. The Lord comes to us and proves to us who he is — the God of free and faithful love that keeps his promises.
And through that, he empowers us. Think of why John suddenly realized that this was the Lord. Was it just that the mist had burned away or the sun now showed his face? Or do you think he was remembering another great catch of fish? Remember when, early on in his ministry, in Luke 5, Jesus borrowed a couple of fishermen’s boats for a pulpit, and then after he got done, he told them to put their nets in in the middle of the day? There were so many fish that time that the nets began to break. Then Jesus told them: "From now on you will catch men." And they did.
This is the Lord. Empowered by an understanding of what that means and what he does for you — you too will catch men. So do it. Have that conversation with those people you care about. Show them what it means that "This is the Lord." And then join us at church to celebrate it!
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.