Welcome to our worship today here at Christ Lutheran and welcome if you’re listening on the radio!
I recently saw a cartoon where two caterpillars were crawling across a leaf when a butterfly flew high above them. They looked up and one nudged the other and said, “You couldn’t get me up in one of those things for a million dollars!”
Little do they know what lies ahead!-----Little do we know what lies ahead!
We don’t know what new directions life will take. We don’t know which of our goals in life we will reach. We don’t know what great joys or deep sorrows we will encounter. We don’t know what the world around us will be like We don’t even know specifically where God will lead us---though our itinerary does have an ultimate destination.
So what do we know? What can we count on? I think the best place to begin to wrestle with that question is at the empty tomb.
Since Easter Day, our worship and Pastor John’s messages have focused on the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And even though we begin a new sermon series next week, the Good News of Easter will still be the foundation of why we gather here.---Every Sunday is a mini-Easter celebration.
So we need to come to terms with what Easter really means for us. Is it merely the news of an unusual event 2000 years ago? Or is it something that has ongoing power and purpose for us?
Let me start by saying---The Good News, the really Good News is that Easter is not just a report about some historical episode. And it is not only about the gift of new life after our deaths. The Good News of Easter is that by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, that we are able to live in new and renewed ways right here and now! We are to live with an Easter perspective on life.
Philip Yancey talks about 2 ways to look at the world. One way is to focus on the wars and violence, the suffering, tragedy and death. From that point of view, Easter seems a fairy-tale exception, a stunning contradiction in the name of God that gives some consolation to humans.
But the second way to look at life is to take Easter as the starting point, the one undeniable fact about how God treats His people. Then all the violence and pain of human history becomes the contradiction, and Easter is a preview of the ultimate reality. Knowing that, hope then flows like lava beneath the crust of daily life.
So what do we know? What can we count on? That pain and violence and broken relationships are not what God intends for us. Hope flows all through our lives. There is so much more good to come. Setting Easter as the starting point for how we view life, is the way we reset our minds and hearts on God’s resurrection way of life.
Christ’s resurrection and our continued Easter celebration today calls us to recognize Easter as the first day of God’s new creation. In Jesus rising from the dead, something new and earth-changing has occurred. This isn’t some odd glitch in the cosmos –rather it is God doing something new in remaking the world. And through faith, we have been raised with Christ and we are part of his new creation.
That fact may seem very real to you, or it may not. If faith in Christ is not yet the motivating force in your life, you may not feel a part of that new creation or sense that newness at work in your life. And even if faith in Christ is becoming the center of your life, you may not feel all that newness yet. You may not have that heavenly perspective yet. Faith is a growing process, It can begin in an instance or gradually, but in either case it takes time for our faith to grow and mature. Faith may not always feel real to us in every moment.
N.T. Wright says, “Learning to believe what doesn’t at the moment feel true is an essential part of being a Christian.” Often we need to follow God’s word and his path for a time before we can see the path clearly ourselves, before we learn to set our minds on things above. Wright says learning to think, rather than merely going with the flow of the world on one hand OR blindly obeying a list of rules we don’t understand on the other hand, is essential.
Once our minds have grasped the truth of Jesus Christ, then our hearts and wills and feelings can start to follow and we begin to see life in that new Easter way.
So if you have been given new life with Christ as one of his followers– what does that really change? What difference does Easter really make? It could be very little – if we choose to keep our same old perspective on life. But if we seek the things that are above, the Christ-centered view of life, everything changes for the better.
When we see the truth of Christ’s resurrection, we share in that power---
---You reach out the hand of friendship and it’s rejected. You can give up and give in to death or you can try again and share in the power of the resurrection.
---You fail to reach your goal. You can give up and give in to death or you can study your failure, learn from your mistakes. Then you try again and share in the power of Christ’s resurrection.
---Your hope has been crushed. It may be hope for a relationship, hope for a career, hope for a family, hope for healing. You can give up and give into death. Or you can hope again for new possibilities and share in the power of the resurrection.
We can have faith to try again, even when all has failed because we know that love and hope and faith are the truth in God’s new creation. When we experience life in Christ, the bad is temporary – the good is permanent and will ultimately be experienced.
Theologian Wofhart Pannenberg says, “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for 2 things. 1) It is a very unusual event.” Rising from the dead is unusual. Even the people that Jesus raised died again. Only Jesus passed through death, once and done.
So it’s natural to wonder about it. People like Lee Strobel whose story we heard on Easter Day, have approached Jesus’ resurrection as doubters and atheists and come away convinced it really happened.
For me, the fact that Peter and the rest of Jesus’ followers were transformed from fear and hiding, to bold proclamation of Jesus’ rising to life, is amazing. If Jesus was still dead, there is no reason why Peter and the rest would suddenly risk their lives to tell the Good News of Jesus’ new life.
And the second reason Pannenberg mentions why people question the resurrection is---
“If you believe it happened---you have to change the way you live.”
That may be the biggest problem! That’s a challenging statement. If we really believe Jesus rose from the dead – that belief demands change in us. If we believe in the Easter message – hopelessness is not an option because God can bring new life to any situation.
If we believe that Christ rose, then events like wars and shootings cannot be the final word, because for every act of violence caused by sin, God raises up hundreds & thousands of acts of love all around us.
If we believe that Jesus sacrificed his life for us and then was raised, it should change us to realize that the best of life comes not from serving ourselves but from giving ourselves to help others.
If we believe that Christ rose from the tomb, then cancer and Alzheimer’s are not the end. As Jesus’ was restored from the brutality of the cross, when we pass through death to life in the Lord, we are restored as well.
Jesus’ resurrection changes everything!
Let’s look at today’s Gospel reading from John 21---
John 21:1 “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.”
Jesus had told his followers that he would meet them in Galilee. So they’re back home and waiting. And Peter did what fishermen do---He said let’s go fishing.
John 21:2-3 “It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “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.
That’s also what fishermen do----too often.
John 21:4- 6a “Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
Isn’t that always the way it is when you’re fishing. When you’re catching lots of fish, nobody is around. But when you’ve been skunked, everybody’s there and full of advice. At this point they don’t know it’s Jesus on shore. Having been with Jesus all that time, they must have learned some humility, so they took the stranger’s advice.
John 21:6b-7 When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then 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.”
Suddenly the nets are full! Maybe the stranger knows what he’s talking about! And then John---maybe remembering a similar miraculous catch---realizes it must be Jesus. And Peter is so excited he launches off the boat and swims to Jesus.
John 21:8-10 “The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
Why a barbeque on the beach? The Lord is concerned with all our needs. Emotional, spiritual and physical. And he wanted to spend time with us.
John 21:11-12a “Simon 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. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
This miraculous catch is a big one. Nets full of 153 large fish. What’s the meaning of 153? Could be a reference to the mission of the disciples to go into all the world with the Gospel. Some counted the nations of the world at that time as 153.
But it may just be that John mentioned the number as a matter of historical detail. With a group of commercial fishermen, the common procedure would be for them to count the fish they caught and then divide them equally. A spiritual lesson here is that great blessing comes to our efforts when we follow the Lord’s will.
This section concludes---
John 21:12b-14” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
Jesus’ change in appearance is referred to several times in the accounts of his resurrection. Mary thinks he’s the gardener at first. The disciples on the road to Emmaus don’t recognize him right away. And here---“None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.” They know it’s Jesus, but they want to ask him just to be sure.
It seems that his bodily appearance after his rising is different in some way. Paul describes it this way---
1 Corinthians 15:40 “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.”
I wonder if the disciples’ reaction to Jesus and to this whole event isn’t a key lesson for us and how we react to the uncertainties and the certainties of our lives.
Jesus met the disciples in the midst of ordinary life. For them it was fishing. He meets us in our ordinary things of life as well.
Jesus provided a meal for them even before they knew it was him. The Lord provides for us even when we are prone to thank ourselves or others for meeting our physical needs. Jesus was concerned for every aspect of their needs and our needs.
And the uncertainty---Was it Jesus? They knew it was Jesus. They weren’t sure it was Jesus.---We have that uncertainty too. How do we know when it’s Jesus? He was there in a different way for the disciples. But he was the same. We don’t see Jesus in person and yet he is with us and in us through the Holy Spirit. His Spirit which blesses us exactly as Jesus did. When we experience blessing, peace, forgiveness---it’s Jesus!
How do we experience his presence? The disciples heard his voice, his words, they saw his mannerisms, the miraculous catch of fish, his love. We experience all of that as we read his word, as we gather with his people in worship, as we pray, as we are blessed by his miracles.
What do we know? What can we count on?
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
And that changes everything!