First Mennonite Church
April 4, 2021
He Will Go Wherever You Go
Text: John 21:1-19
The Lord is risen! Happy Easter to each of you, once again.
Compared with the birth story of Jesus, which only appears in Matthew and Luke report, the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb appear in all four Gospels. Of the four Gospel accounts about the resurrection, Matthew’s is the most dramatic one. There’s an earthquake, angels descend from heaven, the stone that sealed the tomb is removed, and the guards watching the tomb fall down like dead. Although each gospel varies with some of its details regarding the events happened on Easter, generally, they all agree on the basic story line. The resurrection of Jesus was discovered by the women and his disciples early that Sunday, two days after the crucifixion. Jesus then appeared to Mary and her companions and then to his disciples. Easter is the story, as the old hymn says: “Death in vain forbids Him rise.” That is because Jesus is the life and the resurrection!
After Jesus was raised from the dead, he appeared to his disciples during forty days, according to Luke’s report in Act (1:3). What is really surprising, however, is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were almost silent about what Jesus did during those days. Matthew only gives account of Jesus’ giving, what we has been called, “The great commission” as he closed his gospel. Mark is completely silent about anything Jesus did after his resurrection. Luke tells us of two appearances Jesus made after his resurrection. And, although John says, twice, that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which were not written. And he adds: If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written, (John 20:30; 21:25) Peter only gives four accounts of Jesus’ encounter with his disciples.
Here is something of a mystery, if not a kind of disappointment, at least for the lovers of the dramatic. During Jesus’ public ministry, he operated with compassion, power, and authority. He walked over the water; he calmed the raging storm. He miraculously fed thousands with bread and fish, the meager amount of a child’s lunch. He cast out demons, raised the dead and so many other acts of power. And we would think that if he displayed such power during his life, how much more power would he not display after his resurrection. John is the one who tells that when Mary met Jesus that Easter morning, she thought he was a humble gardener. Luke tells us that when the disciples were joined by Jesus the same Easter morning, they thought he was an uninformed sojourner they had encountered. The way Jesus is presented in these post Easter encounter reveal that he did not appear any more majestic, dazzling with glory, or any different than any other common man. The post Easter passage we will consider this morning will show us, once again, the ordinary way Jesus presented himself to his disciple in their ordinary and mundane activities in life, yet not without immense significance for his beloved followers.
So, let us read John 21:1-19
In Matthew chapter four we find that four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen by trade. Peter was one of them. Hence, once Jesus died and during those forty days after defeating death, his relationship with his disciples was not as intimate as before. He only appeared in an instant to disappear just as quickly. It could be that his disciples were left wondering why or maybe even frustrated that Jesus would not remain continuously with them. We should remember that on that Easter morning when Mary met Jesu and she tried to take hold of him, Jesus said to her, “Don’t touch me, for I have yet to ascend to my Father (20:17). Also, when he appeared to his disciples in Emmaus, he disappeared the very moment they recognized him. Therefore, it might not be too far off to think that Peter was losing hope and enthusiasm about the Jesus movement after Jesus was crucified. Peter must have been wondering if those three-plus years he spent with Jesus had been worthwhile. Still yet, for whatever reason, only seven disciples remained together and perhaps Peter wanted to go back to his former life as a fisherman. So, he said to those with him, “I am going fishing.” And the six others said, “We will go with you.” As you know, going fishing is the easy part; catching fish is the hard part. And that is what happened to Peter and his friends that night. They caught nothing. That was another setback to Peter. Discourage and tired, the disciples started to head towards the beach to go home. But then a voice called them. “Children, haven’t you any fish?” Jesus asked. “No,” they answered. Therefore, Jesus gave them instruction as to where they should cast their net. And, lo and behold, they got a great haul of fish, 153 of them.
Let me say here, in parentheses, that along the history of interpretation this passage, some have thought there is some symbolism in the number 153. Some have said that there were only 153 known kinds of fish during that time, which represented the entire human race. Thus the large haul of fish represented the spread of the gospel to all peoples of the earth.
Saint Augustine of Hippo, the great philosopher and theologian of the fourth century, came out with the most interesting interpretation for this number. He said that this number presented the entire Bible: the 10 commandments and the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. 10+7=17 and if you add the integers from 1 to 17 (1+2+3+4 . . .) you arrive at precisely at 153. So there you have it: 153 fish equals the symbols of both Law and Gospel!
Even when trying to find something mysterious about the number of fish caught, maybe it simply represents the abundance of the catch. It should not surprise us that in John, Jesus was always speaking about abundance. Jesus spoke about “gushing rivers of living water” (John 7:38). He offered “life and life abundant” to the one who believes (John 10:10). Jesus spoke of
Based on the way the story is told, the disciples could not figure out right away who was calling them from the beach. They were there fishing for the lack of a better idea what to do or where to go. They had no idea that the glorious and victorious risen Lord would come to the beach, almost invisible by the early morning fog around the lake. And there he was, meeting them once again, doing what they were when they were first called. There Jesus was, meeting them engaged in their ordinary activity and on their own turf and even failing on what they knew how best to do.
Jesus came to his seven disciples, not in a dramatic fashion. There he was, crouched on the sand, stoking the smoldering coal, and grilling fish. This time however, after the bountiful catch, he fed seven with 153 fish available. There by the beach, Jesus offered his beloved disciples breakfast of grilled fish and bread. The disciples ate in silence. Nobody among the seven dare to ask him if he was indeed the Lord. They knew it by then. They might have been embarrassed to have been found there. But there was more. Amidst the ordinary things happening and the ordinary place they were, Peter was in the heart of his Lord. Thus, there and then, Jesus turned directly to Peter. Do you love me more than these? Jesus asked Peter. “Yes, Lord. You know how much I love you,” Peter answered. “Feed my lambs,” Jesus commanded.
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
And then even a third time
17 The 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.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
My dear loving sisters and brothers, every Easter we hear and celebrate the glorious day Jesus conquered death. His resurrection changed the course of life, especially for the people who believe in him. Our lives have been changed, transformed and given a new direction. Our view of death has also changed. We live and die, not in the shadows of fear and hopelessness, but in the glorious light of the resurrection of Jesus, who promises a resurrection like his. Every Easter Sunday our hearts burst with joy and thanksgiving that Jesus conquered death.
The reality is, however, that Easter Sunday only comes once a year. And sometimes, just like Peter, we might feel discouraged, disconnected, and might want to wander away. It could be that there might moments in which we would like to take a break, to keep a distance in order to reconsider our calling. Therefore, this passage today reminds us that it does not matter where we are or what we are doing, Jesus will come to us. He is standing by our shore. He is calling us, “Little children, come and eat with me.” He is asking us the piercing question, “Do you love me more than these?” And He is commissioning us again, not only once, but four times, “feed my lambs,” “take care of my sheep,” “feed my lambs, and “follow me.”
There is no place where Jesus would not come to meet with you. What are you doing these days, either in your effort to stay close and connected to the Lord or in giving up? Or what is the state of you spirit? Are you anxious, angry about something, doubtful or uncertain whether you believe or not? At what have you failed? Please remember that Jesus is the one who gives life and life abundant. He is the one who restores with tenderness and compassion. Let us remember that the risen Lord meets us in the mundane of our activities. He comes to you, not only here in church, but while cleaning your house, while tending your garden, while driving down the road, and everywhere. The Risen Savior comes to us in the least expected places we can be. Amen!
 Charles Wesley. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. Praise! Our Songs and Hymns, #321. Zondervan, Grand Rapids. 1979