God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; April 24, 2016; John 20:19-23; John 21:1-14
23 April 2016
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John 20:19-23 NIV2010 Jesus Appears to His Disciples
NIV2010 John 20: 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
John 21:1-14 NIV2010 Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish
NIV2010 John 21: 1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “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.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 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. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Two weeks ago we read the Scripture from Mark 1 where Jesus was staying in Peter’s house, healed Peter’s mother, and then took some Jesus-time. We saw that people were looking for Jesus, and the Disciples even asked him to go back to the village. Imagine how easy it was for Jesus to say, “of course… let’s go back, we can have awesome ministry here…” But it is not what Jesus said… Jesus started his ministry by saying, “NIV2010 Mark 1:38 Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”
Then last week we looked at the role that Judas Iscariot played in Jesus’ arrest. I realize that after hearing last week’s message, it is totally possible to say, “Gee, it sounds like Judas Iscariot got a raw deal,” but the main point is that although his role in our Christian story is far from admirable, it is also nuanced and complicated. I think that he was trying to create a situation where Jesus would be forced to defend himself, and in the process vindicate Israel by bringing political and military defeat to the Romans. Judas wanted a miracle; a miraculous change in circumstances that would right everything that he understood and perceived to be wrong with the world. Judas tried to fit our infinite God into his own finite mind and it did not work.
In reality we know that if we want miracles, we need to allow God to work in our lives and that means opening ourselves to the possibility that God is doing something different than what we want to happen.
That brings us to today’s readings. It’s been a few days since Jesus was crucified. We know that Jesus’ crucifixion was traumatic and scary for the Disciples. Then Jesus’ body “disappeared” from the tomb. Mary Magdalene said something about seeing the risen Jesus in the garden, then there were two men from Emmaus claiming that Jesus walked with them for a mile or two. These stories are so contradictory to what we call “common sense” and “life experiences”; that is why it was difficult for the Disciples to process that information. The Disciples did not know how to be, what to think, or what to do next. In the first portion of today’s reading we find them huddling in the Upper Room behind locked doors because they were scared, and because they just could not think of anything else to do.
That is when Jesus showed up. Jesus always shows up, not when we have our best foot forward, but when we are stressed and at the end of our rope. Jesus spent some time with them, teaching and instructing them, bestowing the Holy Spirit on the Disciples, and he did it not once but twice. The second time Jesus came back to make sure that Thomas had a chance to witness the resurrection (John 20:24-29).
Reading the second part of the Gospel lesson we learned that Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John and “two others” (John 21:2) went back to the place where it all started, where Jesus made that decision to go “out there” instead of “staying here.”
How many of us ever wished to return to a time of lost innocence? The truth is that we can never go back. No matter how great is the trauma, no matter how strong is our desire to go back in time, there is no place like home because that place no longer exists. The physical building may be still standing, but because we are changed, that emotional place of innocence and safety is no longer available to us. Our needs have changed because we have changed. We cannot go back because there is nobody left in the past.
The Gospel reading from John 21:1-14, describes an attempt by seven apostles — Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John and “two others” (John 21:2) — to return to the time and place where they had felt safe and secure in the past. That reading also illustrates why it is not possible or even feasible for them to return to the perceived safety and security of their past.
With Jesus’ crucifixion, their dreams of ministry were seemingly destroyed. The seven fishermen in today’s story completely resigned themselves to having to return to the life that they left when Jesus called them away, just three short years ago. They returned to that life because in the depth of their despair, they could not even imagine what their life could look like in the future. They did not yet know how to reinvent themselves without Jesus. That is why they went “backwards.”
What they discovered, however, is that their attempts at rebuilding their old lives were fruitless; they could not catch any fish. This story could be described with the same words as Judas’ story: “It’s complicated” and “It’s nuanced.” There are levels of meaning in the story itself as well as in the corresponding human experiences that this story originated from.
So what’s in it for us? What does this reading mean to us?
How many sincere, devout Christians come to church today and do the same things that they did in 1940, 1950, 1960 and 1970 because they cannot even imagine doing something different? The world that we live in is a state of constant change; do the songs that we sing, our worship, and our church buildings reflect what’s happening in the world today?
The truth is that not many Christians are willing to take the risk and leave “their boat” (a.k.a. routines and habits of worship or physical church building) the way Peter did in order to follow Jesus. Peter and six of his colleagues discovered that spending three years with Jesus changed them to the point that fishing would not make them happy anymore, because Jesus had other plans for them. That is why they were so embarrassed by this encounter; in John 21:12 we read, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.”
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and to encourage us to try new things. Some will work, some will fail.