The Third Sunday of Easter – Series C – John 21:1-19
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The women have testified that the tomb is empty.
Peter and John have seen it with their own eyes.
Jesus has appeared to his disciples, not once, but twice in the upper room.
He has shown them his hands and his feet, his side and his living body.
He has breathed on them, and given them the office of the ministry through the Holy Spirit, saying,
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
And truly, the disciples, have believed him.
They’ve seen his body, touched his wounds, heard his voice, received his Spirit, and believed in his resurrection.
Regardless of appearances, they are not unbelieving, but in fact, believing; those gathered into his faith, into his resurrection, and into his life.
However, just because the disciples believe in the resurrection, does not guarantee that they understand what the resurrection means…what it has done, and what it is now doing through Christ and through His Church.
Just because they’ve received it, doesn’t mean that they get it.
And if we need any more evidence for the apostles’ incomplete belief, and not-quite-all-the-way-there hope in the resurrection, then we need not look any further than to how our Gospel text begins.
Indeed, Christ lives and has defeated death.
The prophecies are true.
The Law is fulfilled.
The Hope of Mankind has come bursting forth from the tomb.
And the disciples are going fishing.
They are returning to the way things were, to what they know, to what is safe, secure and stable.
Having seen the risen Christ, having received his Spirit, and been sent in his name to proclaim this resurrection to the ends of the earth…the disciples go fishing…they go back to what they used to do, before Jesus called them by name and brought them out of the boat to make them fishers of men.
They go fishing…they return to the way things were.
And why is that?
Perhaps it’s that the disciples do in fact, have some inkling of what proclaiming this Christ to this world, actually means.
Perhaps they’ve made some mental notes in the last 3 years regarding the very significant relationship between the ones who proclaim the kingdom of God and the redemption of Christ and the certainty by which they end up being sent to their death.
How it began with John the Baptist and the prophets, and has continued its perfect record now with Jesus.
Sure, he’s risen from the dead, but the shouting of the crowds, the hatred of the people, the blood and gore of Holy Week is still fresh in their minds.
Are the disciples actually ready for that?
Are they ready to be hated, scorned, persecuted and killed precisely for the Words of peace and life in Christ that they bring?
And what about us, are we ready for that?
Are we ready for a world that will not applaud us for the Gospel that we live in, but rather hate us and scorn us precisely on account of it.
Now to be perfectly clear, not all of us are and not all of us will be called to follow in these precise footsteps of the disciples.
Not all of us are called to leave the fishing boats, exit Jerusalem and go forth to the ends of the earth proclaiming through Christ’s ministry of Word and Sacrament this resurrection victory.
However, that doesn’t change the reality and truth that every one of us, baptized into Christ, has been called by him.
Perhaps not to leave the boat, or the family, the community, or the workforce…but we are called in Christ nonetheless.
Every one of us, as St. Peter will later proclaim, have been brought into a spiritual priesthood in Christ.
We are, therefore, by faith, priests, those who receive from Christ every good and perfect gift of life, salvation and the forgiveness of sins.
And therefore, priests, who represent and show forth these very gifts and this very Christ in all that we say and do and speak.
In our homes, in our families, in our work, in our relationships, in our suffering and trial, in our joy and celebration, in our hands and feet…in all things, we proclaim as St. Peter writes, the excellencies of One who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:5-9).
Are we ready for awkward conversations, for tense moments between family members, for the responsibilities as Christian parents raising our children not just in the Church, but in the Word throughout the week within the home, are we ready?
Are we ready to live as resurrection people?
Those on whom the Gospel of Jesus not only shines in our hearts, but is found on our lips, with our hands and feet, in our minds, in our actions, and throughout our lives.
Are we ready to proclaim indeed this Christ, not the world’s version of Him, not the one that might be entertaining or popular at the moment, but this Christ.
The one who has come for the world’s redemption, to be the lamb of God and take on the ugliness that is our sin.
The one who has come to name, claim and bind us not to our own personal version of the faith, but to His Holy Christian Church, the gathered one, the called one, the confessing Church.
Are we ready to receive His Word and so live in His Word, to be present at His table, and be washed forever in His name.
Are we ready to live in that kind of mission and in that kind of Christ?
The one that is not applauded by the unbelieving world, but rather hated, derided and scorned.
The one whose message is not one of worldly wealth or materialistic gain, whose mission is not fueled by entertaining trends, but rather the life of Christ that has come to be given, Christ alone, and Christ for you.
No strings attached, nothing left to finish, only Jesus.
Are we ready to be a community that is not held together by egos and personalities, but by Christ, and Christ alone. His Word, His peace, His forgiveness, His promise.
Are you and I ready for that?
And the answer, at least in ourselves, is no.
We are not.
We struggle and fight in giving up our own grand ideas of what Christ’s Church should be or what the Gospel really is.
We are not always ready to give up what is pleasing to the eyes or the senses in exchange for what Christ has come to give by faith.
We forget and toss aside the duty to teach our children in the faith, to keep Christ at the center of our homes.
We fail and miss opportunities with family and friends.
Opportunities to give an answer and a reason for the hope that we have.
We are not ready.
Much less to enter into hatred, derision and persecution by those who hate the Gospel.
Like the disciples, we each in our own way, respond to the resurrection by going fishing.
We abandon the call of Christ into the faith, so as to go back to what is familiar, safe and stable.
We are not ready.
And thanks be to God, that that is not the point.
Christ who stands from the shore, prepares the table on the beach, calls Peter back into the fold, and tells him by what kind of death he is going to die…is the only one who is ready, the only one who is equipped, well-supplied, and willing.
For he is the eternal host.
He is the one true Priest, and Lamb, and Food and Drink, and Victim, and Victor.
He fills up what is lacking, he goes ahead on the unfamiliar road, he stands with us on the unstable ground, and stands for us at the end of all things.
He fills up what is lacking, which is to say, He fills up everything.
He alone is source of the catch of fish, he alone is the peace that the disciples have, he alone is the love that is given to Peter so that Peter, and you and I, might love God and love one another.
And He is the suffering servant, the victorious king, the one goes ahead, who sends us not into a world that hates us empty handed, not to friends and family without answers and without hope, but He fills what is lacking.
For it is not only in His Supper, but indeed, in all things, that he is and ever remains, the eternal host.
You, dear Christian, have nothing to fear, for Christ has gone ahead of you. He goes with you, he goes through you, He fills up all that you need.
He keeps His Church to the end of all things, regardless of the whims of culture, popular trends, failing pastors and fearful Christians. For He fills up what is lacking, He remains the eternal host.
He sends you out, called by His name, into your lives, families, homes and work, not empty-handed, not fearful or without hope, but with himself. His body, his blood, given to you, shining forth through, keeping you forever.
We are not ready, but that is not what matters.
Christ is risen from the dead, it is His name that you have been given, in His name that you now live and move and have your being, it is His body and His blood that sustains today, tomorrow, and unto eternity, and it is His Word, that fills you up, sends you out…not alone, but with him and in, world without end.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.