Sermon for May 1 2022 Deacon Helen Harris, guest preacher –

Third Sunday after Easter Year C

John 21: 1-19

Jesus first called some of the disciples into His ministry at the Sea of Galilee where they were fishing. He used the words “Follow me” after they had made a huge catch. We now find the disciples saddened by the crucifixion and confused at seeing Jesus alive when He entered a locked room. They were afraid of what their future would be like as they leave Jerusalem and head back towards Galilee. They had decided to return to their old occupations of fishing, where they could make a living. They wanted to go back to the way it was before, something safe, something familiar. It was night time when Peter decided to go fishing. It was something he knew how to do. It was familiar and comfortable to him. Perhaps it took him back to life before Jesus. The others were all quick to join him. Peter was not really trying to catch fish as much as he was searching for answers. Peter may have left Jerusalem, but he couldn’t get away from three years of discipleship, the last supper, the arrest of Jesus, the denials, and a crowing rooster. He couldn’t leave behind the cross, the empty tomb, a room with the door locked and the echoes of the words from Jesus of “Peace be with you.” Peter was living with the pain and past of Good Friday, his days ahead looked dark. As the sun begins to come up, they see a figure on the beach cooking a few fish over a charcoal fire. A new day has dawn with new light. Perhaps they didn’t recognize Jesus through the morning mist. Jesus calls out to the disciples asking if they had caught any fish. He was actually asking the disciples about the emptiness of their lives. They had been fishing all night on the wrong side of the boat; their nets were empty.

Jesus then told them to throw their net out on the right-hand side of the boat.  When they did, they couldn’t draw in the net because of the weight of the fish; there were so many!  When things in our lives – aren’t working out for us, it means we’re fishing on the wrong side of the boat. We’re fishing on our side of the boat rather than on God’s side. Peter recognized the voice of Jesus and immediately put on his clothes as he was stripped to the waist for work, and jumped into the sea. Peter suddenly appears self-conscious about appearing naked in front of Jesus. The common way to work on a fishing boat in those times involved removing one’s outer garments. When they others got to shore, they found Peter standing next to the charcoal fire and Jesus preparing breakfast. Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him three times. He asked Peter if he loved him more than these? What was he asking? He was asking “Do you love Me more than you love these other disciples?”  They had gotten very close both as fishermen and now as followers of Jesus. Do you love Me more than you love these boats and nets and fish?” It echoes the three times Peter actually denied having known Christ. Peter’s triple admission of love for Jesus forgives his triple denial. Jesus was searching Peter’s heart for anything that might hinder his future service, to make Peter the chief Shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock.

Peter would understand that the “sheep” Jesus referred to were people. Peter was to lead people to the green pasture that gives everlasting life. Be shepherds of God’s flock giving care; serving and providing spiritual food for God’s people. Jesus was asking Peter if he would endure persecution and lay down his life for Jesus. If we love someone, are we willing to do everything possible for our loved one? Love is as important as faith. Faith alone is not enough. Jesus also requires that we totally love him. Jesus understands and forgives our human weaknesses, but he never ceases to say to us ‘Follow me’. On the beach, after all that had taken place, he used the words of confident hope: Follow me into caring for people so much that you give yourself away. Follow me into feeding people. Follow me into forgiveness, even forgiving those who betray you. Follow me into death. Follow me into resurrection life.  This is our invitation; may we have courage to follow. Amen.

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