The Fifth Sunday After Easter May 17, 2009
2 Samuel 12:1-10
211, 367, 735 [TLH alt, 353], 47
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.
This was the third time that Jesus had appeared to His disciples after His resurrection from the dead. The first time had been Easter Sunday evening while they were locked away in the upper room in Jerusalem. He wanted them to know right away that He was alive. Then they had seen Him again a week later. At that time He had chastised Thomas for not believing the news about the resurrection, reminding them all that believing was better than seeing (cf. John 20:24ff). And now we find our Lord greeting His disciples once again on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is early morning—around breakfast time. With this appearance, Jesus would encourage His followers that He was still their friend and helper, and they were still His missionaries sent forth into all the world.
When Jesus finds His disciples this particular morning, they have been out all night fishing. He calls out to them. He greets them with welcome and reaches out to them to help them. They needed a little bit of encouragement, a little gentle guidance.
Right away Jesus showed them what a kind and powerful friend He would be for them. He showed them that they could rely on Him and He would be with them. The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. Not one fish had been brought on board the boat. This was a pretty poor showing for men who had once been professionals in this area. You can imagine how frustrated they must have been. They knew by these early morning hours that there were no fish in the areas they had been casting their nets.
But at Jesus’ word they cast their nets on the right side of the boat and all of a sudden they had so many fish that the net could hardly be hauled in to shore.
Who was this man on the shore who called to them? Who was this man who told them where to cast their nets when they had been fishing all night? Who was this man with such amazing ability to catch fish?
Long before the world is waking,
Morning mist on Galilee,
From the shore, as dawn is breaking,
Jesus calls across the sea;
Hails the boat of weary men,
Bids them cast their net again. [WS 2000, 735:1]
It was none other than the risen Christ who called to them and demonstrated to them His authority and power over all things in Heaven and on Earth. In an instant, the disciples were reminded that Jesus could do anything for them. He could work anything for them. They were reminded that at His word anything could be accomplished—even that which seemed impossible.
To disciples this load of fish all of a sudden was nothing short of a miracle, and it didn’t take them long to realize who was calling to them from the shore. Only Jesus’ direction could have produced such tremendous results. Only the One they had known and loved could cause fish to fill the net when they, excellent fishermen themselves, had worked the whole night and landed nothing.
John says all of a sudden, “It is the Lord!” At the catch of fish He recognized who it was who had called to them. Peter saw too and quickly wrapped His outer garment around Himself and jumped into the water hurrying toward the shore.
So they cast, and all their heaving
Cannot haul their catch aboard;
John, in wonder turns, perceiving,
Cries aloud, ‘It is the Lord!’
Peter waits for nothing more
Plunges in to swim ashore. [WS 2000, 735:2]
Are there times when we find ourselves working all night like those disciples were? When we keep casting our nets and hauling them back in and nothing seems to happen? Working…working…working—and for what? Do we just seem to be “spinning our wheels” through life? Many are the people in this world who simply throw up their hands in despair saying, “I just don’t know what I’m doing anymore. Nothing is working out for me.”
To us Jesus calls from the shore. Calling to us with His word. His words of direction and counsel. He shows us that He is still in control, with authority and power given to Him from above. He may not fill our nets with fish, but He has done so much more. The One who calls to us is the One who was dead but now is alive again!
The miracle we experience is catching 153 large fish, but the miracle that He died on a humble cross, suffering the deepest anguish of Hell for us. We see the miracle that He was forsaken, rejected by men, and by His Father in heaven. We are witnesses of the miracle that He was left on a mountainside to die because He was judged and found guilty for all our crimes, but then He rose again from the dead. This then is a great miracle: that Christ suffered for our transgressions and came back to life to be our friend forever. Thus we know that our Savior has every ability to reach out His hand to guide, protect, and sustain us.
Jesus’ directions about fishing did not fail the disciples. Neither would any other directions He would give them (or us). At His word they would proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. They would not be alone, but Jesus would speak to them, encouraging them. At His word we too follow on.
When they had seen the miracle, He invited all the disciples to the shore….
Charcoal embers brightly burning,
Bread and fish upon them laid:
Jesus stands at day’s returning
In His risen life arrayed;
as of old His friends to greet,
“Here is breakfast; come and eat.” [WS 2000, 735:3]
Such a simple thing—Jesus invited the disciples to breakfast. But how encouraging it must have been for them to sit with Jesus at this meal after all that had happened—after their doubts and fears, after their shock at the crucifixion and the resurrection of their Master from the dead. Peter might have been especially eager for this meeting since He had so noticeably turned away from the Lord in crucial moments. It was a morning of joy and gladness for the disciples when they realized their Savior wanted to share a meal with them.
They had not been the world’s most faithful followers over the previous several weeks. They had forsaken Jesus and ran away when the cross drew near. They had hidden away in Jerusalem, but now He called them back, showing them that their sins had been forgiven and encouraging them to be faithful to Him once again.
All the failures of the disciples were behind them now. In spite of all the mistakes they had made and all the doubts they had, they were still to be Jesus’ partners in His work.
Christ is risen! Grief and sighing,
Sins and sorrows, fall behind:
Fear and failure, doubts, denying,
Full and free forgiveness find.
All the soul’s dark night is past,
Morning breaks in joy at last. [WS 2000, 735:4]
As disciples of Jesus in this century, we recognize all too readily that our lives too have encountered moments of grief and sighing, sins and sorrows, fear and failure, doubt, and denying. We have not been disciples wholly devoted to Jesus in our thoughts and activities. Perfect trust in the Lord, perfect sinless lives have not been our way. Doubts in Christ and His ability to be with us and save us have crept into our minds. The Devil has come upon us with temptations to all sorts of evil and we have not always held firm against him. Sadly, our discipleship is sometimes like that of Peter’s—fervent and excited one minute while weak the next. We are continually coming to Jesus admitting our guilt and confessing our sin before Him.
What a blessing then when Jesus still treats us as His friends, when He still greets us and says, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What a blessing when we can look to the shore and see that He is still calling to us. Wouldn’t we like to lay aside the weight of our sins and rush into the arms of His forgiveness?
Morning breaks, and Jesus meets us,
feeds and comforts; pardons still;
As His faithful friends He greets us,
Partners of His work and will.
All our days on ev’ry shore,
Christ is ours forevermore. [WS 2000, 735:5]
Jesus greets us as His friends and partners, and that is a comfort to us. For there are times when we might feel very alone. Times when we feel separated from Jesus’ love and mercy, when He seems far away from us. But at the lake when He greeted His disciples He said to them in effect: “You’re with me. Come and have breakfast. You belong to me.” And so He says the same to us. As in John 1, “Yet to all who received Him; to all who believed in His name He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NIV). You are united with Jesus by faith in Him. He has made you one of His children. He has brought you into His precious family by forgiving your sins and working in your hearts a trust in Him.
When we feel weak, He is strong and says, “I am with you. You are with me.” Jesus wants you to understand that you are with Him. Those who turn to Him in repentance and faith are never ashamed and never turned away.
Jesus is risen from the dead so that we can be connected with Him. He suffered and died so we could be connected to His sacrifice and our sins could be paid for before God. He rose from the dead so we could also be partners in His resurrection and enjoy life forever with Him. He is always with you—He the Vine, you the branches (cf. John 15)—and He will work to bring you to heavenly joy.
Why was this breakfast good for the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee? It showed them again that Jesus had the power and willingness to help and befriend them in their time of need. It showed them again that His guidance and word are powerful and effective.
The disciples also learned that Jesus was still their friend and partner. They were reassured that He still wanted them to remain connected to Him and He would take away their doubts, fears, and failures. They found they could still approach Him—still come to the shore to eat and enjoy fellowship with Him; and so can we, come to Him. He is with us always. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.