Jesus appears again to the disciples
21 Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together.3 Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.”
They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.
5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.
9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He 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.
Jesus and Peter
15 When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
Thoughts on the passage:
When I took a creative writing class in college, I remember the professor harping on the difference between showing and telling the reader something. Telling was explicit wording, where as showing was more implicit. “Frank was mad,” is an example of telling. “Frank slammed his hand on the horn as the car swerved in front of him,” is an example of showing. In both instances we know that Frank is mad, one time it is because we are simply told it. The second time it is made clear by the way we describe Frank’s actions. The fact that he uses the horn and the fact that he slams his hand against it are both details that show us how Frank feels.
When I read our story from the Gospel of John today, I am struck by the details that the author includes. Rightly or wrongly, my mind goes back to those lessons from my creative writing class. What I heard is that the writer of the Gospel is showing us, rather than telling us how Peter is feeling when he sees Jesus by the shore. When Peter realizes the man is Jesus he gets dressed and then he jumps in the water and splashes to the shore. Never does the author tell us how Peter feels at seeing Jesus, but we are shown how Peter feels by his actions. He is almost frantic in his desire to get to Jesus. He gets dressed, and then he jumps into the water, and while he is busy swimming or wading to shore the rest of the disciples, still dry and comfortable, pilot the boat to shore. Peter is like any parent who is running late, frantically trying to get kids dressed and out the door in the morning. There is nothing logical about his actions. Instead he is driven by his excitement at seeing Jesus.
These details are amusing and provide a nice background to the story, but they also serve as an important counter-point to what is coming next. Peter is asked by Jesus how much he loves him. Imagine the scene for a minute. Here is Peter, perhaps still dripping wet and maybe a little out of breath from his frantic scramble to get to Jesus and Jesus is questioning how much he loves him. Not only does he ask once, he asks three times. The seeming absurdity of the question, and Peter’s insistence of his love of Christ is bolstered by his wild dash to be with Jesus. We have been shown by his actions how much Peter loves Jesus.
Jesus is doing this for a reason. He is trying to prepare Peter for what is ahead. Peter has been through a lot already and he has had his ups and downs. He professed his love of Jesus before only to deny Christ when his own life was threatened. Peter has been following Jesus since the beginning and yet his bumbling answers and confused questions can make us wonder if this really is the rock on which Jesus is going to build the church. This final test is a challenge to strengthen Peter for the difficult journeys ahead when Jesus will no longer be physically with him.
This question, “do you love me more than these,” is a hard one. For Peter is being asked to reflect on his willingness to follow Jesus despite the costs. Will he give up fishing to serve the risen Christ? Will he give up his very life if that is what it takes to follow Jesus? These are stark questions and challenging ones. It is no wonder that Jesus asks it again and again, seeking to push past the enthusiastic instinctual answers that Peter gives to get to that really heartfelt final answer, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” You can almost hear him pleading by that point, begging to receive that understanding from Jesus.
I have been wrestling with that same question, “do you love me more than these?” It has been rolling around in my head ever since the General Conference meeting in February. I grew up in the United Methodist Church and have never thought I would be anything but United Methodist and yet I find myself asking myself that question, do I love being United Methodist more than I love Jesus? Is my commitment to the institution, or to the living Christ? What are the sacred things in my life that have cluttered and crowded out Jesus? What are the things that Jesus might wonder if I love more than him?
I suspect that I am not alone in wrestling with those things that come between us and following God. They have different names for us, loyalty, career, money, hockey, dance, fishing, and the respect of our peers. what are those things that we value and sometimes start to place ahead of Jesus in our lives? We would never make the claim that they are more important than God, but when we look at our lives, our choices tell us a different story. Jesus is asking all of us; do we love these things more than him.
I am teaching this class on the Wesleyan principles of money, specifically, his idea to earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. In the chapter on saving all you can, the author shares the idea of a 10, 10, 80 formula. You give ten percent to God, you save ten percent, and you use the rest for your own needs. This is not how our culture teaches us to use money. Often, we start with our needs, then maybe we give something to God, and if we have anything left over, that is what we call our savings. Intentionally following this formula forces us to think hard about what the things are we really need and what is it that we love more than giving to God or saving for the future. Now, I have a lot of things I love that I spend money on. I have often joked that I will serve anywhere the Bishop wants, if I can get high-speed Internet. Do I really love that more than Jesus though? I like eating out with my family, but do I love that more than God? I love my technology and my toys and getting fun things for my kids, but do I love those things more than the risen Christ?
Jesus is asking the same question of our church. Do we love these things more than we love him? If we are truly to be a church of resurrection the answer to that question obviously needs to be an empathic “no.” Our words and our actions will reflect how we choose Jesus first and how deeply we love him and seek to follow him.
I believe that we are a church of resurrection and I see it in how you all answer that question over and over again in different ways. I see it when time and time again our women and men answer the call and help out when we have a funeral, offering God’s love and grace to families in their time of great need. I see it when people respond to our mission of the month for UMCOR by giving more than $8,000 to bring resurrection and new life to people whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters. I see it when people respond to our new Family Ministry position by given over $8,000 to help fund the position beyond their giving to the general budget of the church. I see it in the ways that people are always showing up to help, whether it is stuffing Spires, working on crafts for the Bazaar, or helping with Meals of Wheels or visiting our shut-ins.
Our challenge in being a church of resurrection is to stay focused on Jesus. We will face challenges and distractions in the future. We will have obstacles to overcome and difficulties to be handled. We need to stay constantly focused on the one who calls, claims us, and asks us to follow him. We need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our hearts filled with love, and our hands open to offer his peace to the world. Jesus is calling us to feed his sheep, tend his lambs, and to follow him. Let us answer the call! Amen
Questions to Ponder:
What does it mean to be a church of resurrection?
What are the things in your life that can come between you and your love of Jesus?
Who are the lambs and sheep that Jesus is calling you to help?
What does it mean for you to follow Jesus?
God, you are the resurrection and the life. Thank you for walking along side us in the dark times of our lives. Fill us once more with the joy of the new life that is promised in Christ’s resurrection. Help us to be a church of resurrection that shares that joy and new life with others. Amen