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How Jesus Feels About Failures (sermon of April 22, 07)

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GasselThird Sunday of Easter: April 22, 2007
John 21:1-19; Acts 9:1-6; Revelation 5:11-14; Psalm 30

We sang: Come, Now Is the Time and Every Move I Make
And the band members read John 21.1-14:

Fishing
1-3After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”

3-4The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him.
5Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?”
They answered, “No.”
6He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”
They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.
7-9Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!”
When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.
10-11Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.
12Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.
13-14Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.

Then we sang Come and Dine and How Beautiful!
Prayer; Welcome

Dance: Melissa Murray and Whitney Hershberger (I Still Believe)

Sermon: How Jesus Feels About Failures

In today’s set of Scriptures, Jesus appears to three people in three very different ways today. First, the conversion of Saul – after the resurrection, after Jesus goes to heaven:

Acts 9:1-6: The Blinding of Saul
1-2 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
3-4He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
5-6He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

And here’s another appearance of Jesus – the one that was read during the singing.
Jesus had told the disciples to go back to Galilee, where they were from, and that he would meet with them there. After resurrection, after that first Sunday night, when he appeared to them, and the 2nd Sunday night, when he appeared again and Thomas was with them, they go back to the lakeshore. And nothing happens.

But when nothing’s happening, something’s happening with Jesus.

Doubtless, they remembered while they waited. Perhaps they were right there – right there in that place where, 3 1/2 years earlier, Jesus had said, “Follow me.” Perhaps, as they looked around at everything just as it was, they wondered – did it all really happen? Probably they grieved – they’d mostly deserted him in his hour of greatest need. Probably they rejoiced, in those moments that they could believe. So many memories. For it had been right there that Jesus had preached from their boat. They’d just come in after a night of fishing, back then – remember? – Jesus had gotten crowded on the beach, so he climbed in one of their boats and preached from it. And then he’d told them to put out from shore and put down their nets, and they almost hadn’t done it, because they’d been fishing all night and the fishing time was past and they hadn’t caught anything, but the nets came up so full they almost broke and they knew there was something about this man that was going to change everything.

But that was so long ago. Now weeks had gone by since the cross, and they’d seen him, but only twice. What was up? What were they going to do now?

Finally, Peter decides to fish. They put out one evening, the work comes back into their hands – though they’ve been away from it, and their hands blister easily now. But even this doesn’t work for them. They work all night; they catch nothing. Finally the sky lightens, they give up.

As the sun prepares to rise, they hear a call. Where—on shore—a man – “Do you have any fish?” Nah. “Throw your nets on the other side.” What? Well, just do it, what will it hurt. They throw, the net’s weights sink to the lakebed, they pull—resistance, must be caught—they pull—they feel motion—but it’s pulling really hard now—wait, it’s full, full of fish—look!

And wait a minute—this is familiar—a light goes on—John: It’s the master! Peter grabs his clothes, leaps into the water, and swims for shore. And sure enough.

Do you suppose Jesus waiting until they went fishing to show up? Could he be waiting for them to remember his call? Could he be wanting to show them that he still wants them, he’s still calling them, that for all their failure, nothing has changed?

After breakfast, he offers a little uncomfortable healing.

Do You Love Me?
15After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Master, you know I love you.”
Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.”

17-19Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

There is, as you know, a difference in the questions Jesus asks that is almost invisible in English but clear in Greek. Jesus’ first two inquiries of Peter use the verb agapao—do you really, selflessly love me, Peter? And Peter answers with a different verb: phileo—I love you as if you were my brother. I love you some. Our English Bible reports that Peter was upset when Jesus asked him the third time, and we’re tempted to think it’s because he asked three times. But, in fact, on the third time, Jesus asks a different question, using Peter’s verb phileo. As if to say, “Even that much, Peter?”

Three questions. Could Jesus be calling to Peter’s mind what happened back in the high priest’s courtyard? There was a fire then, too, and three times people asked him if he wasn’t a follower of Jesus, and three times he’d insisted he was not. And then Jesus had been brought out, and his eyes and Peter’s had met, and Peter had fled.

Could Jesus be gently saying, “I know, Peter. I was there. I remember. But all I want from you is that you love me. You’re still a part of the plan.”

This story got personal with me in the late 80s or early 90s. Heard it preached at a camp. It didn’t speak to me so much, then, but it gave me something that I needed very much, later.

[and here I told a pretty personal story about a particularly transformative moment when God seemed to set me free from a lot of pretty guilty memories and give me delight in a lot of good ones]

Most of the great people of the Bible were failures. Moses the murderer. David the adulterer. Peter the betrayer.

Do you have a failure? Or many failures? Maybe what God asks of you is that you love him and press on. He knows. He was there. He saw it all. Perhaps he would send you back to it, to look it in the eye, and to deal with it. Perhaps he will have a lifetime of meaningful work for you to do.


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