3rd Sunday of Easter
April 10, 2016
“Doing What Comes Naturally”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us is the Gospel lesson assigned for today and read previously from John 21.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Where do new Christians come from? Okay (clear throat nervously). Well (with hesitation), let me tell you about the “birds and the bees.” Uhmm, see, there are birds, and there are … bees. And the birds do (pause, again nervously) what birds do. And the bees do … what bees do. The birds and the bees just do what comes naturally. Hmm.. .let’s try a different approach.
Fishermen. Now there are fishermen and there are … fisher … uh, fisherwomen. And fishermen and fisherwomen love…to fish. So fishermen and fisherwomen just naturally …fish. Is this making sense? I don’t think so.
Okay, then. There are Christian men and Christian women. And Christian boys and Christian girls. And Christian men and Christian women and Christian boys and Christian girls are people who know about Easter; they believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for them. They know Jesus loves them, and they love other people, and so then they do…what comes naturally. That’s what our Gospel text this morning is about. It’s about what Christians, Easter people, do and what they do naturally. People who believe in the resurrection do what comes naturally, and that has everything to do with where new Christians come from. Do you follow me? Let’s be more specific.
Do you remember last week’s Gospel lesson? In that lesson from John, the Easter story seemed to reach a perfect ending. Jesus appeared to his disciples – first without, then with, Thomas. He gave them the peace of forgiveness of all sins, the faith to believe it, and the power to forgive sins themselves and encouragement to share their Easter joy. They’ve seen Jesus; they know he’s alive; even Thomas believes. And there had been that wonderful word to future generations: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29). In last week’s text John even wrote what seemed to be the perfect ending for his Gospel: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:30-31). Perfect conclusion, a naturally perfect ending of the story. But then, curiously enough, there’s one more chapter in John’s Gospel. What are we going to do now? We do what comes naturally.
Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias…same thing). Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them. Makes sense; Peter was a fisherman. That’s what he does naturally. At this point, the disciples don’t know what Jesus’ next instructions for them will be, so they do what comes naturally. Fishermen fish. Think about it…Jesus was gone so what were they supposed to do? They did what came naturally; they did what they knew. They fished.
You know what happens. “They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish” (w 3b-6).
Peter then jumps into the water! He can’t wait to be near Jesus. This is the natural reaction of those who have seen the brutality of the cross and the glory of the resurrection. See, by this time, Easter had happened. Believing in the crucified and risen Christ created a completely new attitude. Now inside is a person who knows of sins forgiven and being graciously loved by God. And because he knows and believes that, there’s this whole renewed heart and life that’s eager to do something for Christ.
So what’s he going to do? What comes naturally. This, it seems, is why the Holy Spirit inspired John to add chapter 21 to his Gospel and why he records this particular miracle. It’s not just another resurrection appearance of Jesus. It’s an intentional reminder of what naturally follows after people have seen the risen Christ, believed in him, and been empowered by him to forgive sins! John knows we want to go and be fishers of men. It’s what we naturally want to do – to be with Jesus and do something for Him.
Christian men and women, boys and girls, have this natural desire to make new Christians. We have experienced the joy of Easter. We have seen that our sins are all forgiven. We have the certainty of eternal life. And now we just naturally want everybody in the world to have the same things. Now it’s against our new nature to sit in the boat and do nothing. When we do nothing , we’re listening to the old sinful nature that remains inside us telling us to “sit down, shut up, don’t rock the boat.” The new man or woman can’t wait to share – to jump in and get started! Fishermen fish. Christians want to make new Christians … don’t we? For years GSLCS has talked about wanting to grow and reach out to the community. That will NOT HAPPEN if everyone is just content to sit in the boat!
Now, of course, it’s not as if Christian men and Christian women, Christian boys and Christian girls, necessarily sit down and decide just how many new Christians they want to make or when they want to do it. It’s not necessarily something they plan. Jesus is the one who plans and makes all this happen. Without Jesus, all our fishing for men is as fruitless. But then Jesus, who guides and directs, says, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat,” and things go very well. Jesus is the one who catches fish. In fact, Jesus does everything. Just as He did for the disciples, Jesus feeds, provides, and equips us to do what the believer in us naturally wants to do.
From the earliest years after the Book of John was written, commentators have wondered why the Holy Spirit inspired John to record the exact number of fish. Greek zoologists of the 1st century believed that there were 153 kinds of fish in the seas. Could it be John is reminding us that we are to go to every tribe and nation with the saving Gospel, to bring all nations into God’s net? The disciples didn’t plan to catch exactly 153 fish. They couldn’t catch one on their own! But planning how many fish we’re going to catch isn’t something we need to worry about. We just go about our business – fishing because we’re fishermen – sharing Christ just because we’re Christians, people who ourselves are loved, forgiven, going to heaven…doing what comes naturally.
New Christians aren’t made by brilliant ingenuity and church-growth theories, not by smooth administration and slick programs, not by offering stuff to first-time worshippers. New Christians just naturally happen as we just naturally seize the opportunities God presents. We do have friends and family members who come and tell us they’re hurting. We do have relatives and neighbors we can invite to church. We testify to Christ by the way we just naturally go about life, being realtors and teachers, plumbers, students and electricians, retirees, kids, moms, dads, and grandparents. We may not consider ourselves missionaries, but we all are, for we do just what comes naturally. Amen.