The Third Sunday of Easter; Year C (4/10/2016)

Lessons:Acts 9:1-6 [7-20] Psalm 30 (11) Revelation 5:11-14 St. John 21:1-19

Prayer of the Day: Eternal and all-merciful God, with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might.  By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

21:1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

St. John 21:1-19 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Do You Love Me?

They must have been searing words. Words that cut Peter to the core, and stop him in his tracks. “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Any other time those words might not have had such a strong impact on Peter. Any other time he might have seen them as an introduction to something Jesus wanted to teach him, or an effort to start a conversation. But not this time. This time they sear him like a knife and stop him in his tracks. “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Jesus has reason to wonder. It was just a few days earlier that the soldiers arrested him and tortured him and were holding him captive. At the same time, Peter finds himself standing near a campfire with some of the locals. One of them — a young woman — a servant-girl — thinks she recognizes him. She asks if he belongs to Jesus’ group. Peter vehemently denies it to her: “Woman, I do not know him.” A little later another bystander seems to recognize him, yet again he protests: “Man, I am not!” Then about an hour later it happens again, and Peter’s response is the same: “Man, I do now know what you are talking about!” Peter can’t have known it, but Jesus is watching him from a distance. As he speaks his third denial, a rooster crows (just as Jesus had predicted it would), Jesus turns and looks at Peter, and Peter immediately realizes what he has done. You can imagine how the image of his Lord’s disappointed (yet loving?) face must have burned its way into Peter’s memory. That exchange of looks is one that will follow him for the rest of his life.

Fast forward to some time, not long after the resurrection. Peter and half dozen of the others have returned to the Sea of Tiberias, and to their former vocation. They are fishing. It is one of those nights: for hours they throw out the nets, and draw them back empty. About daybreak, a man on the shore calls out to them: “Any luck?” When they tell him how poorly they have done, he recommends that they throw the nets to the right side of the boat. Upon doing so, there are suddenly so many fish that they can’t haul the net back into the boat. One of the disciples immediately realizes that they are in the presence of Jesus. Peter jumps into the water and swims ashore, and the rest follow in the boat.

Back on shore, Jesus asks Peter not once, not twice, but three times: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asks him not so much to test him, as to invite him to begin again. These three affirmations of love become Peter’s opportunity to answer his three statements of denial. They become, as well, an invitation to ministry. Jesus commands Peter to feed his sheep — to tend his flock. It won’t be easy, Jesus says. It may even cost you your life. But after his failure on Friday, even that doesn’t seem so bad to Peter.

Loved by Jesus, Peter goes on to become a leader in the early church. One who tends to Jesus’ followers. One who feeds even those most vulnerable of believers. One who eventually shares the death that Jesus himself experienced. Perhaps it is the depth of Jesus’ grace that turns him back towards service. Perhaps it is the knowledge that this one who asks about his love has already loved him so fully and completely.

May the love of Christ turn our lives around as well, turning us back towards lives of service.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why is Peter afraid to admit that he is a follower of Jesus?
  2. What must he feel when the rooster crows, and his eyes meet the eyes of his Lord?
  3. How must these words of invitation and encouragement be a word of life to Peter?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have my words or actions denied my faith in Jesus?
  2. What was it that caused me to realize my failure? How did I feel?
  3. Do I believe in God’s grace — a grace that can overcome even the worst of my sins?