Sermon: Living After Easter

What do we do now?

Many of us had to get up and get to work on Monday. Sunday was Easter. We heard the amazing true story that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, died and then rose again from the dead. He who had died was now alive again. The tomb is empty. Jesus Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Jesus Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed). If you were with us last Sunday, I hope that this good news of God’s victory over sin and death struck your heart.

But then Monday came. What do we do now? He is risen, He has conquered death and Satan, but ‘what do we do now?’ Fields need to be readied, metal needs to be worked, wires run, fires put out, and files filed. The most amazing story ever imagined has played out right before our eyes, but how do we live on Monday as if that story is true?

It is that kind of question that the disciples faced after the resurrection. Jesus had appeared, they had believed in him and worshipped him, but now what? How do they, how do we live after Easter?

But then Jesus shows up, but I don’t want to spoil anything. The story is recorded in John, chapter 21. John is in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you are in Acts and Romans, you have gone too far. John, chapter 21. But before we hear God’s word this morning, please pray with me.

Father, may your word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

These are the very words of God, from the book that we love:

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathaniel from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So 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 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.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from the shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger, you dressed yourself and went where you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me.”

Then Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die, but Jesus did not say that he would not die, he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know his testimony is true.

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

What do we do now? The amazing true story of God’s salvation has played out right before our eyes – cross, grave, empty tomb, Jesus is risen. But now what? How do we live after Easter?

How do we get in on this story?

The disciples begin by going fishing. Maybe that seems an odd thing to do right after seeing Jesus rise from the dead, but maybe not. The disciples needed to eat, Peter and at least a few others of them had been raised as fishermen. So they went out to fish. They got to work.

But we are told that night they caught nothing. They worked until their muscles ached, covered in sweat, and they had nothing to show for it. Have you ever been there? Have you ever worked late and long and hard, poured yourself out only to catch nothing. Maybe its that lesson plan you put so much into and the children don’t seem to care. Maybe its the project at work, or the problems that keep coming up one after another and it seems like you’ve caught nothing. Or maybe it is the strenuous work of parenting, of being a family. So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Have you ever been there? Even after Easter? Even knowing that Jesus rose from the dead, have you ever had those times where you work so hard but seem to come up empty.

What seems so common and mundane takes on another level of significance when we realize that in these disciples, we see a picture of the work of the church – a picture of us, living after Easter.

If you can, put your finger in John 21, then flip back a bit to Matthew 4 – 4:18-20. This is Peter’s first encounter with Jesus:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

There are incredible similarities between the two stories we just heard. Both take place beside the Sea of Galilee, both involve Peter and Jesus, both begin with casting a net into the lake and end with a word from Jesus.

And in Matthew, Jesus’ call to Peter that causes him to drop everything and walk after Jesus is this: “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Jesus is risen from the dead, and the disciples go fishing. Yes, these disciples were looking for literal fish, but it is a picture of the mission of the church. Jesus Christ is risen and we, the church, are to go fishing. Cast the net wide and drag the fish in, draw people into the boat, into the church, into relationship with Jesus, into this amazing story of salvation that has so gripped our hearts.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them and they said, “We’ll go with you.”

How do we live after Easter? We live as people on a mission. We live as people on a mission. The disciples remind us that being part of this story of redemption includes drawing others into the story. It involves fishing.

But there’s a problem. So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

They caught nothing. We know it wasn’t for lack of trying. They are out there all night, hot, sweaty, tired. Peter has worked so hard, he has taken his outer clothing off – basically working in his undershirt with the rest of his clothes tossed into the boat. But they caught nothing.

They worked and worked and worked, but nothing.

Maybe you have felt like those disciples. You have friends or family members who don’t know Jesus, who don’t know the story, or that do and still don’t believe. You have cast the net, cast the net, cast the net, and still come up empty. Or you have friends or family members struggling with sin and addiction and you can see how it is destroying what is most important, and you long for them to experience God’s redemption in their lives. So you cast the net, cast the net, cast the net, and still come up empty.

So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

You are not alone in coming up empty, in working until you ache only to find nothing in the net yet again.

But then…

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize 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.

Then Jesus shows up. It can be easy for us to believe in our hearts, even if we never say it out loud, that the success of the mission, that success in evangelism, that the growth and success of the church is in our hands. Jesus died, he rose again, now the rest is up to us. So we work, so we program, we argue, we think, we cast the net, cast the net, cast the net, but then Jesus shows up and reminds us he is not done working.

When we believe that everything after Easter is up to us, we can easily live in fear, anxiety, and discouragement. When we repeatedly share the love of Jesus, when we repeatedly pray for others and seem to come up empty, we can begin to wonder why we are failing, what is wrong with us.

But it is not true that Jesus did his part and the rest is up to us. The mission of redeeming the world and the sinners in it has always been and will always be Jesus’ mission – we simply get to be a part of it.

That Jesus is still at work means we can work, we can witness, with patience and hope. No matter how late into the night we are casting the net, there is always hope.

Because on their own, the disciples caught nothing, but at the word of Jesus, the net was full.

So Jesus shows up on the shore, while the disciples are exhaustedly casting the net, casting the net, casting the net, and he calls out to them. Without them even knowing it him, Jesus fills their net with fish and keeps it from breaking.

It is interesting to note that Jesus’ command is to do the same thing they were doing, and yet not. They had spent the whole night throwing the net and Jesus tells them to throw it one more time, but this time, he directs them where. It is Jesus who tells them where to go.

We cannot do this without Jesus. We cannot get in on the story or draw others in without Jesus. We cannot live after Easter without Jesus’ constant presence and guidance.

When we listen for Jesus in the Mondays and Tuesdays of life, when we listen for Jesus as we cast the net in the wee hours of the night, we too may hear him tell us to do the same things we have been doing, and yet not. It is at the word and direction of Jesus that our work has any hope of success.

So this morning, be not discouraged. Jesus is still working. He is still at work in you. And he is still at work through you. Listen for him standing on the shore, wait for his direction.

We cannot work our way into the mission. We cannot think our way in, or program our way in. We need Jesus, every step of the way.

Only Jesus can fill the net, only Jesus can draw people to him.

Jesus told them, told us, in John 6, Apart from me you can do nothing  and No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them and then later in John 12, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

It is the work of Jesus, in and through the church, that draws people to him. On our own, no matter how much we work, or strain, or strive, we cannot draw one person to Jesus, only he can do that.

We cast the net, cast the net, cast the net, but it is only when Jesus is at work that people are drawn to him.

In John 21, Jesus calls out to the disciples, giving directions on where to throw their net in order to find fish. Even before they realize it was Jesus, they obey. And the net is full. I don’t know why Jesus let them work all night, wear themselves out, before he stood on the shore and spoke to them. I don’t know why we who pray and witness often do so for weeks and months and years. I don’t confess to understand the timing of God in all this.

But I do see this: Jesus doesn’t leave us on our own after Easter. He doesn’t leave us to our own devices in working for the Kingdom. He still stands on the shore, he still calls out to us, and still invites us to come, sit with him, and eat.

Jesus ends the miracle of the great catch of fish by inviting the disciples to a meal. He has them drag the fish ashore, they count them all out, but the disciples ultimately provide nothing for the meal. Jesus already has it prepared. Jesus has already provided for them in their hunger and exhaustion.

Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

After the hard work of fishing, Jesus invites them to come and sit with him and, we are told, they didn’t need to ask who it was, they knew it was Jesus. And he fed them, nourished them in that meal.

Jesus invites us to come and be fed by him, to be nourished in this meal, around this table. Jesus already has it prepared for us, he has already provided for us in all our needs.

So come to this feast of remembrance, where we remember that just as Christ broke the bread and poured out the cup, his body was broken and his blood poured out for you and for me.

So come to this feast of communion, where Jesus feeds and nourishes us with his very presence.

So come to this feast of hope, where we taste today what we long to taste again in the kingdom of God at the marriage feast of the lamb.

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