May 5, 2019 – Jesus- Resurrected- Restores Abundantly!
Have you tried to give a big hug and kiss to your adolescent son in front of his buddies? “Daad! You’re embarrassing me!” he tells you. Adolescent girls also talk about their embarrassing moms. Kids feel they have to keep their distance from their parents, or they’ll suffer mocking and rejection by their friends.
In John 18, before Jesus died on the cross, Peter denied Jesus three times. Peter was clearly embarrassed by his association with Jesus and he feared suffering the mocking, the rejection, and even the punishment of his fellow Jews for being one of Jesus’ disciples. Today, in our own way, we, too, at times have been embarrassed, slow, or afraid to admit before our friends and others that we’re also disciples of Jesus.
When kids keep their distance from their embarrassing parents, and even, at times, deny them before their friends, a loving mom and dad won’t disown their children, but rather absorb the hurt they may feel and put it aside. Loving parents do everything they can to show their children just how much they’re loved and to give them the opportunity to express their love for them in their own way.
In the Gospel lesson today, a resurrected Jesus brings Peter back into fellowship with Him and gives Peter the opportunity to confess his love for Jesus three times. Jesus isn’t embarrassed by those whom he calls disciples, though we often give Him reason to be, as Peter and the others also did! Rather Jesus, crucified on the cross and risen again, restores us, to fellowship with Him again and again and again. And He gives us the opportunity to again serve Him in the places and with the people He has given to us.
In today’s gospel lesson, along with the reading from the book of Acts, we have some familiar Bible stories that have to do with the resurrected Jesus abundantly restoring His followers to fellowship with Him.
We’re going to focus on the gospel story which starts out with a night of ‘fishless’ fishing by the disciples. That is, they caught nothing. But when Jesus, standing on the shoreline greets them and gives them His instructions, all that’d been failure and loss turns to abundance, by now catching 153 fish. The blessing of that abundance of fish serves as an indicator of just how great is the restoration that – Christ is risen… He is risen indeed, provides for His people. / The problem is we often, like the disciples don’t recognize at first that Jesus is the one giving us direction. We can waste opportunities for profitable service to Him by being wasteful of His guidance.
Like this story of a man by a different seashore, who was exploring caves. In one of the caves he found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone had rolled clay balls and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man, so he took the bag with him. As he strolled along the beach, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could. He thought little about it until he dropped one of the clay balls and it cracked open on a rock … Inside was a beautiful, precious stone!
Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each contained a similar stone. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left. Then it struck him. He’d been on the beach a long time. He’d thrown maybe 50 or 60 of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of thousands! But, he’d just… thrown it away!
It’s like that with the direction and the restoration that Jesus wants to give to this world. It’s also often ‘thrown away’ and not recognized for its precious nature. It’s like how we sometimes go through our liturgy while thinking about the pot roast or we go through confession and absolution by rote without thinking much of what we’re saying.
We often fail to grasp our true condition of being lost to hell if not for the forgiveness that Jesus gives that restores us and returns us to fellowship with Him and with the God of heaven. However, as we hear that absolution and let it fill us up, it will change us each time. Because His word of forgiveness and restoration is effective… each and every time. It’s effective because – Christ is risen… He’s risen indeed!
The resurrected Jesus on the sea-shore where the disciples are fishing provides them direction. And following His direction results in His providing them with an abundance. And His provision of such an abundance is an indicator of just how great the restoration with God is, that the blood of Jesus provides for all the world.
Our receiving of God’s abundant grace, through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, does not depend on doing any work ourselves to get us into good enough shape. We can’t do anything good enough to restore us to God. God alone does that restoration for each of us just as He did with Peter. The Lord, in the lesson today, restored Peter after Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus on the night He was led away to be crucified. Today Jesus asks Peter three times ‘do you love me’ and each time Peter replies “yes”.
Peter, by Jesus’ word of forgiveness and absolution, is given all that he needs to again be in fellowship with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t first ask Peter to get better or to improve himself and only then can Jesus use him to feed His lambs, no! Jesus takes Peter as he is, broken and humbled by his own words of embarrassment and denial on the night Jesus died.
This shattered and repentant Peter, makes his confession of, “yes, Lord you know that I love you”; and Jesus gives to Peter the restoration of grace needed to live the rest of his life as Jesus’ restored and faithful witness. Peter with his flaws and impetuous nature are what Jesus restores to a right relationship with Himself and then uses Peter to give the good news of forgiveness he has received from Jesus, to others in this world. Including you and I!
Each of us has our own unique flaws like Peter. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use us, flaws and all. Jesus takes us as we are, restores us by His grace alone and then having been changed by His grace, He uses us for His purposes. Our efforts to perfect ourselves do not earn us a purpose, only the ‘precious jewel’ of Jesus’ perfection, given to us by His Holy Spirit, makes us useful.
Because, Christ is risen… He is risen indeed; the resurrected Jesus provides all His follower’s abundant restoration and purpose for life. Our salvation doesn’t depend on us doing something. But our effectiveness in this world as Christ’s witnesses does require our efforts. As we improve in obedience to Christ so will our witness of Him improve.
Our salvation is not what’s at stake in our obedience to Jesus’ purpose for us; but our effectiveness in ‘feeding His lambs’ in this world, with His word of abundant provision, that is affected by our efforts. We are to give His Word away, and then let Jesus supply the growth. We don’t put the ‘jewel’ in the clay, God does that. We simply are the clay bearing the jewel of the Word of God within us and are willing to be broken open and used according to His purposes.
Because – Christ is risen… He is risen indeed – Jesus is the one Who establishes our purposes for us; He restores us to a right relationship with God which then allows us to be used. He knows our cracks and flaws; and He’s chosen us anyway. Not because of those things, but because in His love and His abundant provision He chooses us. Jesus’ words to a flawed Peter resulted in Peter’s restoration and Jesus’ words to us, in scripture and in absolution, also results in continual blessing and abundant restoration for us. If they didn’t, I couldn’t be standing with you here today.
We’ve been given the jewel of heaven by God’s grace through faith alone. That’s in contrast to those who refuse the gift of God’s grace offered through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. The abundant and continual blessings we’ve been given through Jesus’ defeat of death on the cross and by His resurrection, completely fill our need for eternal restoration with God beyond our imagining.
We’re not only given the precious gems of God’s word and of heaven, but we’re also given the purpose of serving Jesus here on earth. That’s because we’ve been transformed through the abundant supply that is ours through the cross of Christ!
Like was said earlier, even though we, like Peter, at times have been embarrassed, slow, or afraid to admit before others that we’re disciples of Jesus, the Lord is never embarrassed of those whom He calls disciples. Rather, because Christ is risen… He is risen indeed – He restores us through His blood and grace and makes us His own to then go and ‘feed His lambs’. In His name, amen.
Sermon #1026 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 9:1-22
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.Cross references:
Epistle Reading Revelation 5:8-14
8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Holy Gospel John 21:1-14
21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:
2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “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. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered.
6 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.
7 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. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 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. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and 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.