“Breakfast by the Sea”
from John 21
District Superintendent, Scot Ocke preached this sermon at Mt. Galilee United Methodist Church in Buchanan, Liberia in Africa on April 3, 2016.
Every day since last Sunday, Easter, Jesus has been making appearances. This Jesus who was beaten without mercy, whipped with a cat-o-nine tails, huge nails in his hands and feet, hung on a cross for all to see, a spear in his side. Who died, was placed in a borrowed with a two ton rock in front of it – Came out alive. Jesus is risen! Christ is risen – He is risen indeed!
He has been appearing to many. He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, to Mary his mother. He came through walls to show himself to Thomas the doubter – put your finger in the holes in my hands – your hand in my side – and believe. He appeared to Cleopas and his friend on the Road to Emmaus.
He appeared even to Peter. I say, he appeared even to Peter. Remember Peter – Simon- the fisherman but not a very good fisherman?
I have three boys in my family and one girl. All have grown up now. We adopted Max, the youngest, when he was three days old. Of them all Max loves to fish the most. The first time I took him he was about 3 years old. I took him to a little pond owned by a friend in my church – filled with fish. He would throw in his line and immediately catch a fish. When he got a larger one he would say, ‘O my daddy, I have a really big one!’ The next time we went to Lake Erie - a huge lake with bigger fish. I threw his line in and waited. ‘When catch a fish, daddy? I said be patient. A few minutes later still no bites. ‘When daddy?’ ‘Wait Max’ then he said, ‘Let’s go home daddy.’
Such was the life of Peter. The first time we meet Peter he is failing at fishing. He casts all night but nothing. Then Jesus comes along and says to Peter, "Throw your nets on the other side." When he did, he caught so many fish his nets couldn't hold them. Jesus said, "From now on, you'll be fishing for people." Peter followed Jesus. On this rock I will build my church.
For three years it was like that. The miracles were amazing. But maybe more amazing to Peter was how Jesus always seemed to reach out to people just like Peter. People that had some bad-marks on their records, people who were unpopular, those that opened their mouth before thinking. People no one else would choose; the handicapped, the sick, the failures in life - Jesus would choose.
Maybe that explains why Peter was so bold the night Jesus announced to His disciples that He was going to be betrayed, that He would be taken and crucified, and that all his friends would fall away. So Peter boldly proclaimed he would never allow that to happen. That he would even lay down his life to protect Jesus. Then Jesus made the chilling prediction, "Peter, before the rooster crows this very night, you will have denied me three times." But Peter swore that would never happen.
Then Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray, Judas betrayed him there, bringing an angry mob that arrested Jesus. Peter tried to be brave, cutting off the ear of one of the mob with his sword. But they took Jesus for what would become that all night trial with Annas and Caiaphas the High Priest and Pilate. Peter followed from a distance.
It was cold that night and as he sat listening and waiting outside the court room, he got cold. Some of the mob had built a charcoal fire outside and Peter moved close to warm himself. But in the light of that fire someone recognized him. They said, "Aren't you one of His followers?" Peter got scared and he said, "No I'm not." A little while later some others saw him and said, "Aren't you a disciple of Jesus?" Peter denied it and said, "I am not." Then a relative of the guy who's ear Peter had cut off said, "Weren't you there in the garden?" Peter, now very scared became furious and said, "I told you, I don't know the man!" Then, the rooster crowed. At that exact moment they brought Jesus outside, their eyes met and Peter remembered Jesus' words. Peter died in that moment. Not physically, his feelings, emotions, self esteem, hope - it all died inside. Jesus appears ~
1. In our Death. Peter died that night. Not physically but everything inside him. We have all fallen, we have all failed, we all have died inside to something. We stand at an altar and pledge our lives to another but something happens, love dies, we die. We hold our new born children. We teach, we love, we sacrifice; but something goes wrong, - and we die on the inside. We've said we'd follow Christ no matter what. We've said we'd never compromise, or lose our faith. But somehow we did. All of us have been there. All of us have failed, in one form or another - and we die. We’ve all died.
But God does not want that for us. The Psalmist wrote: “What good will it do if I die or if I go down to the grave? Dust cannot praise you; it cannot speak about your truth. 10 Lord, hear me and have mercy on me. Lord, help me. And help God does. Jesus appears to us for ~
2. Our Resurrection. Jump ahead with me three days. Jesus is no longer on trial, He is no longer on the Cross, He is no longer in the grave, He is risen! On this day 2000 years ago, a small light began in a dark cave. It was the light of the world. God commanded His Son to come forth. Jesus was alive. The world has never been the same. The greatest event in all the world has happened, but Peter doesn't realize it. He's failed, he's given up - Jesus is alive but Peter is dead. Peter has gone back to his old life, fishing for fish. He is just as much a failure as before.
When we fail we often go back to our old life, to our old ways. Oftentimes we hide in the most common and comfortable places - home, work, our hobbies. We hope to get lost and simply die alone. After the crucifixion Peter left Jesus and went back to fishing. To what was once so bad he returns. He was lousy at fishing before and is lousy now. Like before, he casts all night with zero results. One failure follows another. But the good news is that even if we’ve given up on ourselves, Jesus never gives up on us.
Jesus pursues Peter to his familiar work setting. As the sun is rising, Peter looks out from his boat and sees a man standing on the beach warming Himself by a charcoal fire. It was Jesus, but Peter doesn’t recognize him. Jesus says, "Hey, do you have any fish?" Peter answered saying he didn't. Then Jesus said, "Cast your nets on the other side of your boat." For some reason Peter does and a whole school of fish was there. The miracle of three years before is being repeated before His very eyes. Peter catches so many fish he can’t pull them in. He starts to remember.
Jesus is reminding Peter who he is and to Whom he belongs. That Jesus has called him, he is the one whom Jesus loves, needs and has called. "From now on, you'll be fishing for people." He is resurrecting Peter.
We need to remember that Jesus knows and loves us. We are not a number; we are unique, priceless, for He paid the ultimate price for us. We don’t need to hide for there is no where we can go that He will not pursue us because He believes we are worth pursuing. He has a call on our lives, and a plan for us. God says, 11For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Jesus comes to empower~
3. Our Witness. When Peter finally realizes it is Jesus on the beach he jumps into the water, swims to shore, races up the beach and falls down at Jesus' feet before that charcoal fire. The word 'charcoal fire' or 'fire of coals' is used only twice in the whole Bible. Once here on the beach, the other in the courtyard of the High Priest Caiaphas on Thursday night where Peter denied Jesus three times and heard the rooster crow. In the Greek, the word is anthrakia. It is where we get our word for anthracite, or coal. What do you think Peter remembered as his lungs breathed in that heavy smoke? He was remembering that night just three days before when he promised to never fall away - and when he did, he died.
It is here Jesus completes the resurrection process and moves him toward his mission. Resurrection is only possible when a person is dead. I want you to picture Jesus and Peter together on the beach that morning. Peter represents you, me, us. We are there. We have heard His call. We have all failed, we have denied Him, we have died inside. We can all smell the fire and the fish. Jesus has pursued us here today so Jesus can resurrect us today. We are there.
Jesus resurrects Peter and calls him to witness, "Peter do you love me more than these?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Peter do you love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." A third time he said, "Peter do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" Peter said, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!" He said to him, "Feed my sheep.
Three times there in front of the fire, one for each of the times Peter denied knowing Him in front of a similar fire, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Each time Peter had to respond. Each response was so hard, an act of confession; but also an act of forgiving, calling, and resurrection. Peter comes alive.
Jesus is still making appearances today. Not just to Peter but you and me. I see him in the sunrise. I see him in a tiny baby born at Camphor Mission just four days ago. I see him in the tears of missionaries who know they have answered God’s call to come here ‘for such a time as this.’ I see him in your smiles and handshakes and acceptance of me.
Jesus is calling you today. Some of you have died inside, gone back to your old ways. Jesus is on the beach calling. We must come. We must face the charcoal fires of our denial. He comes to forgive us. He comes to resurrect our lives and empower our witness.
I invite you to breakfast - picture yourself with Jesus today on the beach with Him. He is calling you – ‘Feed my Sheep.’ He is still making appearances to us to us – today and every day. What a great picture of Holy Communion.