Fr Mike's Message - 4/24/22
The Gospel: John 21:1-19
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. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 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. 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. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
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." 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." 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. 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." (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: So, here we are on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. What a great celebration we had last week. The church and our hearts were full of God's blessing to us of his resurrection celebration.
It truly was an amazing opportunity to be able to freely worship and praise the Lord together.
So you might think that we would have a follow-up celebration this week. There is an element of that in our Gospel reading this morning. Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room. But I think more often than not most of us think of this Sunday as "Doubting Thomas Sunday." We are all familiar with the story, right? Thomas is not present and then he goes on to compound that error by telling the other disciples he won't believe unless he sees for himself.
Much of what is taught and spoken about on this Sunday is what Thomas says and does. As I was preparing for this message I was struck by the thought: "I wonder what we miss if we concentrate on Thomas?"
What does Jesus say and do in this passage in his relationship with the other disciples and with Thomas? I believe that he does two very vital things which are very easy to miss. He instructs and then he illustrates. Or on other occasions, he will illustrate and then instruct. I believe that this is a very consistent thing that Jesus does throughout his ministry.
Let me see if I can draw this out a little more. In the Gospel reading this morning we read how the disciples have gathered and Jesus joins them. He appears and he blesses them. He goes on to give them two instructions. Then he illustrates those instructions.
Here is a section of the reading from this morning: "Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Jesus gives the disciples a blessing of peace. Then he gives his first instruction: he tells them he is sending them as he has been sent. Next, he gives them another blessing by breathing the Holy Spirit on them with a very clear and precise set of instructions: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
I am going to save the illustration part for later in the message. Because I think I can explain my reasoning by using another scripture that we heard very recently.
I would like to take us back to the Maundy Thursday service. Now, this might be a little difficult to follow because this time Jesus gives his illustration, and then he gives his instruction. But I believe that the principle holds true in both cases.
So, in the Maundy Thursday Gospel reading we hear this read: "And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him."
Jesus illustrates humble, servant-centered leadership by washing the disciple's feet. He does this because he is the Messiah - the now and coming king - the savior of the world. This scripture says clearly: "knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God."
Jesus has every right and opportunity to be the kind of leader he will face when he meets Ananias and Caiaphas, when he meets the Sanhedrin, when he meets Pilate, and when he meets Herod. But he chooses to be a servant leader and washes the disciple's feet.
Then he gives his instruction: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
"Just as I have loved you." Jesus says it plainly he says it without equivocation. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Now if you think that instruction is difficult let's return to the one we received in today's reading: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
I could speak on the topic of forgiveness for a long time this morning. What does it mean to forgive someone? How do we forgive those who have done horrendous things in our world? I want to suggest that forgiveness is an ongoing "work of sanctification." Perhaps it is something that we will be working on until that day we meet the Lord.
I believe the essence of what Jesus is talking about in the scripture this morning is our responsibility with regard to forgiveness. We have the opportunity to set people free by our forgiveness. Did you catch the second part of the instruction: " if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Maybe I should just go straight to what I believe is the illustration of what Jesus is saying this morning: "Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus sets Thomas free by his forgiveness. After all, we all know that the opposite of faith is doubt right. Thomas is trapped by his doubt. He is unable to experience the fullness of his relationship with his creator, his father, his Lord because of his doubt. Jesus pronounces him forgiven and he is set free to proclaim: "My Lord and my God!"
The SSJE Brother Give Us A Word Daily Meditation said it so clearly this week I want to share it in closing as our challenge for this week:
Proclaiming and receiving the one who is Truth is always interactive, reciprocal, and dynamic. The risen Christ in you is rolling away the stone for the risen Christ in me to step out into a larger world. The Spirit of Truth in our mutual witness will sustain us on the road we share to that broad, open place in the heart of God.
-Br. Keith Nelson
Society of Saint John the Evangelist
"The risen Christ in you is rolling away the stone for the risen Christ in me to step out into a larger world."
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