Déjà Vu All Over Again
1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called 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 Simon Peter climbed aboard 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.
That’s like déjà vu all over again that’s what Coach Yogi Berra said. Déjà vu is the feeling that one has witnessed or experienced a new situation previously. Our text today is déjà vu moment. Peter and the disciples where in back in Galilee they decided to go fishing. But they had a miserable night of fishing. In the morning a man showed up and asked "Friends, have you any fish?" When they answered they had caught none the man said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."
It sounds familiar doesn’t it? Just a couple months ago we heard of a miraculous catch of fish in Luke chapter 5. This episode happened three years before the events in our text. But it’s so much like it. Jesus was teaching along the shoreline in Galilee, and the crowds were pressing Him right into the water. So He asked Peter, a local fisherman, to take Him out in the boat. Peter was weary from fishing all night. And to make things worse they hadn’t caught any fish. Peter consents anyway. Jesus teaches for a while and then instructs Peter to head back into the deep water and throw the nets once again. Despite the apparent absurdity of such a request, Peter did so-and ended up with a net-full of fish. Do you remember Peter's reaction when he saw the nets were filled? He said to Jesus, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!" Do you remember that text?
Peter wanted to be as far away from Jesus as possible. He had a glimpse of how sinful he is and yet how holy Jesus is, and the glimpse of it is terrifying. Peter knew he was a sinner who deserved God’s judgment, and he was fearful that Christ had come to judge.
Do you remember what happened next? When Jesus spoke, He didn't condemn Peter. Instead, He took away Peter's fear. He took away Peter's sin. Then He told Peter that, from then on, he would be a fisher of men. So along with James and John, Peter became a disciple of Jesus.
Three years have now passed, along with Jesus' recent death and resurrection, and the disciples are on some downtime after that traumatic week in Jerusalem. They're back in Galilee as instructed, waiting, and Peter decides to go fishing with the other disciples. Just like before, the night goes by without a fish in the nets. With daylight, a figure stands on the shore, calls them "children" and asks if they have any food. When they say "no," He tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Again, an illogical piece of counsel: How is the right side of the boat going to differ from the left for catching fish?
But again, the net is full of fish this time, but even so the net doesn't burst. It's another miracle; and it's not because they fished on the other side of the boat. It's because the One on the shore spoke His Word and declared to them what would be so.
Remember, the first time Jesus filled the nets, Peter said, "Depart from me!" This time around, Peter won't wait to get to the Lord. Something has happened in between the first time and now. The Lord has given him faith. By faith, Peter knows that Christ is not there to condemn him, but to save him. The Lord is so intent on saving Peter that He's suffered for his sins on the cross, submitted to the grave, and has risen again. No fear for Peter this time. Instead, wherever Jesus is to be found, Peter's going to get there too, and as quickly as possible.
Peter's faith is confirmed by the Lord's actions. For what is the Lord doing? He's making breakfast for His hungry disciples. Even though they know who He is, they dare not ask. Why? Because of Who He is. The hand that stokes the fire and turns the fish has a nail-print through it, for this is He who was crucified for them. This is the Christ who suffered their death and now has defeated the grave. Furthermore, as our epistle reminds us, He is no less than the Son of God, to whom angels and archangels sing and give all glory in heaven. But here and now, He’s not sitting on a throne to be worshiped. He's making them breakfast! He's not even speaking to make cooked food appear out of nowhere, He's grilling fish on a fire.
Jesus is risen from the dead. His time of Humiliation is over, but His humility is not. The Son of God appears to His disciples and provides them with daily bread, giving them breakfast. But that's not all. Although the Gospel lesson stops at verse 14, Jesus does not. He takes Peter aside, and restores him as an apostle. Peter denied Jesus three times; so three times, Jesus tells him once again to feed His sheep. In other words, Jesus doesn't just appear to give Peter fish. He appears to give Peter forgiveness, again and again. After all, that is why He died. And that is why He is risen.
So what does this have to do with you and me? Let’s begin with some amazing truths regarding our Resurrected Lord.
We remember, of course, that He is risen. The Son of God who died in our place, for our sins, is risen again from the dead. This is a great reason for joy. But to add to that rejoicing is this: Risen from the dead and having conquered all of His enemies, the Lord Jesus Christ still serves. He still provides us with daily bread, and He still gives us the forgiveness of sins. His Humiliation has come to an end. But His humility has not, and the Lord of all continues to be the Servant of all.
Here is another reason for thanksgiving: Not only does the Lord provide for us, but He desires that we be with Him. Risen again, He didn't treat the disciples like servants, some second class citizens to be used and then thrown away. Rather, He summoned them to Himself in order to care for them, just as He does for us today. Peter, would later write of this truth in his first epistle: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (I Pet. 2:9-10). "You are a royal priesthood," he proclaims; and what do priests do? They have the privilege of drawing near to God. You have the privilege of drawing near to Him (T). The Lord wants you in His presence, not just in the future somewhere in heaven, but right now. He doesn't want to keep you at a distance to be recipients of His gifts, but calls you to Himself now.
And where do you go to draw near to Jesus? Where are His promises to be found? We discussed this at length about three weeks ago. You go to where His Word is preached and His Sacraments are given out. That's where Jesus is to be found, in the place where He is forgiving your sins.
What great news – The Good News! The risen Son of God still draws near to you, to give you forgiveness and life and salvation. He tells you exactly where He does this, IN HIS MEANS OF GRACE.
Having declared that great news, I now need to now share some Law against sins which seek to steal this truth from us.
For one thing, we must address the false theology of the Great Northwest: "Since God is everywhere, I don't have to be in church to worship Him. Why, I can be in my fishing boat instead." Substitute "fishing boat" for "mountain top" or "river raft" or whatever else calls out on the weekends. If God is everywhere, why can't we just worship Him everywhere? We might counter with a question from the Gospel lesson: "If God is everywhere, then why did Peter swim to shore? Why didn't he just stay in the boat, maybe keep on fishing?"
Luther answers this way: It is true that God is everywhere, but He is not everywhere for you. In other words, while God is everywhere, He directs us to certain places for certain gifts. For instance, imagine someone saying, "Dinner is served inside the restaurant. But since God is everywhere and gives daily bread, I can just sit out here in my car in the parking lot." That's silly, of course; God gives daily bread, and in this case He's providing it inside the restaurant. Even though God is everywhere and gives daily bread, it doesn't mean He's going to deliver it to you in your car.
Where does God give us forgiveness? In His means of grace! Wherever His Gospel is preached and His Sacraments administered accordingly, Jesus is there to forgive. If His Gospel is not preached, nor His Sacraments administered accordingly, Jesus is still there, but not to forgive sins. He works through His means of grace. If you're trolling for trout on Sunday morning, God is there, yes; but not to forgive sins. Now, someone might ask, "So, what if I take my Bible along and meditate upon it while I'm fishing?" I’ve never seen that when I've been fishing; but if it does happen, I'll give you partial credit. But you see, Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us to gather together in order to encourage one another, especially as the Last Day approaches. To be off by yourself is to rob others of your presence and the encouragement that your presence provides here. That, however, is a trifle thing: Our point is that our Lord is present here in His means of grace to forgive. This is where we draw near to Him and He comes to us.
Enough of that, I know I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re hearing this, it means that you're here and not out there somewhere. You’re here, where the risen Lord is to save.
He still comes to us today. He still draws near to us and welcomes us to Him. He still gives daily bread to all, whether they believe in Him or not. He still offers forgiveness and faith to all, so that all might believe and be saved. He still tells us exactly where He is found with grace, in His Word and in His Sacraments. And by these means of grace, He still has mercy upon us and restores us. Though some may come half-heartedly, He does not; He comes with all grace and joy. Though our prayers might be unenthusiastic, He intercedes for us so that our prayers are answered according to His Father's will.
You see, Christ is risen from the dead. And He died to restore us to Himself, He didn't rise to abandon us. Despite our sinful reluctance to come into His presence for forgiveness, He still comes anyway. So we give thanks to the Lord for His coming, for His patience, and for His most persistent mercy. We are grateful for His persistence, we rejoice to confess our sins and draw near to Him. For here, by His means of grace, the present, risen Lord declares to you, that all your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus sake and in Jesus name, Amen and Amen!
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hears and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN