"Anywhere, Anytime, to Anyone, for Just About Anything"
Acts 9:1-6, 7-20 and John 21:1-19
10 April 2016 – Easter 3C
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
Acts 9:1-6, 7-20
After these things 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.”
The contrast between Peter and Paul is quite revealing.
Let’s talk about Peter.
Born Simon, son of Jonah,
Peter was a fisherman from Bethsaida,
A fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Peter was one of the first disciples called by Jesus,
Along with his brother Andrew, and James and John.
Peter, you may remember, walked on water for a moment
Until his faith wavered and Jesus caught him.
He challenged Jesus on the mountain top,
Correctly proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah,
The Son of the living God.
Jesus reports this revelation
Was revealed by his Father who is in heaven.
Jesus then proclaims Peter as the Rock
Upon which he will build his church.
At our Lord’s passion,
Peter initially refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet, but relents.
He denies knowing Jesus three times
When the crowd is looking to hang co-conspirators.
Peter is the first to enter the empty tomb,
Even though he does nothing about it.
He witnesses numerous appearances of Jesus thereafter.
In today’s post-resurrection Gospel account,
Jesus makes Peter the exemplar of the forgiven sinner.
Following our Lord’s ascension into heaven,
Peter is instrumental in the Early Church.
He famously delivers the Pentecost message.
He takes a lead in replacing Judas
And Peter leads a missionary journey to Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea.
Peter is described as a pillar of the Church,
Affirms Paul’s revelation as Gospel,
And agrees to the Spirit’s lead to evangelize the Gentiles.
Peter dies in Rome, being crucified on or about 65 AD.
Peter’s Gospel witness came from personal experience,
Confirmed by Jesus.
Despite his wavering faith and his feet of clay,
Jesus sought him out,
Cleaned him up,
And built upon him
The foundation for the Church to move forward
Once he had ascended into heaven.
The story of Paul is equally as riveting.
Paul, then known as Saul, was born in Tarsus,
One of the largest ports and trade centers in the Mediterranean.
His father was a Roman citizen;
Therefore, so was he.
He was of the tribe of Benjamin.
His family lived a pious life
And he earned his living making tents.
He attended school in Jerusalem
And was widely taught classical literature, philosophy, and ethics.
Saul became scholar of the law, and a Pharisee.
Saul takes part in the movement to persecute the church of God,
Even taking an active part in the martyrdom of Stephen.
With Stephen’s bloodied corpse at his feet, scripture says,
“Saul approved of their killing him.”
- Acts 8:1
Today, we experienced the account of Saul
Who, while rounding up any who belonged to the Way,
- “The Way” is what the Early Christians called themselves -
Saul was struck down and blinded by a light from heaven
On the road leading from Jerusalem to Damascus.
In one zap!
And three days of blindness,
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is infused into the DNA of Saul’s being.
It was like Saul’s hard drive was reformatted
And the Gospel was downloaded.
Ananias comes to him, as the Lord directed,
And says “Brother Saul,
(Which is quite remarkable he called him “brother”
Considering the fact that Saul had been killing Christians)
The Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
- Acts 9:17
Saul received his sight,
Got up and was baptized,
Right then and there.
It isn’t until Saul begins to preach,
In Cyprus, that he undergoes his name change to Paul.
He goes throughout Asia Minor,
Sharing the Gospel that was Divinely given to him,
Preaching, teaching, and healing,
All the while converting Gentiles to disciples of Jesus
And organizing new communities of believers.
Paul meets with Peter at the Council of Jerusalem.
(Eloquently documented in Acts 15)
Peter confirms Paul’s Gospel as authentic
And they agree for Paul to continue his evangelistic efforts;
Which was to travel throughout the Mediterranean basin,
Converting Gentiles into disciples of Jesus.
Paul completes two additional missions
For a total of three,
Writing letters to his churches in between stops.
His letters, known as Epistles, complete the New Testament.
They are words of encouragement, hope, faith, direction, and correction.
Each letter is Paul’s effort to strengthen the community of faith
And to keep them close to Jesus Christ.
Paul was arrested and imprisoned.
He was sent to Rome to die a martyr’s death like Peter.
Paul’s Gospel witness came from a blinding flash of light.
He was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In spite of his past homicidal history
The Lord sought him out,
Converted him in an instant,
And built upon his efforts and his writings,
The foundation for the Early Church to move forward and grow
Especially in the Gentile world of Greece and Rome.
In two very different ways,
The efforts of Peter and Paul
Brought the Spirit’s spark
That fired and fueled the Early Church.
From the scriptural narrative of Peter and Paul,
I’ve observed that
Jesus comes Anywhere,
asking for just about Anything!
First, Jesus comes anywhere.
Jesus comes to us and finds us wherever we may be.
“Jesus is on the loose and … he is looking for you”
(William H. Willimon, Pulpit Resources, April 25, 2004).
He is just as likely to find you setting at your desk,
Riding with you during your commute,
Joining you in a meeting,
Sitting next to you in class,
Meeting with you with a customer,
Or while ordering breakfast at your favorite greasy spoon.
Jesus has a divine warrant out on you,
And there is nothing that will prevent Him
From seeking you,
And changing your life,
That His kingdom might be strengthened and expanded.
Jesus comes anytime.
Jesus doesn’t just seek us out Sunday morning,
In this building,
Setting here in this sanctuary.
He comes before dawn,
During the noontime break,
After school or the ride home,
In the evening,
And before we say our prayers and get into bed.
Jesus is likely to come for us,
When we’ve taken a day off and gone fishing.
From the Bible we even know
That Jesus even comes in our dreams when we sleep!
Anytime, day or night,
Jesus can and will come looking for you.
Jesus comes to anyone.
He comes to the unbelieving disciples;
Those good for nothing lot of boneheads
Who return home and go back to fishing.
Jesus comes to persecutors of the faith,
Those with blood on their hands,
And to those overflowing with evil.
If he can come to them,
Then he can come to you, too;
Regardless of your past, your priors, your record, or your reputation.
Jesus can come to the most outrageous offender
And give them a second chance; even a third, or fourth.
Our past failures at fidelity
Do not stop Jesus from continuing to entrust to us
His most important work.
We are not a collection of Saints;
We are a houseful of sinners,
Whom God is entrusting the keys to His kingdom!
Jesus comes asking anything.
Feed my lambs, follow me, go make disciples
– you name it!
With revelation comes commission.
Saul was looking for more Christians to persecute
When Jesus came to him.
The Lord knocked him down with a light from heaven.
Jesus didn’t end it simply with a revelation.
Jesus tells Saul that he has work for him to do.
Saul, now known as Paul,
Was called and commissioned
To be Christ’s great missionary to the Gentiles.
If Jesus can do it to Paul,
He can, and will, ask anything of you.
This contrast between Peter and Paul
Lifts up our Good News for today:
Jesus comes Anywhere,
Asking for just about Anything!
We may go seeking Jesus.
But let there be no doubt:
Jesus finds us.
Jesus claims us.
And Jesus sends us where God would have us go
To do what God would have us do.
The disciples were not looking
For some deeper religious meaning in their lives.
They were looking for fish!
Saul, in Acts 9, was not looking for some inspiration in his life,
He was looking for Christians to persecute!
“The risen Christ is the seeking Christ.
He searches, seeks, and saves those
Who are not wise enough to know
Where or even how to search for him.
Which I suppose is all of us.”
(William H. Willimon, Pulpit Resources, April 25, 2004).
Just as the God of Israel
Is a God who calls ordinary people to do godly work,
So too is Jesus our God and Savior,
Who calls the faithful in the Church today to discipleship
To come and follow him.
In the fifth-tenth chapter of John, Jesus says,
“You did not choose me but I chose you.
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit,
Fruit that will last …”
- John 15:16
Today, my beloved, we have been found by the Lord.
And we have been commissioned to act.
May it be so.