When two things that should be connected aren't, that's a disconnect. Physical ones occur in the area of plumbing and wiring. There are other kinds. The teen who thinks his parent's midnight curfew means 2; the husband who is sure his wife likes hockey as much as he does. A disconnect can by styled a misunderstanding, but it's more like information not getting through it all. Our text deals with this kind of disconnect.
The verses right before our text read, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." The 7 disciples in the boat got this much. They have this faith, and so do we. We get that the Man Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah first promised to Adam and Eve who would crush the head of the Devil. Jesus is the Seed promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus is the real Passover Lamb that Moses' Passover lamb pointed to. Jesus is the heir to David's royal throne. He is the Suffering Servant that Isaiah said would bear sins and redeem sinners.
The 7 fisherman, and we too, get that the Man Jesus is the Christ promised in the Old Testament, and we with them get that the Christ is God the Son. The Lord who walked with Adam in Eden, lunched with Abraham, met with Moses on Sinai, and dwelled in Solomon's temple is the Son of Mary, is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus' claim to be the Messiah didn't get Him crucified; His claiming to be God did. Already in John 5 we're told "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." Before Pilate on Good Friday the Jewish leaders said, "We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God."
We believe with the 7 fishermen that the Man Jesus is the Christ and is the Son of God, and in this faith we have life in His name. God the Son won life for us by coming down from heaven to fulfill the 10 Commandments and pay the price of everyone breaking them. The Son finished keeping the law and paying for sins on Good Friday. The Father declared He accepted Jesus' perfect life and innocent death in place of all people by raising Jesus from the dead. The 7 in the text believed this; we believe this, so where's the disconnect? It's between having everlasting life through believing Jesus is Christ and God and the rest of your life.
The 7 face real world issues. They have mouths to feed. We know 4 of the 7 are former commercial fishermen. They don't take their fishing boat out for pleasure but to put food on the table. Yes Christ is risen. Yes God has forgiven them, but that doesn't but food on the table. Don't you have this same disconnect? What does believing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God have to do with everyday life? Go on the internet; look in your Saturday newspaper, read the flyers sent to you by big churches. Their sermon series; their relevant, practical sermons aren't about Jesus being the Messiah and Son of God, are they? Why not? Because of the disconnect.
Look around you in the boat; do you see the type of people you're living life with. You've got Peter who denied Jesus. You've got Thomas who was able to steadfastly resist the preaching of 10 apostles for an entire week not believing Jesus had risen. You've got the two sons of Zebedee who Jesus called sons of thunder for wanting to call fire down upon a Samaritan village because it wouldn't welcome Jesus. Not only are we in the boat with deniers, doubters, and sons of thunders, we are these things. Jesus forgiving our denials, doubts, and tempers doesn't mean they disappear.
Yes all my sins and those of others were on Jesus on Good Friday. Yes, He paid for them. Yes, He rose without them. When death closes in, that's all that matters. What about when life does? Connect this great and precious forgiveness that I have in Word and Sacraments to the rest of my life; better yet connect Jesus Man and God, Messiah and Lord to it. The churches that can't or won't do that instead connect people to practical, relevant things - like financial planning, health screening, marriage building - things you could find at any community college, but because it comes from a church people think they're really getting religion. They're not.
No one by themselves can make the connection between new life in Jesus and day to day life; Jesus must make it for us. This appearance of the risen Jesus is the longest after-Easter account. Yet Jesus only says 16 words, 2 sentences, and they have nothing to do with Him being Messiah, God or their being forgiven. They have to do with ordinary life and how Him being Christ and God and their being forgiven connects to that.
Jesus asks a question that He already knows the answer to. "You don't have anything to eat, do you?" The word fish isn't there in Greek. It's literally, "anything to go with bread." Translators think in this context Jesus means fish. No, I think in this context where 7 fishermen are fishing for their lives with the knowledge that their sins are forgiven by a risen Messiah and God but are unable to connect the realities of life with the wonders of their faith, it's best translated, "You don't have anything to eat do you?"
Boom! There it is. At least 4 of the 7 were commercial fishermen. Where they are fishing was legendary at that time for it's fish. Just two casts of the net would fill the boat. Yet they fished all night and got nothing. Jesus knows this; yet He makes them confess it. They did their best and it wasn't good enough. "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." So says Psalm 127. Apart from Jesus, Christ and God, building and guarding your life, you've got nothing. Life skills won't help, training won't help, "how to" sermons and teaching won't help either.
Our disconnect is between the First and Second Articles of the Apostles' Creed. In the First Article we confess that God not only has created us but takes care of us giving us food, drink, house, home, spouse, children, land, animals and all that we have. But that's not all the First Article says. It closes by taking you to the Second Article: "All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in Me." You are guaranteed God's fatherly, divine goodness and mercy only because Jesus is your Messiah and Lord.
See how this works out in the text. Jesus confronts them with their need and their helplessness to meet it on their own. Then Jesus meets their need in the face of doubts. Jesus tells them cast their net on the right side of the boat. What? A change of a few feet will catch fish that have eluded them all night? Wouldn't you have doubts about that happening? Don't you have doubts that God will provide for you in "this economy?" Don't you doubt sometimes how God will take care of your kids, the future, life over all? But Jesus, Messiah and God, your Savior is bigger and better than any of your doubts. I quote from 2 Corinthians 1, "No matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ."
Not even your sins or the sins of others get in the way of Jesus. What does Peter find waiting for him on the beach? A charcoal fire. Only two places in the New Testament do we find this word. On the night Peter denied Jesus and here are the only times a charcoal fire are mentioned. How distinctive the smell of charcoal is! Smells bring back memories faster, sharper, deeper than any other sense. Boom! Peter, and perhaps John too, are hit with this potent reminder of Peter's big sin. Jesus, Christ and Lord, knows you're a sinner who struggles against his sins, yet that doesn't stop Him from providing for you or your family.
Catch all the life miracles the God of forgiveness and salvation works here. The catch of fish, the net not ripping like it did Luke 5, charcoal and fire where there is no HEB or Bic's to flick. These are the obvious ones. Don't miss the fact that Jesus feeds all 7 of them on a fish and a loaf of bread. The insert doesn't want you to get that, but the Greek is clear that Jesus has one fish and one loaf. And don't think Jesus asks them to bring more fish so he can use them. What Jesus does is tell them go take care of their catch before eating. And that's what they did, they sorted the small from the great and counted what they kept so they could divide it later among themselves.
Remember when Jesus fed 5,000 and then 4,000? In both cases Jesus took from the little the apostles could come up with, and fed the multitudes. Here Jesus takes nothing from them. Also note Jesus doesn't lift his eyes to heaven, bless the food, or give thanks. The Man Jesus is now fully using His divine power and privileges as a Man. He is showing them all the fullness of the Godhead in His Flesh and Blood.
In the Man Jesus who is the Messiah of the Old Testament and the Lord of the New, in the Man who is also God who forgives your many sins, you know all of God. You know the God who has the whole world in His hands in who Jesus is and in what He does. In Jesus, you know personally the God who beats your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. In Jesus, you personally know the God who numbers all your hairs, knows all your needs, and rules day to day life down to the sparrows in your backyard.
We know the disciples eventually made this connection in the text because we're told, "They knew Jesus was the Lord." Connect the Jesus who forgives all your sins to the God who rules all things and you will be relieved of a burden no amount of training, educating, or trying can relieve: that of building and guarding your own life. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Third Sunday of Easter (20100418); John 21: 1-14