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Doing What Comes Naturally

April 14th 2013 by Joel Schultz

On this third Sunday of Easter we see how a fishing trip by the disciples turns out to be a commission for Jesus Church. Read or listen to find out more...

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Easter 3C – John 21:1-14 – “Doing What Comes Naturally” – April 14, 2013

Some things come very naturally. Regardless of what you think of him, for Tiger Woods, golf comes naturally. For Michelangelo, painting and sculpture came naturally. For others, cooking, reading, music, talking and many other things come naturally. You probably all have something you do that comes partially as a natural, God-given ability. And it generally follows that those things we do naturally, we love and strive to do better all the time. Today’s Gospel text looks at the question of what Christians do naturally.

Last week in the Gospel the Easter story seemed to reach a perfect ending. Jesus appeared to His disciples – first without, then with, Thomas. He gave them the peace of forgiveness of all sins, the faith to believe it, and the power to forgive the sins of others. They have now seen Jesus; they know He is alive; even Thomas believes. And there has been that wonderful word to future generations, to you and me: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).

In fact, in last week’s text John even wrote what seemed to be the perfect ending for his Gospel: “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” (Jn 20:30 31). Perfect con¬clusion, end of story.

But then, curiously enough, there is one more chapter in John’s Gospel, our text today. And this chapter points all post-resurrection followers of Jesus to answer the question: “What are we going to do now?”

Well, Peter did what came naturally – he went fishing, along with six of the other disciples. Peter at heart is a fisherman; that is what he does. At this point, the disciples did not know what Jesus’ next instructions for them would be, so they do what comes naturally. Fishermen fish.

And you know what happens. They went out for a normal nighttime fishing trip and caught nothing. In the morning a stranger calls to them from the shore to try the other side of the boat. And when they did, they caught such a large number of fish that they could not haul the net into the boat.

This happened once before. Remember? In Luke 5, early in His ministry, Jesus enabled Peter and his partners, James and John, to catch a net full of fish. They’d fished all night and caught nothing; Jesus works a miracle, and they catch almost more than they can handle with two boats.

Last time, though, Peter reacted very differently. In Luke 5, when Jesus enabled the disciples to make a great catch, Peter fell at Jesus feet and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). That was the natural reaction of a man who had not yet seen the cross. Without the forgiveness of the cross, we could never be in God’s presence. In fact, we would not want to be; by nature, we are enemies of God.

But how different this time! Our text says, “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved” – that’s John – “said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” (v. 7). Peter jumped into the water and swam the 100 yards to shore. He could not wait to be near Jesus. This is the natural reaction of those who have believed in the cross and resurrection. See, by this time, Easter has happened. Believing in the crucified and risen Christ creates a completely new nature. Now inside is a person who knows he’s forgiven – who knows he is loved by the Lord.

The new person inside knows he is going to be with the Lord for¬ever in heaven – and he cannot wait. And because he knows and believes that, there is this whole new nature that is eager to do something for Christ.

So what is a Christian going to do? He does what comes naturally. Do you recall the point of the story the last time Jesus enabled the disciples to catch all those fish? “From now on,” Jesus said, “you will catch men” (Lk 5:10). From now on you are going to be fishers of men. Do you suppose the disciples thought back to that first encounter with the Lord? I pretty much guarantee that we are sup¬posed to think of it?

This, it seems, is why the Holy Spirit inspired John to add chapter 21 to his Gospel, why he records this particular mira¬cle. It is not just another resurrection appearance of Jesus. It is an intentional reminder of what naturally follows after people have seen the risen Christ, believed in Him, and been empowered by Him to forgive sins. And notice how John is doing it. Not by an imperative, a command – “You go do this!” But rather, by a subtle, yet highly suggestive, story of a fish¬ing trip. John knows we want to go and be fishers of men. It is what we naturally want to do as people of God.

Christian men and women, boys and girls, are people who know about Easter; they believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for them; they know Jesus loves them, and they love other people, and then they do . . . what comes naturally. Christian men and women, boys and girls just have this natural desire to make new Christians. We have tasted the joy of Easter. We have seen that our sins are all forgiven. We have the certainty of eternal life. And now we just naturally want everyone in the world to have the same things.

It is against our new nature as children of God to sit and do nothing. When we do nothing – and we often do nothing – we are lis¬tening to the old sinful nature that remains inside us. But the new man or woman recreated in Christ Jesus cannot wait to share. Fishermen fish. Christians want new Christians to be made by the work of the Holy Spirit… don’t we?

And what is great about this story AND our task as Christians is that Jesus is the one who plans and makes it all happen. Peter says, “I’m going fishing,” but all night they catch nothing. Without Jesus, all our fishing for men is just as fruitless. But then Jesus says, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat,” and things go swimmingly. Jesus is the one who catches fish. In fact, Jesus does everything – including, equipping us for the task. Just as Jesus fed the disciples, Jesus feeds and equips us to do what the believer in us naturally wants to do. As we are fed on His Word and His Holy Supper, our faith is strengthened to trust in Him and reach out in love to others. And with Jesus empowering, fishermen catch fish, new Christians get made.

From the earliest years after the Book of John was written, commentators have wondered why the Holy Spirit inspired John to record the exact number of fish – 153. Greek zoologists of the first century believed that there were 153 kinds of fish in the seas. Could it be John is reminding us that we are to go to every tribe and nation with the saving Gospel, to bring all nations into God’s net? And notice that the net was not torn. Perhaps this is a reminder that none of those God has chosen for salvation will get away – none will be missed.

The disciples did not plan to catch exactly 153 fish. They could not catch one on their own! But planning how many fish we are going to catch is not something we need to worry about. We just go about our business – fishing because we are fishers of men. We do what comes naturally. We share Christ just because we are Christians – people who ourselves are loved, forgiven, and going to heaven.

New Christians just naturally happen as we just naturally seize the opportunities God presents. We bring our children to be Baptized and raise them in the faith. We have friends who come and tell us they are hurting and we speak to them about Christ. We have relatives we can invite to church. In fact, we testify to Christ by the way we just naturally go about life, being bank tellers and store clerks, students and engineers, kids, moms, and dads. We may not consider our-selves evangelists, but we all are – naturally. And as we speak of Christ, the Holy Spirit is at work, making Christians. May the Lord strengthen you in every way to be fishers of men. Amen.

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