I can remember being scared of a few things as a child, and some of those were locations such as an aunt’s and uncle’s house and both grandparents’ houses. When I was asked or invited to stay at one of these houses as a kid, I can remember being scared out of my mind at night, especially when I was there alone. My mind would race and imagine every possible reason to fear. I would hear noises outside or scratches from branches on the roof and retreat tighter into the covers. On those, occasions, however I can never remember anything coming inside. Nothing or no one came through the closed doors or through the walls. I always fell asleep and always woke the next morning.
Two such incidents of fear involved a group of men locked behind secure walls and doors and recorded in the book of John. In the 20th chapter, we find that Jesus has been crucified and has risen from the grave very much alive, and he begins to pay visits to his inner circle of most trusted friends. In verse 19, the remaining disciples have locked themselves inside for fear of whomever may be coming to arrest them. Their lives changed in that moment, when, despite locked doors and boarded entrances, Jesus transcended human barriers and restraints and appeared on the inside of the room. The first words he spoke were “peace” because we all know how fearful an encounter like that can be. Jesus spoke spiritual calm into human fear, then he showed them his scars and they knew they were safe in their Father’s arms.
He breathed the power of the Holy Spirit upon them then - and he charged them to ministry. We must always remember the order in which the power comes. First comes the sacrifice; then the acceptance of salvation through that sacrifice; then the encounter; the Holy Spirit; and then the gospel forward. The life the disciples were about to embark upon was doomed to failure without this Holy Spirit-breathed visit from Jesus.
But one guy was absent from the sequestered crew of believers, and his name was Thomas. The others found him and told him the very same words that Mary had spoken earlier, “We have seen the Lord.” A week later Thomas is with the band of disciples, again locked down, and Jesus appears for a second time. Thomas received his wish - he saw the scars, placed his hands in the wounds, and believed not on Jesus the man, the teacher, or the prophet. For the first time he believed in Jesus the risen Savior. You and I have a special place in this story as well, Thomas became a believer because he saw and felt Jesus physically. Jesus spoke of us in verse 29 when he said, “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.”
But there was still another visitation at the water’s edge when, in John chapter 21, Peter resolved to give up ministry and go back to fishing. He attempted to justify his decision by pulling others to go with him. They fished the night away to no avail, and, at day break, a strange man appeared on the beach and gave them instruction to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The crew dragged in 153 large fish, while Peter swam to shore. Jesus changed their location of fishing and then took on the role of servant leader by preparing a meal. There were two types of fish on the grill that day: the ones Jesus brought and prepared and the one the disciples brought and Jesus prepared. It’s not our job to prepare the fish. Our responsibility is to bring them to the Lord. Peter tried to make himself available to his old lifestyle, and his way left him with an empty boat and wasted hours. We can’t pick and choose the location of the net, all we can do is cast when and where the master tells us. Our way will leave us empty, while submitting to his way leaves everyone full and fed.
Jesus asked Peter if he “loved him more than these?” Maybe Jesus was referring to the level of love the others had for him. Maybe he was asking Peter if he loved him more than the thrill of the haul or the fisherman’s lifestyle. Maybe Jesus was asking Peter if he trusted him enough to lay down his profession, income, security, and his life and give it all to him. Sitting beside a fire on a cool morning with drenched and wet clothes, speaking and experiencing the risen Jesus and eating a meal that he has prepared after you have denied and rejected him - that will create a level of devotion many of us may never know. Peter began his life three-and-a-half years earlier by the water’s edge after a night of fishing, he began his ministry by a charcoal fire again by the water’s edge after a night of fishing. When you get the presence, you get the blessing that comes with him. Jesus called us to fish - simple and direct. Let’s make that happen.
Let’s fish together this Sunday at Christpoint Church, on the square, in Sparta. We’ll be open at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.