Theme: Breakfast on the Beach (10:45am Edition)
Bible Readings: John 21:1-17
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Preached in the pre-recorded 10:45am Traditional Service
Jesus is Risen … He is risen indeed. (Just wanted to see if it still worked)
Today I want to continue to focus on the Easter message and in particular the resurrection because it is actually really important. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 – if Christ did not raise from the dead we are all wasting our time. We should be pitied more than all people. But if it did … then this changes everything.
Last weekend we reheard the Easter story – of Jesus’ betrayal and trail. Of his suffering and crucifixion, death and burial. But on the Sunday morning there started to come in extraordinary reports – bits of news coming in from different places. When we read the bible these reports are put in some sort of an order but on that first Easter there would have been more scattered. The tomb is empty. Reports of angels … and then people started to announce … we have seen Jesus. Not metaphorically but in real life. Jesus is not dead, he is risen.
But Jesus is not staying in a place long. Yes, the risen Jesus was with Mary in the garden but he is not there now. Yes, the risen Jesus was on the road to Emmaus but he disappeared when the bread was broken. Yes, the risen Jesus met the disciples in a locked room but left after eating some fish.
Hopes were being raised but many still struggled with whether this could be true. It was almost like that the first order of business for the risen Jesus was to convince his followers that he was alive. To convince his followers because they were now confused, and even some were skeptical.
And he did this by engaging all five of their senses. I know that there is some research that we have more than five senses – but let’s just stick with the 5 we are taught at school – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Think back over the resurrection stories and hear the phrases that Jesus used. Look, see, touch, hear my voice … through their senses Jesus is trying to convince them that this really happened. Because it is through our senses that we work out what is going on around us.
Although if we are honest, sometimes our senses play tricks on us. We must be seeing things. I can’t believe my ears. Sometimes one of our senses tricks us into thinking something is true when it is not. For example – has anyone had the experience when you are certain that your phone has buzzed in your pocket but you pull it out and there is no message? It is a phenomena called “phantom calls”. So how do you work out if that buzz you is feeling is real? You call upon your other senses. You pull it out and have a look – “nope … it wasn’t a message”. You use other senses to confirm or dismiss what one sense is saying.
Jesus does the same thing after the resurrection. You can’t believe your eyes, then touch here. You are not sure if you recognise my voice in the conversation … let me break bread and the visuals will remind you. Jesus uses all the senses of his followers to confirm that he was indeed risen.
Let’s jump back to our bible reading. Jesus had been risen for about a few days, the disciples had gone back to Galilee because Jesus told them that he would meet them there. They were waiting and Peter who wasn’t good at patiently waiting decided to go fishing … and the others go with him.
And you heard the story – as they came back in they saw a man on the beach who called out “did you catch any fish” and the first miracle of the story occurs … a boat full of fishermen tell the truth “no we didn’t catch anything”. The man says throw the net out other side and … so many fish their nets are breaking.
The disciple John is experiencing all this – the noise of the thrashing fish, the feel of the straining net in his hands, the look of amazement on his friends faces … and these senses trigger another memory. This has happened before. When they first met Jesus in Luke 5 … exactly same thing. He turns to Peter and says “That man on the beach … it is Jesus” … and as soon as Peter hears this he is jumping out the boat and swimming to shore.
He gets to the shore, Peter is wet and cold and there is a fire is built. That would have been nice. Warming himself around a fire. The warmth, the smell of the smoke … unfortunately this is triggering a memory for Peter.
There has been solid research done that says the link between our sense of smell and memories. That a sense of smell – more than any other sense – can trigger significant memories from our past.
Who has this experience? You smell of a particular food, or mown grass, or the scent of your mum’s perfume or your dad’s aftershave and boom, you are transported back to another time and the memory is so real. Have you had that experience?
Write in the comments … a smell that reminds you of an important memory.
Well, Peter was having one of those moments. As he approached the fire on the beach, and smelled the smoke he would have been taken back about a week earlier to another fire in the Easter story. Do you know the fire that I am talking about?
Jesus had just been arrested and taken off to the home of the high priest. Peter follows in the distance and sneaks into the courtyard and warms himself near … the fire. Reading from Luke 22:56
56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
We are not sure how the next bit happened. Jesus would have been in the home and Peter in the courtyard, and there would have been people everywhere but the Bible tells us that when Peter denied Jesus for the third time 2 things happened.
- The roster crowed
- Jesus and Peter looked at each other.
Have you had the experience of being in the middle of a busy place or room with people everywhere and you suddenly connect with someone on the other side of the room. It happens because our eyes meet … and there is something about the looking at each other that connects people. And the bible tells us that Peter and Jesus eyes connected … no words were said … but Peter knew that he had failed Jesus. And he ran out weeping.
And now as Peter approaches this fire on the beach, and smells the smoke … he remembers. He remembers that he has let Jesus down badly, he denied knowing Jesus … and Peter knows that Jesus knows. So while the other disciples enjoyed the cooked fish that Jesus prepared … for Peter, that breakfast would have awkward.
As we heard in our bible reading … after breakfast Jesus takes a walk with Peter.
Jesus starts … “Simon son of John”
Peter flinches. What happened to the name you gave me? Remember … Peter – the Rock. Why have you gone back to such a formal name? Simon son of John? I must really be in trouble.
Jesus asks Peter a question that cuts right to the heart of the matter … three times he asks him. Notice the symmetry here. How many times did Peter deny? 3. How many times did Jesus ask the question 3.
Jesus asks, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
It is a humbling moment for Peter. “Yes I love you”
After the third time, Peter just breaks down. Lord – you know everything. You know what you get with me. You know my struggles, you know my doubts. You know me. And you know that I so wish that things didn’t turn out like this but I stuffed up, I was scared, I let you down. As I said, it was a deeply humbling moment for Peter.
But what was Jesus doing here? Was he rubbing Peter’s nose it in? Surely Jesus purpose was more than to just highlight Peter’s guilt.
I think that Jesus was actually leading Peter to a point of restoration. He was giving Peter opportunity to state his love for Jesus – three times. Do you love me? Yes, I love you.
And in that moment of truth – Jesus doesn’t go off at Peter “Why did you do that?” but rather in that moment of truth, Jesus offer’s Peter grace. Peter experiences the forgiveness that comes at Easter. But Jesus doesn’t just forgive Peter, he restores Peter. “Peter, I want you back in the game”. Three times Jesus responds, “Feed my sheep” – look after my people. Continue my ministry. Don’t wallow in your guilt and failure … allow me to pick you up and encourage you in the task that I need you to do. Follow me.
Are you getting the profound of this moment? This was the moment that Jesus ultimately shaped the rest of Peter’s life. He still had his moments, he still was impulsive and sometimes that would get him into trouble – but this was the defining moment when Jesus got Peter back on track in being one of the key leaders of the early church. This changed him.
But that is what the resurrection does. You see if this is all true. If Jesus did indeed was risen from the dead. Then the risen Jesus can meet with us just like he met with Peter.
And the risen Jesus can give us peace that can help us with our fears and doubts.
The risen Jesus can offer us grace & forgiveness for the regrets that we have and help us to start over again.
The risen Jesus can offer us understanding and hope as we move into this uncertain life.
And the risen Jesus calls us back into the game, and can help us fulfil our purpose in continuing his work of love.
Jesus is still in the resurrection business.
And I am sure that for the rest of his days, every time old Peter got a whiff of wood smoke, he’d remember the day when his saviour refused to give up on him.
[possible smoke – walk past it – get into your clothes. Good]
Maybe today, maybe it will linger longer,
But when you get a whiff of that smoke you might remember
That there is a God who loves you
Who does not give up on you
Who will forgive you
Who see great things ahead for you
Whatever this week, this year has for you may we all know that Jesus our saviour lives – He is risen – and that changes everything.