"Fishers of Men" Sermon / John 21:1-14 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 5th 2019 / Season Of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 5th 2019: Season of Easter / John 21:1-14 "Fishers of Men"
After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and He revealed Himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 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 as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered Him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out 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, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. They almost couldn’t haul it in, and on the beach as the large fish were being counted something odd happened … 149 … 150 … 151 … 152 … 153 … “hummmnn well isn’t that the darndest thing?” “Should we count them again? Could we have miscounted?” “No we counted correctly and so did Jesus, He knows what He’s doing and I guess we should know what we are doing now too.”
One good fishing story deserves another good fishing story so let’s start back at the beginning. There was another day years ago by the Sea of Galilee when a man named Simon would have likewise said to his fellow fishermen that he worked with “I am going fishing.” And like we heard in today’s Gospel Reading from the Gospel of St. John they would have likewise said to this Simon, “We will go with you.” And like this time, all through the night, they cast their nets but they caught nothing. And after their long toil, all those years ago, they sat on the beach mending their nets counting their catch, which that night was zero, a big goose egg, nothing, nadda, not a fish, not even one. It was then when unexpectedly a man showed up on their beach with a crowd following after him. Seeing their boats this man got into one of the boats and asked Simon if Simon could push off a little bit from the shore so He could sit in Simon’s boat and talk to the crowed that was pressing in against Him.
This was unusual to say the least, but Simon did as the man asked and this man began to teach and preach to the people, there was something about this man, on the one hand he was very ordinary but on the other hand there was something compelling and unordinary about Him, and just as Simon felt like everything was about wrap up and he would bring the man back to shore this man who was unknown to them, who had imposed Himself on the end of their long work day when they were about ready to go home looks at Simon and says, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”
(153 large fish won’t likely cause the boats to sink but that number, that was a peculiar thing the men thought … fishermen even in Galilee would not miss what 153 fish might mean.)
Back to the earlier fishing story: The boats heavy laden with fish are making their way ashore but right there in the boat Simon drops to his knees the fish pressing in against him and filled with fright says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For [Simon] and all who were with him, [even his business partners], were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken. And [then this man] said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (The man on the beach, the one who said, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch,” was more than a man who was good with words, the man was Jesus.) And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”
Years later when Simon Peter and his old business partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, had gone out fishing St. John the writer of our Gospel Reading today would have remembered this earlier fishing trip, and the details of it, especially when they again were about to put for shore having caught nothing, nadda, not a fish, not even one and then again there was a man, no crowd with Him this time, and from their boats they couldn’t make Him out entirely, then this man calls to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” [How John’s ears must have tingled … “that voice, I know that voice.”] They answered Him, “No.” Then the man on the beach said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” [déjà vu] So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved [St. John says to Simon] Peter, “It is the Lord!”
And like we heard in our first reading today where Saul was called to follow Jesus and later along the way Saul’s name was changed by Jesus to Paul, Simon was called to follow Jesus and in those three years after the day when he walked away from his fishing nets and boats to follow Jesus Simon likewise received a new name, Peter which mean “The Rock,” What we hear in our Gospel today was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead. And Simon Peter and Jesus had not yet talked about the events of the crucifixion when during Jesus’ trial Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times, yes Jesus had on two occasions appeared to them and said “Peace be with you” but the question remained “Who am I?” “Am I Simon … should I be going back to the nets and boats, the work I left behind? It was fun while it lasted, amazing and challenging, but now I’m disqualified and lucky to have gotten out of the whole thing with my life!” “Is that who I am, am I Simon or am I Peter, “The Rock,” the one to whom Jesus said, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” “Which is it? Am I a fisher of fish or a fisher of men?”
Jesus takes away all uncertainty for Simon, Jesus makes it clear that this Simon is in fact Peter when Jesus three times asks him “do you love me?” and three times, once for ever time he had dined Jesus he says back to Jesus “Yes!” This is confession and absolution, the forgiveness of sins. But to make it clear that Peter and James and John and the rest of the disciples were in fact to be Fishers of Men and not fishers of fish Jesus produces a miracle, a sign to signify just what He meant – the 153 fish. Yes Jesus is talking to Peter about feeding His sheep, His lambs but then there are the fish all lined up and counted.
In the Ancient world at that time the Greeks and the Romans and the people of the lands along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea firmly believed that there were only 153 kinds of fish in the sea. And so when the crucified, and risen Lord Jesus shows His divine power by providing exactly 153 large fish for their nets, nets which this time bring them ashore without breaking or tearing, the disciples would have caught the meaning. Yes we are to be Fishers of Men and not of one kind of men, not fishers of some kinds of men, but fishers of all men. 153 kinds of fish in the sea, the perfect number of fish as they would see it equals the perfect number of men and women and children in the world: Jesus is sending them out to everyone everywhere. There will be no limit to who they can fish for and the nets of the church will not break or tear, and the boat of the church will not sink under the weight of them. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John could have ended his Gospel with the words we heard last week, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name,” but John didn’t end there, thankfully he told us all of this additional sign. A sign which nicely lines up with the words of Jesus at His ascension into heaven 40 days after Easter when Jesus says to Peter, James and John and the remaining 11 disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In Jesus you have your forgiveness for the times you have failed to cast a net to catch men and women and children for Jesus, for the times you like Peter have denied Him, for the times you have wondered if you were ever really a Christian, for the times you chose to go back to your old ways of life, for all those times and more Jesus has forgiveness for you won at the cross in His death, delivered to you now in the Sacraments and in the life of the church, in His Holy Word, by His Pastors.
But what now? You are forgiven today in Christ Jesus, and today is a new day in Christ Jesus, so go out a fish. Jesus is concerned about your catch, just as His is concerned about you, but remember when Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen set out to fish on their own how well did it work? Jesus is the one who puts the fish in the net. Trust in Him. Listen to His voice, even in the days when you are tired and you have caught nothing, nadda, not a fish, not even one, zero, a big goose egg, in those days listen to the voice of Jesus and cast the net again. Speak of what Jesus has done for you; have those heart to heart conversations with your friends and families, if they don’t understand why you come to church, why you believe, if they don’t hear who Jesus is how will they know Him? Bring them with you to hear His Word, Sing His Praise, Receive His gifts, be not alone in your faith – share it and remember what Jesus says “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Therefore pray to the Lord without ceasing and, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Luke 5:1–7
 Luke 5:8–11
 Luke 5:10
 Matthew 16:18
 IssuesEtc, Easter 3 – Dr. Carl Fickenscher, 5/3/19
 John 3:16
 John 20:30–31
 Matthew 28:18–20
 Luke 15:7
 Luke 5:4