THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"  And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."  And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,  and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight."  But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name."  But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."  So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;  and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.  And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."  And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?"  But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying,
"Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth."
 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,  saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"  And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"  And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.
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. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs. 16 He said to him a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Tend my sheep. 17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Do you love me? and he said to him, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, Follow me.
Back where he started, that’s where we find Peter this morning, back fishing and back to being Simon, son of John. Simon … Simon … Simon … three times over the question came. Three times Jesus called him “Simon”. So what’s the big deal? That was his name wasn’t it? It was, until Jesus had said to him, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Petros was the Greek word for “Rock”. When Simon says that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus says that Simon is Peter. Simon is the “Rock”. But the Rock had grumbled into sand. Three times over he had denied Jesus. Three was a big number for Jews. The truth was established on the basis of two or three witnesses. Three times Peter had denied Jesus to three witnesses. Peter had fully and completely cut himself off from Christ.
“Simon, son of John,” yes, that’s all he was - a crumbled rock, shifting sand, hardly stable ground to build anything on. Only a fool would build on such ground because the rains would come and the winds would blow, and the house would fall, and great would be the fall of it. He had boasted, “Lord even if everyone else falls away, I will remain faithful, I will lay down my life for you.”
It was going okay when he had his sword, but when the Lord told him to put it down and pick up his cross, it all went bad. He could handle it when he could fight, when he could strike and parry, when he could beat back his enemies. But when he had to stand and watch his Lord arrested, his Lord questioned, his Lord struck, when the only way for him to stay with Jesus was to follow Him up Calvary’s road, He made a run for it.
Simon, son of John, yes, that’s all he was, all he had proved to be. Love? For all his boasting, no, he had not loved the Lord. Not in the way that Jesus was asking him - not with the full and complete love, that would give up everything for Him. Simon had proven on that night that he didn’t love Jesus like that. And so he answers again and again, you know that I love you Lord only as well as this poor messed up heart can, with affection, yes, but not with a love like yours that would spread out its arms and suffer and die for me.
We don’t hear all of this in English because we only have one word for love. But as Jesus is speaking to Peter the Greek word He uses is the “going to the max” word for love, while Peter answers with the brotherly kind of word for love. Jesus is really putting it to Peter, calling him on his boast, and Peter humbly, and repentantly answers, in the truth of his own brokenness and weakness. My love for you Lord will never be as great for you as yours is for me. You are the spring, at best all that I can be is the stream that flows from it.
In this humble place, the Lord Jesus, who had hung for three hours on the cross and lain dead for three days in His tomb for Simon’s threefold denial, fully and completely restores Peter. Three times over, He tells him, “feed my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep.” You see Peter can only be Peter when he is Peter in Jesus. He can’t be the Rock when he tries to stand on his own, when he trusts in his own strength, his own power, then he crumbles into sand. Peter can only be the rock when his life - his everything, is founded and built upon Jesus. When the Lord is his capstone and cornerstone, then all falls into place, then he can be as solid and as strong as he needs to be.
And he will be, as Jesus tells him on the day when the cross will be set before him once more, when he will be asked to follow his Lord and Master up love’s hillside to spread out his arms and suffer and die with Him. And in that day, he will join His Good Shepherd in laying down his life for the sheep. He will do it in the repentance of this day, that will make him ask to be crucified upside down, because the servant was not worthy to die in the same way as the Master.
There’s obviously a lot for me today in the Lord’s Word. A lot for me to hear, to learn and to receive about how to be the Lord’s servant - how to be a good and faithful pastor. I can only do it as I stand fully and completely in Jesus. If I look to my own gifts and my own strength, I will crumble and fall apart. I can only be steadfast as long as I abide in Christ and He abides in me. The stream quickly runs dry without the life of the spring. Without Christ at the heart of all that I do, the nets will come up empty - no matter how many times I cast them.
But there is also a word for each of you here today about your lives in this world, about your calling as children of God, about your place as living stones in Christ’s Church and about your day to day lives and callings as servants of the Lord Jesus in this world. Whether it’s as a Christian or husband or wife, or child, or brother or sister, or grandparent, or worker, or student, or neighbour or friend, no matter what your place in life, you can only be all that God would have you be in Jesus. The stream will quickly run dry without the life of the spring.
The Lord has good things He wants to do through you in this world - good solid things … things He can build on … things He can do His good work through … living stone kind of things … from simply helping the world go around, making sure people get there daily bread through your everyday labour to getting the Bread of Life to as many people as possible that they too might have the food that endures to eternal life. You won’t do any of that well, or at all, if you look to your own power. It will only go well in Christ, as He does it through you.
That’s what Jesus is here to do today, as He calls out to you from this shore, “Children, do you have what you need? You have tried to stand in your own power and it has failed. Now it’s time to let go and come and stand in mine. Here is my forgiveness for you. Here is my life, my death, my resurrection for you. Here is my grace and mercy for you. Here is my “going to the max of the cross” love for you. Here is my strength for you. Here is my power for you. Come and have breakfast, that I might abide in you and you might abide in me, to the glory of God’s name and for the good of the world.” Amen.