Jesus Lives! What Does That Mean for Us?
Dear Lord Jesus, my living Lord and Savior, please watch over and bless my worship this day. Impress upon my heart Your presence, even though I do not see You. Move me to entrust myself to You completely knowing that You will provide for me, even as You have promised. May I sing Your praises with sincerity, listen to Your Word with intensity, and follow You with joy all the days of my life. Amen.
The LORD promises to search for, find, and then restore His lost sheep. This promise provided comfort to the remnant of Old Testament believers scattered during the Babylonian Captivity. It continues to provide comfort to believers today, for it speaks of the LORD’s love and devotion to His believing children!
Jesus knew that the believers in Ephesus had proven themselves faithful in many areas, but He here warns them that they had lost their first love for the gospel. He urged them to repent, to return to their initial zeal, to listen carefully to His Word, and to rejoice in the promise of life everlasting!
Text: John 21:1-14
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 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 are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.
In Christ Jesus, our risen and living Lord and Savior, dear fellow redeemed:
The heart of the Easter gospel is the simple message—JESUS LIVES! In view of that the apostle Paul exults: “Death is swallowed up in victory!” (1 Corinthians 15:54) When we think of the blessed fruits that flow from Christ’s resurrection, we often and rightfully think of our future resurrection from the dead at the end of time. That is a good and proper thing to do, however, that can also in a subtle way lead us to connect the practical meaning of the Easter gospel with the future rather than the present. Yet the Easter gospel is filled with practical meaning for our everyday lives. JESUS LIVES! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US? It means that Jesus is present with us even when we are unaware of it; and it means that Jesus will provide for us in ways we may not expect!
The events of our text took place sometime during the forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. The disciples had remained in Jerusalem after the resurrection for another week, after which they returned to Galilee as instructed by Jesus. Shortly after returning Peter decided that he was going to go fishing. Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others of the disciples decided to join him.
I would imagine that during their night of fishing all of the disciples pondered the meaning of the fact that Jesus was alive and wondered when they might see Him again. He had, after all, instructed them to go to Galilee and had promised to meet them there. Little did they know that He was already present with them, even though they were unaware of that presence. As true God, as well as true man, He was omni-present, that is, present invisibly everywhere at one time. However, as the morning began to dawn, Jesus was also visibly present with His disciples. They did not recognize Him, even though they became aware of a figure standing near the shoreline of the sea. It may still have been too dark to see clearly, or perhaps a morning fog prevented a positive recognition, but Jesus was there just 300 hundred feet away from where their boat was floating. It was not until after they had filled their nets with fish that John suddenly realized who the man on the shore was. He told Peter, “It is the Lord,” after which Peter, in somewhat typical fashion, jumped overboard to swim to shore in order to be near his Savior. After bringing their boat to shore, all seven of the disciples gladly sat and ate with their Savior. WHAT DID IT MEAN FOR THE DISCIPLES TO KNOW THAT JESUS LIVES? It meant that Jesus was present with them, even when they were unaware of it!
The very same thing is true for us today. True, Jesus has not chosen to be present with us in a visible fashion, yet He has promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), and “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Were Jesus merely a man, those promises would be meaningless, but because He is also true God, those promises are filled with meaning, especially when we recognize that Jesus, as true God, will always keep His promises. There is no question of whether He can, or of whether He will!
Yes, JESUS LIVES! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US? It means that because He is present with us at all times, we need never be afraid! He says, after all, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). Consequently, when we are in the emergency room at the hospital after bringing in a sick member of our family, we do not have to be afraid—Jesus is present! When we are out on the road in poor weather, we need not be afraid—Jesus is present! When we are all alone in a scary place, we need not be afraid—for we are never actually alone…Jesus is present!
I was visiting with a dear friend this past week, whose family has undergone some rather severe trials during the past year and one-half. When I asked how things were going, she commented that things were improving. During the course of our conversation, she said, “You know what…I have learned a valuable lesson this past year. Even when I cannot feel the presence of Jesus, I know that He is there and everything will ultimately work out!” It is just that sort of confidence that God wants us to have when we know that JESUS LIVES!
Yes, JESUS LIVES! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US? It means that Jesus will provide for us in ways we may not expect! We cannot be sure why Peter and the other disciples decided to go fishing. Some have suggested that they did so out of necessity. After all, they no longer had a common purse with which to support themselves, so they needed to earn some money. Their decision, however, afforded Jesus an opportunity to teach them an extremely valuable lesson regarding both their present and future lives.
The disciples’ decision to go fishing revealed that they were prepared to make good use of their time, their talents, and their resources to provide for their needs. Jesus wants us to do the same. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat,” stated the apostle Paul! Yet, in spite of their efforts throughout the night, the disciples had come up empty. All of their work seemed for naught—they had caught absolutely nothing. When the Stranger on the beach, then, that morning called out asking, “Children, have you any food?” there was no doubt a bit of frustration voiced with their answer, “No!” Jesus then told them to “cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” I would imagine there was a bit of eye-rolling as the disciples decided to follow the Stranger’s command, and then more than a few wide-eyed stares as their net began to fill! Without doubt at least some of their minds—certainly that of John who now recognized that the Stranger was Jesus Himself—went back to the miracle that had gotten so many of them involved in Jesus’ ministry in the first place—an earlier and equally as miraculous draft of fish. This time, however, their net did not begin to break, and with the exception of Peter, the others carefully brought the full net to shore—153 large fish! Jesus, in the meantime, already had fish of His own and bread, which He had prepared to provide these weary fishermen with breakfast. The disciples had not expected the large catch or the breakfast, but Jesus provided them with both!WHAT DID IT MEAN FOR THE DISCIPLES TO KNOW THAT JESUS LIVES? It meant that Jesus provided for them in ways they did not expect! This was a critical lesson for them, because Jesus would soon tell them to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). How would they ever do that? They had no resources! Oh, yes they did! They had Jesus! Even so today, as we ponder the meaning of the Easter gospel thatJESUS LIVES, He wants us to know that He will provide for us in ways we will not expect!
This past week, I was privileged to participate in the Coordinating Council meetings for our Church of the Lutheran Confession in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In those meetings we reviewed the work that God has given us to do as well as the resources with which God has entrusted us. The President of our Immanuel Lutheran College spoke glowingly of the new girls’ dormitory supervisor, but admitted that when the previous supervisor had resigned, he was so down-hearted because he wondered where they would ever find someone to replace her—yet the Lord provided! One of our ILC professors spoke of a particular need at the college, which had no funding, but then someone stepped forward to help. The chairman of our Board of Trustees spoke of tight budget conditions, but then mentioned that a special $50,000 gift was sent directly to the CLC Treasurer to aid in the work. The head of the building committee for the new Academic Center at ILC announced that while everyone has been frustrated by unexpected delays, those delays have led to a better building climate and an expected savings of $200,000 on the project.
Is this not how our living Savior works? He expects us to “go fishing”—to use our time, talents, and resources to work faithfully in this world. He blessed that work—sometimes in ways which without question must be described as miraculous! In times of desperate need, He has ways of moving people to step forward to help. Once again—we need never fear, for our Savior will provide. He has promised to do so! “Ask, and it shall be given,” He has promised (Matthew 7:7). He will not fail to keep His promises. As we seek to fulfill our kingdom callings…as we strive to take care of our families…as we fulfill our duties as citizens…as we extend ourselves to help those less fortunate than ourselves, Jesus will continue to provide for us—often in ways we do not expect!
What does the Easter gospel message that Jesus lives mean for us on a daily basis in our lives?It means that Jesus is present with us even when we are unaware of it! It means that Jesus will provide for us in ways we may not expect! Let us rejoice and be glad! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
To God alone be the glory!