Ordinary yet Extraordinary
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 21:1-19
May 05, 2019

Easter Sunday was two weeks ago. For us, it was a culmination of a journey through Lent and Holy Week. After Jesus’s death on Good Friday, it was like a mountain top experience as Jesus lives again. He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the disciples. There was astonishment and great rejoicing. We rejoiced in great celebration.

Now we find seven of the original twelve disciples probably three or so weeks later. The high point of Easter has seemed to wear off. Life is getting back to normal. The disciples seem to have been waiting, waiting for Jesus to appear again; waiting to get on with what comes next. And they seem to wait and wait. Although, they really didn’t wait that long.

Peter loses patience. He seems to be a man that must be doing something, a man of action. He says, “I’m going fishing.” The others who were together with him say that they are going too.

This is significant. It is not just like going fishing for fun, for recreation. It is like going back to a time before Jesus. At the beginning, when Jesus first called them to follow, they left their fishing business and followed Jesus.

Now Jesus has been killed. He has risen. But it also seems that Jesus is no where to be found since that eighth day when Thomas was there. They return to what they knew. They return to what was familiar.

The disciples were going through something here, something that we may also go through. What is it? How do we put this into words? This waiting. There is silence from Jesus, it seems. There is lack of direction. They had gone through it all with Jesus; His ministry, the garden, the betrayal, the denial, the running away, the hiding in fear, the glorious resurrection.

But now the waiting. What do we do now? The waiting is driving them crazy. Ordinary life imposes itself.

They go back to Galilee from Jerusalem. They get into a boat as they used to do. They go out into the Sea. They fish all night. They are doing what they have decided to do. They can’t wait any longer. They catch nothing.

They have been here before, about three years ago for them. There was a great crowd following Jesus at the height of His popularity in Galilee. They were crowding around Him on the beach so that He had to get into a boat and speak to them from the boat, a little way off from shore.

Peter and Andrew, James and John, had been fishing all night. They caught nothing. Jesus told them to cast their nets over the other side of the boat. They caught a great multitude of fish. They caught so many fish in fact that they were filling up two boats and tearing the nets.

Now they are coming back into shore on this early morning three weeks or so after the resurrection. There is a man standing on the shore. They do not know who He is. He speaks to them. He asks them if they have any fish. They say no. He tells them to cast their net over the right side of the boat. He promises that they will find some fish if they do so. They do it, at His instruction. They catch 153 fish.

The disciple that Jesus loved, probably John, then tells Peter that the man standing on the shore is the Lord. Does John remember that day when Jesus called him to follow three years ago? Now He recognizes who is speaking to him. Now it dawns on him. Jesus meets them there in a way He had met them before so they could recognize Him.

They come to shore. Jesus has gotten a fire going. He is grilling fish. He has some bread. He bids them to come and eat.

It is an ordinary scene in the midst of life. There is the shore, the sea, the boat. There is a man standing on the shore, speaking to them. Yet, beneath the otherwise ordinary scene the extraordinary is meeting them.

In one sense, this scene can seem so strange. Couldn’t the resurrected Jesus do something more profound and stupendous than start a little fire and grill some fish? Do people today wish Jesus would do the stupendous in order to believe?

Now maybe we could say that He did do something stupendous, miraculous. At His command, they caught 153 fish, whereas pursuant to their own efforts, they had toiled all night and caught nothing.

Yet, it was just a catch of fish, those floppy things with scales and fins. It is a regular old net, though it does not tear this time. And the man Himself. He looks like an ordinary man. He talks to us in our ordinary speech. He has started a fire on a beach. He is cooking some fish. He is offering some bread. He is sitting down to eat. Ordinary.

Yet, none of the disciples dared to ask Him who He was because, they knew it was the Lord. This man is the Lord. Extraordinary.

There is a deep paradox going on here. In it, we either fall on our knees in faith and thanksgiving and praise and adoration. Or humans turn away in disgust. Ridiculous. Impossible to believe.

Yet, there is the concrete, detailed facticity of it all. There are those who saw and wondered and ate, on a real beach, in our real world, with a real man.

The risen Jesus is there. The Lord is there. He eats with them. It is an ordinary meal of fish and bread. Yet, this is extraordinary because it is the risen Jesus, because it is the Lord. They are eating with the first man to live in the immortality and indestructible life of resurrection. They are eating with the Lord who has taken on human flesh to meet with us in our time and place; to atone for us; to defeat death for us; to give us hope and promise of resurrection in Him.

Now we should ask if there is an additional purpose to this appearing of Jesus, other than just appearing alive again? There is. Peter denied Him three times in weakness and sinfulness. The risen Jesus gives Peter three times the opportunity to affirm his love and faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus then also three times calls Peter to the task of feeding Christ’s people with the Word of God. 

This is Jesus restoring Peter. It is a form of absolution, as Jesus calls forth faith and love from Peter. Not one word of condemnation or “how could you deny Me.” Now that Jesus has died His atoning death and is risen, no longer subject to death, Peter is enabled to say yes Lord, you know that I love you. He is enabled to answer the call to service in faith and love.

It must have also been like this for the other six who were there, for they also had said with Peter at the last supper that they were ready to die with Jesus. Yet, in Jesus’s hour of need, they ran away.

It is also like this for us. Our sins put Jesus on that cross. Now He lives again. Now He stands risen and calls forth from us our faith and love. Not one word of condemnation, or “how could you.” Only absolution and restoration, calling us to His service.

This account of Jesus’s resurrection is important for us in other ways. The ordinary/extraordinary paradox of that day continues for us in so many ways. We speak of Jesus in ordinary speech. But this speech is the word of God. Jesus speaks words of forgiveness that seem like just words, spoken to us by an ordinary, sinful man. Yet, these words at Christ’s command open to us the gate of heaven.

Jesus meets us in ordinary water, yet the water combined with God’s word is not ordinary at all, but a washing of new birth in His kingdom and the promise of justification; works that Jesus performs. Jesus meets us here in our ordinary place and time, in ordinary bread and wine. But this is not ordinary at all. For in it He is present with His body and blood, the body nailed and pierced and laid in a tomb; the body risen in glorious life; the blood shed by the Lord for our forgiveness. There is nothing at all ordinary about this ordinary bread and wine when Jesus’s word is spoken.

Jesus lives for us and in us and through us in the ordinariness of our lives, in the weakness of our sin, in our deaths. As we are in Jesus and He in us by faith, the extraordinary living One is walking with us, hidden, not visible, yet there with us through it all.

He empowers us with His love to meet each other to comfort and strengthen. He lives in the ordinary acts of kindness that we do for each other and our neighbor. His love strengthens you to serve Jesus and love your neighbor in the ordinariness of your vocations. Walking in faith, empowered by His love, your callings in life are not ordinary but extraordinary, sanctified by Him who died and rose again.

Thus, our ordinariness is not ordinary at all but extraordinary, because He is there with us. It doesn’t matter whether it looks extraordinary or what the world thinks.

Do we believe this? Yes, Lord we believe. Strengthen our faith.

And now He says to us, as He said to Peter; “Follow me.” And we say, “Yes, Lord, lead the way.”




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