Sermons

Archives - May 2019

Gone to Heaven; Be Back Soon!

May 30, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation this Ascension Day is our first reading from Acts where Luke records, [Jesus] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

Hallmark’s business slogan is, effectively, “A card for every occasion.” In fact, if you Google that exact phrase, Hallmark’s website is the first hit. The card company has made a name for itself by providing pithy or heartfelt or silly sentiments on cardstock seemingly for every conceivable happenstance. It’s a wonder that they haven’t capitalized on all church holidays. From All Saints to Transfiguration, there’s incredible untapped potential there! Can you imagine them offering a greeting card for Reformation Day? For the record, I searched and couldn’t find any; odds are, all efforts to produce some have been suppressed by the Vatican. Or, how about St. Nicholas Day, also known affectionately to Trinitarian Christians around the world as “Punch-a-Heretic Day”? The humorous greetings practically write themselves! Well, how about Ascension Day? What would you put on an Ascension Day greeting card? What message would you write? “Up, Up and Away” … that’s a little “super-hero-y.” “Wishing you a Cloudy Day”… eh, dubious. “Every Cloud has a Silver Lining”… that almost seems irreverent. I’ve probably spent more time thinking about this than is healthy, but I think I may have hit upon the perfect Ascension Day greeting card. Try this: “Gone to Heaven! Be Back Soon!”

I say this only partially tongue-in-cheek. No, I’m not looking for any of you to write the CEO of Hallmark and demand any of these cards be made - in fact, please don’t; look what they’ve done to St. Patrick’s Day! No, I say this because this message, however pithy, is the core of the Ascension Day pericope.

We are nearing the end of the season of Easter, now 40 days after the news first broke that our Lord Jesus had been raised from the dead to the glory of the Father. During those 40 days, He’s appeared numerous times to many different people. He’s appeared to the apostles themselves at least three or four times. He’s appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He’s appeared to over 500 brothers at a single time. Whenever and wherever He showed up, He proclaimed His victory over sin, death, and the devil, and that the kingdom of God is at hand. Now those 40 days are over, and the time has now come for Him to depart.

Immediately prior to His departure, Jesus is staying with the disciples, and He gives them an order to not leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father, saying that they “will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” It seems like everything the disciples have been waiting for was finally coming to fruition. It’s little wonder, then, that they ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus had risen from the dead, conquering death; it seemed only logical that the restoration of the kingdom of Israel would be the next step. They thought Jesus had more to do to truly fulfill the words of the ancient prophets.

But they were mistaken. Jesus reminds them that “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” He does, however, remind them of the promise of the Holy Spirit, saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” That will be coming, as He mentioned earlier, “not many days from now.” Then, in a truly miraculous fashion, we are told Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Up and out of sight. Gone. To heaven. Aaaaaand … He’s not back yet.

Perhaps the disciples were expecting a mere momentary display of divinity like on the Mount of Transfiguration. Perhaps they were expecting Jesus to suddenly appear in their midst once again as He had done numerous times before these past 40 days. Perhaps they were expecting someone to come and tell them that Jesus was elsewhere like the ladies had done on the morning of His resurrection. Well, if they were expecting someone to show up and tell them that, they were not disappointed. Luke tells us that two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

In John’s Gospel account, on the night Jesus was betrayed, He told His disciples many things, preparing them for what was to come. One of the many things He tells them is, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

We are right there with the disciples, aren’t we? Gazing skyward, in eager anticipation. Awaiting the return of the Son of God to bring to completion His restoration of all creation. Hoping that He will return – soon – to do away with this vale of tears where robbers break in and steal, where moth and rust eat away, where tornadoes and cancer and terrorism take away the ones we love. We are eagerly waiting for Him to return and do away with the ugliness that our sin has wrought upon this world. Indeed, we rightly yearn for the return of Christ Jesus, our Lord. But that is not for us to know. The Father has things well in hand. He’s already provided for our greatest need, in the forgiveness of our sin through Christ Jesus. He’s given us His gifts of Word and Sacrament to strengthen our faith and service in the face of calamity and hatred. He’s given us His promises, and as we look through history at His track record, He has shown Himself to be faithful in all things. He’s kept His promises, and He will keep the promises that remain.

I doubt Hallmark would ever make an Ascension Day card, but if they did, I do think the right message is, “Gone to heaven; be back soon!” We see in this jocular sentiment the truth of Christ Jesus’s current ascended status, seated at the Father’s right hand, and His promise to bring us to where He is. This would be a card of encouragement, to remind you that Jesus is coming again, soon, and that all the world will see and know it! Ugliness reigns in this broken cosmos, but we hold to the same promise the two angels proclaimed to the disciples: This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. Take heart, my friends. On account of Christ, your sins are forgiven, and though He has gone away from us into heaven, He will be back, even very soon.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Acts 1:1-11

Pray!

May 26, 2019
By Rev. David French

You may never have thought about it, but Jesus had a lot to say on the Maundy Thursday before He was arrested in the Garden. John dedicates five chapters to the teachings of Jesus, all from that night. The other Gospel writers also include many of the teachings from that one evening. When Jesus finished teaching, He prayed for His Church and then prepared to meet His betrayer. The words that we heard in today’s Gospel reading are the last words from Jesus’s farewell address to His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus had already warned His disciples about the sufferings, persecution, anxiety, and sorrow that will come to them in the days, months, and years to come. He told them about the suffering that they would endure for the sake of the Gospel. He promised them His comfort and aid. And, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to help them face the challenges that would soon come their way. Then, as He came to the end of His teaching, He encouraged them to pray. After that, He prayed for them and for the Church through all the ages.

As He encouraged His disciples to pray, He spoke of our heavenly Father. He spoke of the love that the Father has for us. He spoke of God the Father’s desire to hear our words and thoughts as we pray to Him. As we hear in today’s Gospel reading, we have the privilege of not only praying to our Father in heaven, but Jesus actually teaches that we are to speak to Him as a dearly loved child.

And remember, “God the Father” is not just a name or title. It is His true nature. Unlike His earthly examples, God is the perfect father … the One who loves, sacrifices, cherishes, and in all ways cares for His redeemed children. He is the One who not only spoke of, but showed His love for us by sending His only begotten Son into the world so that whoever believes in Him would have everlasting life. His love for us is perfect, and He wants to hear from you. He wants us to share our thoughts and feelings with Him.

Some ask, “How can it be that the creator and sustainer of all things, the One who controls every aspect of both the physical and spiritual worlds, actually knows and cares about us?” It’s a fair question. I mean, He created a perfect and holy world, and we broke it with our sin. His holiness brings blessings, and our sinfulness brings curses. So, why would Jesus teach sinners like us to call on this holy and mighty God at all, let alone as our Father?

Jesus included the answer to that question in His teaching on prayer when He said, “Ask of the Father in my name.” You see, when Jesus teaches us to pray in His name, He’s teaching us to remember who He is. He is the Son of God, the One who took on human flesh and blood to redeem all those born of flesh and blood. His is the name of the One who was born of the virgin and lived under and kept the law of God perfectly. His is the name of the One who submitted to an unjust arrest and trial, to shameful torture, and ultimately to death on a cross.

His is the name of the One who alone bore the full cup of God’s wrath so that you might never know its bitter taste. His is the name of the One who unjustly suffered all of these things on the cross and was laid in a tomb and then on the third day rose from the grave for our justification. His is the name of the One who ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you and that He might fill all things. His is the name of the One who promised to return to raise the bodies of all the dead and take you and all believers to live with Him in heaven forever.

You see, praying in Jesus’s name is the foundation of prayer itself. It anchors our prayers in the salvation that Jesus earned for us with His suffering and death. It anchors our prayer in His resurrection and the promise that we also shall rise from the dead to be with Him forever. That means, the power of prayer - is found in Jesus’s name, not in the act of praying or even the prayer itself.

Oh, and praying in Jesus’s name doesn’t mean we have to say, “In Jesus’s name, amen.” It simply means that there is faith in your hearts; the faith that trusts in Jesus Christ alone. My friends, prayer is a gift that the Holy Spirit gives to us at the same time He works faith in us. If we have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, then we also have the faith that always and only prays in Jesus’s name.

That also means that those who reject the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith cannot really pray, not to the one true God anyway. They can say the words. They can go through the motions. But still, if their faith is in a false god, then they are praying to nothing. It is like talking to a wall. A faithless prayer can be amazingly eloquent, a literary masterpiece, but only those who cannot answer that prayer will hear it.

On the other hand, those who trust in Jesus don’t need to be eloquent. We don’t have to worry that we may not get all the words exactly right. Just as loving parents will joyfully listen to gibberish and silly words from their toddler, so also God the Father finds pleasure in listening to His children, to those whose faith is in Jesus. You see, in Christ our sin has been removed, and we have been clothed with His righteousness. Our thoughts, words, and even feelings are precious to God no matter how childish or nonsensical they may be.

And, because God adds blessings to His blessings, we have His promise revealed by the Holy Spirit through St. Paul that: The Spirit (that’s the spirit you received in your baptism) helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. In other words, the Holy Spirit promises to take even our most awkward words and mixed up thoughts and transform them into the perfect prayer as He intercedes for us. From the most mindless to our most heartfelt, our prayers will be “translated,” if you will, by the Holy Spirit as they make their way to the ear of our heavenly Father.

The amazing thing about the gift of prayer is that it is forever; unlike say, hope, which only lasts until we get to heaven. As Paul writes, who hopes for what he has? But this gift of prayer is eternal. Scriptures teach us that at our earthly death, our souls will be with Jesus in paradise. There, we will pray in His very presence. And when the Last Day comes, God will raise our bodies to immortality, and we will be joined body and soul once again. Then we shall gather around the eternal throne of God and pray to our one true Father in perfect joy and peace, for then we will know Him as He is and rejoice in the love that He has for us all, forever.

In His Name, Amen

A New Command?

May 19, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, especially where Jesus tells His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

For whatever reason, my friends, we’re back. During this blessed, hopeful, joyful season of Easter, when we celebrate our Lord Jesus’s resurrection from the dead … we have returned to the upper room, on the night before Jesus was crucified. Don’t ask me why. By this point in our text, Jesus has washed His disciples’ feet, admonishing them to do likewise. His troubled spirit has disclosed to them that one of their number was going to betray Him. And Judas has accepted the bread from his Rabbi’s hand and dipped in the bowl, and now he’s gone, vanished, into the darkest night, where no good thing happens.

Now, Jesus speaks. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once.” Judas’s exit is the spark that sets in motion the events that will lead to Golgotha. Jesus knows what is about to transpire, and more importantly, its purpose, what will come of what He is about to endure. Thus, He says, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’” That is, to the cross. To the just punishment that sin deserves, to both that hell on Calvary’s tree as the Suffering Servant, and to the domain of Satan, to flaunt victory in the face of the enemy. We could not go there, because we could not endure that hell, thus the loving Good Shepherd we heard about last week would not allow His sheep to go there. He was heading to do battle with the old evil foe, and He begins His parting words by telling His beloved disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We hear this as the “New Moses” Jesus, right? The perfect Law-Giver? After all, love is the summation of the law. Sounds reasonable, and certainly, we do affirm that we are called to truly love one another … buuuuuut … is that actually what Jesus is saying here?

We humans are such legalists; we hear the word “commandment” and we think about things that we need to do. It’s something built into our sinful flesh, the idea that life is about doing the right thing. It’s about being good. You see that reflected in this translation; it sounds like Jesus is mandating His disciples to love, commanding them to love, just as He has loved them, and since it’s a “new” commandment, their salvation depends upon it. Our salvation depends upon it. That’s what we hear, and if you’re like me, you get an uneasy feeling from hearing this.

It’s a tall order, to say the least, to love just as Jesus has loved us! As a sinner, I don’t find it within myself to, of myself, love like Jesus loves me. I’m not Jesus; I’m a selfish, self-preserving jerk, to be frank, and I know that all of you can (and should) say the same thing, because that’s what we are. We’re sinners; we are unable to love like Jesus! It gets worse if you extrapolate this meaning to the end of our text; if people will only know us as Jesus’s disciples by our ability to show this unattainable love to one another, then the question of whether or not I truly am a disciple of Jesus creeps into my mind, and upon further examination of the 1,255,997,000 times in my life when I have not loved as Jesus loves me, well, I see that I’m in deep trouble.

That’s what the Law does. It convicts us. That’s all it really can do; it drives us to our knees with the dark and stark realization that its precepts are perfect, and we are wholly unable to keep even one iota of it. Ours is a truly desperate state, and if our salvation is dependent upon our ability to keep the Law – even the law to love one another – then we’re already damned.

But I don’t think that’s what Jesus is getting at. The word entole in Greek doesn’t strictly need to be translated as the legalistic “commandment,” as the translators have given us here. In fact, this is the same word in Matthew 28 more often translated as “commission,” as in, the “Great Commission.” It’s a saying, a writ, the truth of what is. It needn’t be something that we must do; rather, it could be the proclamation of what is being done to us.

So what Jesus is saying? What’s this new word that He’s giving to the disciples and to us? To love one another? Not really; the Old Testament pretty explicitly told Yahwehists to love their neighbor, so that’s not a new thing. What is new here is the new thing that God was doing through Jesus of Nazareth, Who is rightly called the Christ. The new thing is the good news that Jesus had just delivered to His disciples: namely, His death to atone for the sins of the whole world, His victory over Satan and the grave, and His resurrection over defeated death!

Without giving you a lesson in koine Greek, may I humbly submit to you an alternative translation of these verses in John: “In light of this good news I have just given you – that I am glorified in the Father because of My upcoming victory over sin, death, and the devil – a new truth, a new reality, a new commission I give to you in order that you may love one another, just as I have loved you. By this new proclamation that My upcoming crucifixion and resurrection is the fulfillment of all things, the world will know that you are My disciples, and as a result, you will have love amongst one another.”

Whew, a bit long-winded, but do you hear the difference? Jesus gives us this new commission, this new reality that He has died and risen from death for the forgiveness of our sins, and as a result, we are actually going to love one another! Not the love that pagans know – the self-serving love that loves those that love them – but rather the love that God has for you, His former enemies, now declared to be His children! That love, that faith is now imputed into you and flowing out from you to those around you! That’s what Jesus is giving us: our confession! Our creed, all that we believe, teach, and confess as Christians – that’s the new thing He’s giving to us! And the beautiful result of this new good news is an overflowing of love to one another – not in and of ourselves, but because He first loved us and gave His life for us!

Far be it from me to question the choice of the lectionary writers for choosing this as a possible Gospel text for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Far be it from me to question why translators have, over decades and centuries, made the exegetical move to translate these words with a legalistic tone instead of an evangelical one. That’s not of real concern to me. What is of concern to me is that you, the beloved disciples of Jesus Christ, hear this new “command,” not as something you must do, but something that has been done to you! This is the present reality, my friends! Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus is coming back again! This is our confession, and by it, people will know that we are His disciples, and that His love dwells among us!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

What Do You Know?

May 12, 2019
By Rev. David French

Today's Gospel reading comes from what’s known as the Good Shepherd chapter. The lectionary system that we use always selects a reading from this chapter for the Fourth Sunday of Easter. In series A we learn that Jesus is the door to the sheep fold, or He’s the only way into eternal safety. In series B we learn that the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. In today’s reading from series C, we learn that Jesus our Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep follow Him.

But what does it mean to know and be known? There is a big difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone. We know about the president of the United States. As far as I know, no one here actually knows the president. It’s like that with famous people. We may know about them, but we don’t really know them.

On the other hand, generally speaking, we all know our parents. But again, in general, they know us far better. They’ve known us our whole life and none of us has known our parents their whole life. We know each other’s personality traits and things like that, and the longer we’re together the more we learn; but what we know first and best about our parents is their voice. It’s this kind of knowing that Jesus is talking about when He says, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me.”

Jesus went on to tell of the great benefit of listening to His voice saying, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” That is, His sheep receive eternal blessings that only He can give.

And remember how well and how long Jesus has known you. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Did you hear that? Before God created the world, He didn’t just know about you, but He knew and chose you to be His own.

Just think about that, before God said, “Let there be light,” He was thinking about you. He already knew that you would rebel against Him. He already knew that He would give you a set of perfect instructions for living in His blessing, and you would ignore them. He already knew that you would make up your own set of instructions and follow them instead. He already knew about the suffering and pain you would inflict upon yourself and the other sheep with whom you dwell. He already knew that this would eventually result in your eternal death.

And His response was to become your Good Shepherd. His plan was to save you by sacrificing Himself to Himself. As He spoke each day of creation, God knew that He would one day take on human flesh and be born of the Virgin Mary. He knew that He would live a life of poverty and humility fulfilling His law for us. He knew that He would keep the law perfectly and then offer Himself to suffer the punishment of law breakers. He knew that He would die, and in a way that far exceeds our understanding pay for the sin of the world. Our triune God not only knew this, but from eternity was His plan was to redeem you. He knew that this is what it would take for Him to truly be your Good Shepherd.

Many people have asked since that time, “If God knew all this before He even began creation, why did He do it?” Paul gave this answer to the Romans and to us: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” My friends, before creation God not only knew you, He loved you. He knew that you would rebel, and still, He loved you. He knew that you would be helpless and hopeless, and He loved you. Before creation, He already knew you better than you now know yourself, and still He offered Himself to death as payment for your sin so that He could be your Good Shepherd.

And God wants you to know Him as your Good Shepherd. Not like He knows us, as Paul writes: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” That is the reason that He spoke through the prophets and apostles. He wants you to know who He is and how it is that you become one of His sheep and He remains your Good Shepherd. He wants you to know of His love for you. He wants you to know the security of His salvation. He wants you to know that there is no burden that He will not carry for you.

In fact, He wants you to know that He will not just carry your burdens, but He will carry you. He wants you to know Him forever. And so, He gives you Himself through the Scriptures so that you may, by grace through faith, know Him not as your judge, but as your Savior.

Sadly, today’s reading also tells us that there were some who didn’t want to know their Good Shepherd. Remember, the Good Shepherd chapter is the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. For the last nine chapters, John has been telling how Jesus showed that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now, here in the tenth chapter, the Jews gathered around him and say to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” But the problem isn’t that Jesus has been hiding His identity. The problem is their stubborn refusal to believe … their stubborn refusal to listen, and so, get to know Jesus.

Now, some might ask if in spite of all the evidence Jesus showed: the healing of the blind, the deaf, lepers, the lame, the feedings, the raising the dead; if those who actually saw all these things did not believe, what can we possible do to convince people today? To begin, our task is not to convince people that Jesus is the Christ. That is the work of God the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to share the gospel in word and deed. That is, the teaching or words of Jesus – who He is and what He did. Our deeds of kindness and such, that are actually fruits of the Spirit, are to be shared with others, and we trust God to do the rest. But, understand that there will always be those who refuse to listen … who refuse to know Jesus as their Good Shepherd.

But, for those who hear His voice, for those who listen to His words, God the Father glorified our Good Shepherd by raising Him from the dead. That’s how we know that Jesus truly is our Good Shepherd. That’s how we know that Jesus is not just our Good Shepherd while we live here in this fallen world, but He’s our Good Shepherd for all eternity.

The Scriptures are clear. As you breath your last you, will hear Jesus call you by name; and like a shepherd, He will gather you in His arms and carry you to your heavenly home, where with Him, you and all who trust in Him for the forgiveness of our sins will live life as God intended it to be forever.

In His Name, Amen.

A Breakfast to Remember

May 05, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel text, where John records, When [the disciples] 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. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

John doesn’t say, “a large number of fish.” He doesn’t say, “more fish than that net had ever held.” It wasn’t the nice, even “150 fish,” or even the moderately precise, albeit vague, “over 150 fish.” No, John tells us it was 153 fish. Exactly. John records this number, with no explanation, no indication that there was anything particularly remarkable about this exact and precise number that he gives. Not surprisingly, over the centuries, people have tried to read some significance into this exact number that John records; numerologists, mathematicians have all tried to explain the deeper meaning, but John doesn’t say. He just gives us the number of whoppers hauled in by the disciples, and thus every explanation is, frankly, speculation. It’s just there. 153 – John just knew it.

And how could he not? This was, after all, a very memorable morning! And as we all know, memory is a funny thing. I can remember the details surrounding my grandfather’s death, the horrific events of 9/11, and my first car accident. I also remember the details surrounding how I first asked my wife out, the details when I asked for her hand in marriage, and the details of that gorgeous day when we got married. It’s amazing the way things stick out in our minds, the details surrounding important, life-changing events, both the negative and the positive. And I think that was the case with John – he remembers the exact number of fish, because of the greater context of his memory of that day, that morning, the day that he had a most remarkable breakfast with his resurrected Lord and Savior.

After a night of undoubted frustration, catching no fish in spite of their expertise and wisdom as (former) professional fishers, the disciples are tired. Exhausted. Hungry. And as dawn breaks, suddenly there’s some guy standing on the shore calling out to them, “Children, don’t you have any fish?” They yell back, “No,” and the stranger shouts back, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” They do, and lo and behold, they haul in a massive catch of whoppers, which John later tells us numbered exactly 153. In response to this incredible, instantaneous, prompted catch, John tells Peter, “It is the Lord!” and Peter, known for his sometimes hasty reactions, throws on his outer garment and dives into the water in order to swim to shore and be with his Lord while the others make their way back to shore in the boat.

Once on land, they behold a remarkable sight: breakfast, already prepped for them, with loaves of bread and fish already cooking on the charcoal fire. But this remarkable feast is nothing compared to seeing their Lord for the third time since He was crucified. He’s no ghost or spirit as He sits to eat and drink with them; no, this really is Jesus in the flesh. The same precious body that Mary bore in her womb, the same hands that healed and performed miracles, the same feet that walked the length and breadth of the land proclaiming the Gospel. It’s Jesus – once truly dead, but truly alive again. And He’s made them breakfast.

Because that’s what Jesus does: He provides for our needs. It doesn’t always feel that way, though, does it? Sometimes, life feels more like the fruitless night of fishing that the disciples had. The frustrations, the disappointments – sometimes, the realities of living in a broken, sinful world hit us square in the face. Diseases, broken bodies, fractured minds, lost jobs, dysfunctional families, broken marriages, financial ruin, corrupt government, civil unrest, war, famine, genocide, natural disasters – sometimes, it can feel like God doesn’t care. Like He doesn’t provide for our needs. Life hits us hard, and we’re tempted to believe that God has left us hanging, with no way out and no real hope.

This season of Easter … what we celebrate during this blessed time of year, the hope that we have … begs to differ. See, God does provide for all our needs, circumstances notwithstanding. This is a reality that we confess in our catechism, which you 8th graders certainly should remember:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

Yes, even for the man lying on his death bed, even for the woman who’s unsure how she’ll make ends meet for her and her kids, even for the couple struggling with infertility. God provides. He certainly provides for our daily needs, but more importantly, He has provided for our eternal needs. Good Friday should still be fresh in our minds – it likely was for the disciples that morning – and as the Son of Man was left hanging, suspended between heaven and earth, as His blood turned the ground at the foot of the cross a crimson hue, He provided for our deepest, most primal and basic need: atonement. Redemption. The forgiveness of sins. The just penalty that we incurred was dealt instead to Him, as He gasped for breath, bleeding and broken, before crying out, “It is finished.” He died, and creation mourned. But that was not the end of the story! The Father shows us that this self-sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf was, indeed, acceptable to Him, when the following Sunday morning, that same broken body, cold and still in the veil of death, started living again.

Jesus brought to us the forgiveness of sins by paying sin’s penalty for us; and now, He gives to us the promise and the seal that we will all, likewise, literally and actually rise from the dust of death to the resurrected life forever with Him. He provides this through His proclaimed Word – the very fact that you sit here and hear the Word of God is His providing for your eternal well-being! He provides through His lavish washing away of sin in the waters of Holy Baptism! He provides for your hungering and thirsting for righteousness as He feeds you with His actual body, giving you His actual blood to drink in the blessed feast of which we will soon partake! These ordinary things do extraordinary things! They provide for you exactly what God says they provide: the forgiveness of sins and the promise of life everlasting!

Now certainly, the breakfast that Jesus provided for the weary disciples was not Holy Communion. But there are similarities. Even as He was providing for their temporal needs, He was still providing for them a witness that strengthens faith. With their own eyes, the disciples were looking at the once-dead, now-living Lord. They were eating with Him, laughing with Him, enjoying the fellowship and the cooking that the King of Creation provided. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t dead anymore. He was alive again; scratch that, He IS alive again! This is the present reality, and no circumstances of life can change that, nor the promises the Jesus has given to you, His people! The disappointments, the failures, the frustrations – they all come, and they do break us down, but they cannot change the objective reality that your sins are forgiven, that eternal life is yours, and that Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is risen from the dead! He provides – whether it’s just breakfast, or the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which will never end!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: John 21:1-14
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