A Good Meal

Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 29:28 mark.

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

Sometimes, what you really need is a good meal. Maybe you’ve been on a road trip and all you’ve eaten is junk food in the car and fast food on the way, and what you really need is something that’s not only going to fill up your belly, but actually nourish you: a good meal.

And maybe that’s what these disciples needed, Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and the other two unnamed disciples—which, in my opinion, are likely to be Philip and Andrew, who were around when Jesus was calling disciples in the first chapter, right before He spoke to Nathaniel. But whoever they are, Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” And they say they’ll go with him.

I don’t know if it’s boredom, or idleness, or that they need some money so they go back to the job they had before. But they go fishing. They fish all night and they don’t catch anything. That was probably not a new experience for them. Of all the times they had been fishing, there were probably a few times when they fished but didn’t catch. And then someone on the shore says, “Children, you don’t have anything to eat, do you?” You don’t have any fish to eat, do you? No, they say. “Put the nets on the right side, and you will find some.” And then their nets are suddenly full of fish. Though they had probably had nights when they didn’t catch anything, this had happened to them before as well. It happened in Luke 5, when Jesus told them to put out the boat and let down their nets for a catch—it’s always catching, not fishing, when it’s with Jesus. And their nets are full so that they’re breaking, and the boats are sinking, and Peter falls down on his knees and says, “Go away from me, Lord, because I am a sinful man.”

Here, as soon as the net is full, John, the beloved disciple, knows who it is on the shore. It is the Lord! he says. When He spoke to them before, they did not know it was the Lord. Now John says, “It is the Lord!” And then Peter hears that it was the Lord, and jumps in the water and swims to the shore. And when they get there, Jesus already has fish and bread on the fire, but He says, bring some of the fish you caught. And then He says, “Come have breakfast.” Sometimes what you need is a good meal. And none of them asks Him, or interrogates Him, or questions Him about who He is. They know that it is the Lord.

This is the third time that Jesus revealed Himself to them after the resurrection. The first time was that first Easter evening, when He showed them His hands and side, and they rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Then, the next week, when Thomas was there, Jesus invited Thomas to see and touch the wounds in His hands and side, and Thomas said, My Lord and my God. And here, Jesus reveals Himself and they see and know that it is the Lord.

But Jesus revealed Himself prior to the resurrection as well. On the third day, at the wedding in Cana, where Nathaniel lived, Jesus changed a lot of water into a lot of wine, wine in abundance. And John says that this was the beginning of His signs, from which all the other signs of the new creation would flow. Jesus revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. Here is the third time that Jesus revealed Himself after His resurrection, and He does it by doing the same things He did before. That’s how the disciples know it’s Him. They’ve seen this before.

First, it’s the miraculous catch of fish. Then it’s bread and fish divided and distributed in abundance, just as Jesus had done earlier, recorded for us in chapter 6. Jesus feeds the multitudes a good meal in abundance, so that they are filled up with as much as they want. And they come looking for Him the next day, and He says, You’re looking for Me not because you saw signs that point to Me, so you would believe in Me, but because you had your stomachs filled up. Do not labor for the bread that perishes, but for the bread that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. And the bread I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. Even the manna that God sent from heaven did not keep Moses and the people alive forever. They died. But whoever eats this bread will live forever. My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink. Sometimes you just need a good meal.

When you’ve been eating the bread of the world, and it all promises to satisfy you—and maybe it does for a little while—but it always perishes. It all passes away. It cannot sustain you and it will disappoint every time. When you’ve been idle, or distant—wherever you are, wherever you have been, Jesus calls to you. Child, you don’t have anything to eat, do you? Sometimes your baptism can seem like it happened to someone else. Maybe your confirmation seems like it happened in a different world. But Jesus keeps doing the same things over and over, so that you never have to wonder where He is.

He keeps saying what He says to Peter after this, after Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. And then He says to Peter, as He did at the beginning, “Follow Me.” Follow Me, He says, not once but every single day of your entire life. At your baptism, He said, “Follow Me.” At your confirmation, He said, “Follow Me.” Every Lord’s Day in between and since, “Follow Me.” He keeps forgiving, keeps feeding, keeps nourishing you with the bread of life that is His flesh and blood. When He seems distant, here He is: take and eat, take and drink. Sometimes you need—no, all the time, you need this good meal. And Jesus says, Follow Me as I lead you through all the days of your life, until you see Him face to face. Follow Me, even unto death, rather than fall away from Me. Follow Me from death into eternal, resurrection life. And there you will have the fulfillment of the greatest meal: well-aged wine well-refined, in eternal abundance; the best food, the bread of life in eternal abundance: the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb to which you have been invited, blessed ones. The greatest meal, when death is swallowed up and every tear is wiped from every face. That good meal, that great celebration, forever.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/29/22

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