Sunday, April 18, 2010

When Jesus Shows Up, All Bets Are Off

Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2010
John 21:1-19

When Jesus shows up, all bets are off.

There’s really no way to get people to see this. They really have to see it for themselves. What gets in our way is that we want to approach Christ from our starting point and He comes in and everything changes. We go to the Scriptures and try to get them to make sense according to our framework but they come at us like a Mack truck and blow away our pre-conceived notions. We want to fit God and His goodness into our tidy understanding of what should be and how it should be, when God has no regard for what we think or want or wish. When Jesus shows up, all bets are off.

You may have come here today with a certain idea of what you expect to get out of this worship service or this sermon. You might walk away from here today feeling like your expectations were not met.

You should be praying and hoping that that is the case. Pray you are so blessed that none of your expectations were met, that you got nothing out of this worship that you were hoping for. All of it is tainted. All of it is as filthy rags. You have nothing you desire that is not ultimately turned in on yourself. You bring nothing to the table of worth to the Almighty God. Pray that what you get out of today is what God wants for you.

And that’s why Jesus shows up. All bets are off. When He comes on the scene He comes to bring about your destruction. This is what is exhibited in all three Scripture readings for today. Saul is very pleased with himself that he is following the will of God in terminating these heretic followers of this new Way, the followers of Jesus. He’s got everything figured out until he meets Jesus and he is brought to his knees. Those who stand before the scroll in John’s vision are unable to open the sacred book because none of them are worthy. Peter realizes who it is that brought about this miraculous catch of fish after he and his buddies have spent all night toiling out on the water and he can do nothing but take a plunge into that water.

It seems he’s just trying to get over to Jesus faster than the rest of the crew. But to John, the inspired author of this book of the Bible, Peter is being destroyed. He cannot face Jesus in his sinful state. He must first be destroyed. In the time and culture he lived in the sea was a place of destruction. It was the Great Unknown. Although we are rapidly discovering more and more of the universe, I suppose space is our Great Unknown in a way similar to how they perceived the sea. What was down there? All they knew was that if you ended up there then you ended in destruction. Remember Jonah? He knew the only way to end the storm was for the crew to throw him overboard. He knew he would be destroyed. The reason the crew didn’t want to do it? They knew it also and it scared them even as the storm did. So Peter wasn’t just getting to Jesus in the quickest way possible. He was getting to Him in the only way possible. By first being destroyed. Drowned to his sinful flesh.

When Jesus shows up, all bets are off. Jesus wasn’t there so that they could get their fish, after all. He was there to show them that they were nothing without Him. They were going fishing, but when He shows up, all bets are off. When He comes on the scene they realize that He alone can provide for them. He alone provides for their needs of body and soul. They’re fisherman, for crying out loud. They know fishing and if anyone can catch fish it’s them. But Jesus shows them that even the fish they catch are a gift from Him. Paul told the Corinthians that we preach Christ crucified. He said to them that when he was with them he determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified. That’s nothing. As in, nothing. Zip, zero, nada. Nothing means nothing. Not that and some other things in addition. Nothing. That’s because there is nothing we receive from God apart from Christ and Him crucified. All His blessings are because of Christ and Him crucified.

The Lamb that receives all honor and glory in the reading from the Book of Revelation is the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb who was slain is the one who comes to Saul on the road to Damascus. The Jesus who shows up on the beach after an unsuccessful night of fishing for Peter and Company is the one with nail marks in His hands and feet and a scar from a big gash in His side.

The one who was crucified and is now risen is the one who shows up. And all bets are off.

When He goes through that, there’s really nothing you can say. There’s nothing you can do. Nothing you can offer Him. There’s no plea bargain or settling out of court, or paying off the judge. There’s no hoping it will all work out or just sticking with what you think you would like it to be.

There’s only Christ standing before you. The one who was slain and now lives forever. With Him on the scene all bets are off. He is going to bring you to your knees so that He can raise you up. Put away any notions you have of what should be. Resist temptation. Stop dwelling on your wishes that you could be free of pain or trials or that giving into temptation isn’t that big of a deal because it doesn’t kill you or anything. Stop trying to convince God, or yourself for that matter, that you are faithful unto death.

All bets are off. You need to be destroyed. Daily. Daily drowned so that you may rise up to new life daily. Jesus’ vivid reminder of that to Peter is a lesson for us. It was around a charcoal fire in the courtyard of the high priest where Peter sat to see what would happen to his Lord. A charcoal fire to warm himself. But sitting at that fire something disastrous happened. He denied his Lord. He may have walked away from his livelihood when Jesus had called him, but he hadn’t given up everything. His life was too precious to himself. He held on to his fears and denied his Lord.

That’s why when Jesus showed up on that morning at the beach, all bets were off. Jesus sat down this time around a charcoal fire and invited Peter to join Him. Not to rub salt in his wounds but as a vivid way of showing that the one who was denied was the one who never gave up on Peter. He was now calling Peter again. Calling him anew. He needed to daily be destroyed and to daily rise. Plunging into the waters of Baptism will do that. Jesus shows up there, that’s why we can count on it. Jesus made sure that Peter knew that he was forgiven, calling him three times, just as he had denied Jesus three times. Giving Peter food that He Himself provided, not what Peter had brought out of the lake.

When Jesus shows up, all bets are off. He lays it all out on the table. It’s not about you. It’s about Him. It’s not what you bring to the table, it’s all in what He offers you at His Table. This is His Table [pointing to the altar]. What He brings to the Table is Himself. Sure, you come to His Table, but as He said, No one comes to the Father except the Son of Man draws Him. He lays a meal before you and in His Meal He offers you Himself. For you to eat and drink. For you to be forgiven. For you to be sustained. For you to receive what you truly need. You have been destroyed in Baptism. You may now rise up and partake of the eternal Meal of the Lamb who was slain. There is only what He offers you. As He was lifted up on the cross and stepped out of His tomb, He offers you the body given on the cross, the blood shed on the cross. The risen flesh and blood body that rose and came to the disciples on a cool morning on the beach, to a ravenous man out for blood on a road, to a lone apostle in a vision beyond what we can imagine in which he saw nothing but at which he could simply marvel. All bets are off.

Jesus shows up. Everything who He is, everything He offers, He lays before you at His Table. Rise up and partake, for you are feasting on eternity. Amen.


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