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Oprah Winfrey once said,
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
She was talking, of course, about friendship.
A true friend is more than someone who shares your same interests, or helps you out, or makes you laugh. A true friend is someone who loves YOU more than being loved BY you.
In our sermon reading for today, the apostle John shows us just what kind of friend we have in Jesus.
John 21:1-14 (NASB)
1 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way.
2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.”
6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.
8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.”
11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
During his earthly life, Jesus had learned how to be a carpenter, not a fisherman. But he was familiar with what his fisherman friends did for work. He knew they did their work at night, and that it was hard work: Move the boat, cast the net, drag the net back in, repeat until you have all the fish you need.
Jesus also knew that a fisherman’s work didn’t end when the boat hit shore. The fish that had been caught needed to be processed and preserved if they weren’t going to be sold immediately. And the nets would have to be repaired in preparation for the next outing. A little tear in the net would only get bigger, letting fish get away.
But before this shore work, a hungry fishing team would need to get some food in their bellies. A little breakfast would carry them through the remainder of their work.
Jesus was familiar with these things during his earthly life. And after his crucifixion and resurrection he knew them too. And as our risen Savior stood on the shore on that morning so long ago, he turned his thoughts toward his beloved disciples out there on the lake. He thought of them, and planned to give them a string of gifts.
That’s really what this simple story presents isn’t it? Our Savior presenting a parade of gifts to his followers.
The first gift is easy enough to see. They had been toiling all night, and now had nothing to show for it. And so the God-Man flexed his almighty power, just a little, and filled their nets with fish. He gave them the biggest catch he could fit in their nets.
And when they arrived on shore, he gave them his next gift: breakfast. Roasted fish and bread were waiting for this band of hungry fishermen.
And there would be no rock, paper, scissors to see who would have to serve the group. Jesus himself took the bread and the fish and distributed them to each man.
And after their breakfast, these experienced fishermen noted that they didn’t have to mend the nets. For even after such a huge catch, not even a single strand of webbing was broken. They recognized that this was no coincidence. It was another gift from Jesus.
These gifts were fine enough, but we dare not forget the simplest gift that Jesus gave them here. For his simplest gift was the most important one. Jesus gave them his presence.
This was the third time that the risen Christ had appeared to his disciples. And the main reason Jesus came here wasn’t to help them with their fishing. The main reason Jesus came here was to show them once more that he was alive. That their Master and Savior was truly risen from the dead. And therefore, everything he had taught them about himself was true. He had suffered and died for their sins. They were now forgiven sinners, restored to God, and destined for eternal glory in heaven.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was not like a Bigfoot sighting. The people who knew Jesus, and had followed him, didn’t just glimpse him from a distance. He ate with them. He talked with them. He fed them breakfast. He patiently graced them with his presence over the span of forty days so that they would be certain that it was truly him. The impossible had happened: their sins had been paid for, and the risen Jesus was proof of it.
This is the friend they had in Jesus. And this is the friend we have in Jesus also. Jesus used his ALMIGHTY POWER to provide a catch of fish for those disciples. And he still uses his power to provide for us today.
Jesus was THOUGHTFUL toward those disciples. And he is mindful of us today also. He knows what we need, and he provides it. This it true whether we’re talking about food and drink, house and home, or whether we’re talking about the Gospel of forgiveness, and the spiritual truths he teaches us in the Bible.
Jesus LOVINGLY SERVED those disciples breakfast, like a mother putting a second helping of spaghetti on her children’s plate. And he does the same for us. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts through the message of sin and grace. When we come to the Lord’s Supper he feeds us with his own body and blood, banishing all our fears of judgment and replacing them with peace.
When serving those disciples Jesus paid ATTENTION TO THE SMALLEST OF DETAILS, keeping every strand of their nets whole. And with us he maintains that same eye for detail. He answers our prayers, saying “yes” to all that he knows will benefit our souls, and saying “no” to all that will not—according to his perfect knowledge. No prayer of his people is forgotten. No prayer of his people is lost or neglected.
And just as Jesus was PATIENT with those disciples, appearing over and over to them to cement the reality of his resurrection, he is also patient with us. Over and over he whispers the truth of our salvation to us through his Word. Through our Christian friends, through our teachers, through our pastors, through our hymns, through times of meditation on his Word.
When we stray from his will, he patiently calls us back in repentance. When we stray from his Word, he patiently calls us back the source of all things Spiritual and lasting.
This is the friend we have in Jesus.
Jesus is not a high maintenance friend that is always asking for more. He is not a pretend friend that is only there when things are going good. Jesus is the type of friend who gives and gives and gives, because he truly loves us.
Simply put, Jesus took the bus, so we could ride in the limo. It’s kind of a sad analogy, because it falls so short of the reality. The reality is: he took the cross, so we could sit with him on his throne. He suffered the hell, so we could savor the heaven.
This it he friend we have in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend who came to the shores of Tiberias to remind you and me that he came to GIVE, not to take.
When your life is hard, think of THIS JESUS. The true Jesus. The Biblical Jesus. He came to give you forgiveness, life, and a future.
When your sins weigh heavy on your conscience, think of THIS JESUS. He says your dark past has been erased. All has been forgiven.
This is the friend we have in Jesus.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we face disappointment in life, come to us in Word and Sacrament. Remind us of the simple way you loved and served your disciples on the beach of Tiberias. Remind us of the astounding way you loved and served us all on the cross. And give us strength to face anything this life can throw at us. He us to remember that you still stand at our side, the greatest, most powerful, and most loving, of all our friends. Amen.