The Hospitality Of Christ
April 6, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. The setting of chapter twenty-one, which we read for today, is by the shore of the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee. Beginning with Peter, the other disciples go back to the places of their every day lives which they used to be in. In the passage that we read for today, what the disciples are doing is basically the same thing that they did over and over again on a daily basis, roughly about three and a half years ago, that is, before they began to follow Jesus. Peter said, "I'm going fishing." The other disciples, too, said, "We'll go with you." Thus, they left to fish. Too bad though, but they didn't catch a thing that night. Some days you fish quite well, other days you fish badly. But that's normal for fishermen. [This time around was] a morning they met with totally exhausted, with the misery and the vanity of when no fish is caught. I'm sure they've "been there and done that" many a time or two before this. I'd say so. It looks as though nothing had changed from three and a half years ago. And yet there is something very different, a turning point for them. It is that Christ has risen back from the dead. And that they are the disciples of this same Christ.
Christ Appeared To The Disciples
2. Let's try to picture the scene which today's passage of scripture is relating to us. The morning dawned early bright and clear. Jesus was standing on the shore. However, the disciples are not aware that it is the Lord. The Lord calls out to them, "Hey boys, you got any food?" This, in essence, is saying, "Hey there, catch any fish?" They reply, "We got nothing. We didn't catch anything at all." Whereupon, the Lord speaks as follows. "Cast the net on the starboard side of the boat. Do it and you should catch something," (verse six). When they cast the net in obedience to the voice to them, what a great number of fish got caught in the net! It is so many they cannot pull up the net any more. At that time, "the disciple whom the Lord loved" shouts out, "It is the Lord!"
3. Why would he shout "It is the Lord!?" [He shouted] because he remembered. "Huh? It's the same as before." That's right. He remembered that day when he had met Jesus during his lifetime, when he had been called and had begun to follow him as a disciple, (Luke 5:1 ff). On that day as well, they had worked through the night and had not caught a thing either. But they were dead tired and Jesus said to them, "Row out further into the sea, cast [your] net, and fish," (Luke 5:4). Simon Peter said, "Master, we have worked hard through the night, but we haven't caught a thing. Still, because of your words, we will drop [our] net," and so they obeyed his word. Whereupon, "An abundance of fish were caught, and the net was about to tear," (Luke 5:6). All of them were surprised at this and became afraid. Then, the Lord spoke to Peter as follows. "Do not be afraid. From here on out, you will become a fisher who catches people."
4. What the disciple recalled when he shouted, "It's the Lord!," is the figure of Jesus at that time. You could say that Jesus is bringing back up the scene from that time, and he is causing them to remember it. Thus, once before in the past Christ had called them as his disciples and he was showing them that after he arose from the dead he was [still] with them now. When Peter heard those words of "It is the Lord!," Peter put on his outer garment and then jumped into the sea. He was probably thinking I can't go meet the Lord half naked. Swimming two hundred pechoi* or cubits (about ninety meters, one hundred yards), he rushed to the Lord, The others got back to the land by boat.
5. After that a very impressive picture unfolds. When they came to shore, a charcoal fire was going. Jesus himself was preparing a meal for them. He had fish on it and he had some bread too. Then the text says, the Lord "took the bread and gave it to the disciples. He did the fish the same way," (verse thirteen). It was a supper from the Lord, prepared by Jesus himself.
6. Well, they must have recalled another scene when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, and when he shared the fish with the disciples the same way. Come to think of it, there was another time that in this same style Jesus took break and after reciting a prayer of thanksgiving, he had shared it with us. With some fish too in the same way, there was a time he had distributed what they had needed that time. It was at the Sea of Galilee, at the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. -- That's right. It was that time when Christ had divided five loaves of bread and two fish and gave it to the crowd to eat. It is written in chapter six of this gospel [of John]. The Jesus who had distributed bread and fish to the people at that time in the past had arisen from the dead and has appeared to the disciples and was now sharing bread and fish the same way like before.
7. When you think about it, they were tired as mud just shortly ago. [Here] they are working all night long, not catching a thing, and then just dog tired worn out and here comes the morning on them. But, we can see here at this point in the text the figure of these men, that they are with Jesus and they are being restored at that very moment. Was it because they had gotten a great catch at the very last moment, at about the time when night turned to dawn? No, that's not why. They must have been happy at the big catch, but isn't it because [Jesus] had made them realize that the Christ of the resurrection was with them that they were even more happy? The shout of the disciple that "It is the Lord!" tells us the whole story of his excitement. After him, then Peter also realized it. From there the joy of the big catch and all gets blown away, Peter ignores the catch, and immediately jumps into the sea, and rushes to be by the Lord's side.
8. Then Christ did more than just get them to realize that he is with them. The Lord prepared a dinner table for them. It was a meal that caused them to recall the previous miracle of the bread. At that time the Lord divided the bread and the fish among the people and spoke as follows. "I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes to me will never hunger, anyone who believes in me will never thirst," (John 6:35). Thus, the miracle the Lord did was not just to satisfy the hunger of the crowd, but was a sign to point to the truth that he himself was the very "bread of life," and that he himself was the one with the power to truly grant persons life. The disciples were now being called to the table which he as that very "bread of life" had prepared. And they are receiving this nourishment through the Lord himself as "the bread of life," and they are receiving this satisfying of life's needs.
Christ Appears To Us
9. Thus, as we're coming to see, we are being made to realize that what has been illustrated here is not just the figure of the disciples at that time, but that the figure of later Christians has also been overlaid on top of it. What has been depicted here is also what we experience even now, at the time we believe in Christ.
10. In chapter twenty the text refers to "the first day of the week" when Christ rose from the dead, and eight days after that. The first day of the week means Sunday. "Eight days after" that, as we would say it "a week later," also means Sunday. What happens at that place when Christians gather on Sundays was written down in chapter twenty. The Christ of the resurrection granted them pardon of sin with the statement of "May you have peace!," and sent them into the world when he said, "As my father has sent me, I too am sending you."
11. When it says we are sent into the world, does it mean we are specifically sent somewhere? We know that the disciples who were sent out by the Lord had made Jerusalem as their home base later. The early church begins from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, in chapter twenty-one which we read today, the disciples are in Galilee. It tells us by design this figure of Peter and all of them going back to Galilee and returning back to their normal lives like they had before, and fishing. Is this not teaching us something important? The place where we are sent out by Christ is not necessarily any kind of special place. We are not being sent out to perform anything special. The sending place is our normal, usual, monotonous every day lives. We go to school just like we did before we became a Christian, or we go to the work place, we occupy and run our homes just like we did before we became a Christian.
12. If we suppose that chapter twenty speaks about Sundays, then we should say that chapter twenty-one speaks about the remaining six days. With the exception of Sundays when the church got together, it seems like the days did not change at all from before, they did the same things like they did before. But, today's passage of scripture declares to us that "It is not the same!" That it is decisively different. The remaining six days are not the same at all if we spend Sunday as the Lord's Day, receive the peace of Christ at that time, and go out into the world sent by Christ.
13. By Christ we are sent out from this place. Daily life which begins from this place is not always limited to a big catch. Indeed, like the disciples when they worked all night long but caught nothing at all, there may be days when something we've done that took the entire day seems totally for nothing. There will also be times when we end a long day tired and worn out, and we experience the misery and the vanity of everything seemingly turning to sand. But, Christ calls out to us, even while we are in such a course in our every day life, saying, "Hey there, catch any fish?" We have someone who cares for us in our every day lives and who pays attention to our situations.
14. Then the Lord says, "Cast the net on the starboard side of the boat. Do it and you should catch something." The Lord is also speaking to us and guiding us in a similar way. It is not just on Sundays when the Lord speaks and guides either. We live listening closely to the Lord and are being guided by him in our every day lives. Then we are made to realize in various settings that "It is the Lord!" This is the work of the Lord, that the Lord is with us and is doing [stuff for us]. Our hearts will be filled with joy and we will seek yearning for the Lord, like that disciple who had shouted that time, "It is the Lord!," and like Peter who had jumped into the lake.
15. And the Lord himself as the bread of life will abundantly provide us hospitality as we seek yearning for him. Even today Jesus has thus assembled us around the Lord's Supper table. Christ the Bread of Life is causing us in this place to have a part in the abundant bread of life. We are receiving through Christ the meeting of life's needs. However, as we taste and see the grace of the Lord's Day in this way, something else becomes clear. It is that this One who provides us with this hospitality of the bread of life on the Lord's Day is also the same One who causes us to have a part in the abundant life even in our every day lives as well. Christ does not just give us the bread of life on only the Lord's Day. [He doesn't just give us it] at the time of the Lord's Supper. On the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), in the every day lives of the fishermen, Christ builds a charcoal fire, cooks up some fish, and waits, doesn't he?
16. During the course of every day life as we live as persons sent out [by the Lord into the world], we have times when we end up tired like those disciples on that morning. When our hard work goes unrewarded, our good intentions are not accepted, our love does not produce fruit, we have times that we end up quite weary in the battle against the sin of this world and even our own sins, and in the battle against Satan. However, in the course of our every day lives, Jesus is, let me put it this way, building a charcoal fire, cooking up some fish, and waiting for us. And he is saying to us, "Hey, come and have dinner!"
In classical times it was an important Greek unit of length, known as the cubit, roughly the distance from the tip of the longest finger to the elbow.