May 5, 2019

Jesus, the Giver of Gifts

Passage: John 21:15–17

[15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” [16] He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15–17)

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN

We are told in John’s Gospel that this account was the 3rd time that Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. They weren’t exactly sure what to do after Jesus rose from the dead, but they did know how to fish and so Peter invites the others to join him and go fishing in their home lake. After a night of catching nothing, Jesus appears at daybreak and calls to them from the shore, “Hey young children, do you have any fish?” The answer was obvious for they had caught nothing, so they said as much to the man they didn’t yet recognize. Jesus called out to them again, telling them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and the result was a catch that was significant: the nets were full. John immediately recognizes who Jesus is and says “It is the Lord!”. And so Peter jumps in the water and goes immediately to Jesus, where they all end up having a meal of fish and bread together on the beach. Jesus, has risen from the dead and he is speaking, eating, and appearing to many. Even letting Thomas touch his scarred hands and side, for he is fully human but also fully God. He is the God, or YHWH who spoke and walked with Adam and Even in the Garden, who saves Noah, speaks and eats with Abraham, wrestles with Jacob, calls Moses from the burning bush and stays with His people, leading them out of bondage in Egypt and takes them through the wilderness to the land of Promise. Jesus is the God who provides for His people, He feeds them both physically and spiritually, He created, re-creates or cleanses and sustains for He is the God who gives gifts, He gives Himself and they have seen it. They have been eyewitnesses to His crucifixion and now to His resurrection from the dead. He is the same Jesus they have been on the same lake with innumerable times, fishing, eating, laughing and talking. This is also their Lord whom they have seen, cast out demons, heal the sick, feed the multitude and even raise the dead. They now know its Him, and they know now that He is the One who brings in their big catch of fish, and the One who is at work in their daily lives.
With this in mind, Jesus speaks directly to Peter. Remember, it is Peter who we know is a sinner, who had just recently denied Jesus 3 times in fear of his own life after Jesus’ arrest. Peter who at the same time was saint and sinner, who confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and then immediately following that told Jesus not to go to the cross, receiving a rebuke from Jesus to get behind Him Satan. It is the same Peter, who is hot tempered, impetuous and historically unreliable that Jesus gives the gift of distributing His Word to those Jesus has come to save. To the people from every tribe, tongue and nation for whom Jesus has just shed His blood on Good Friday. So, as to absolve purposefully Peter’s 3 denials of Jesus, Peter’s risen Lord now restores Him 3 times to the office of the holy ministry. The office which our Lord has given to distribute the very salvation which Jesus has just accomplished on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Now the eyes of the flesh, or the Old man, may just see Peter the witty sinner preaching and distributing the gifts of the risen and victorious Jesus, but the eyes of faith, the New and Risen Baptized child of God see the Lord Himself at work.
Jesus likens the call of a pastor to shepherding, a life of caring for, or tending, protecting and feeding his sheep. Those whom He has purchased with His own blood. WE must always remember, however, that it is Jesus Himself who is the Good Shepherd, the One who gives His own life for the sheep and whose Words are the very bread of life. For His word is true food. Jesus is the Good Pastor, but at the same time He has called His apostles and those whom God will call through them and His church as pastors or under-pastors to distribute the forgiveness He won on the cross for His people. Giving gifts is what Jesus does, and what He has always done, even from the beginning. In the Old Testament, He did so through the prophets, but now, having fulfilled all that He came to do as the Promised One from Gen. 3:15, “The Seed who would crush the Serpent’s head and deliver His people from their sin”, He sends His disciples out in His resurrection power, with His word and the Holy Spirit to do His work, to cleanse a bride for Himself. To draw all men unto Himself. So Jesus will build His church, and the gates of hell won’t prevail against it, no matter how it may look to the eyes of the flesh. He delivers His gifts through the means of a pastor who is also at the same time, like Peter, and all the other apostles, simultaneously saint and sinner. The point is not about the one Jesus sends for the work being done, for the pastor isn’t the focus. The pastor isn’t there to deliver himself or his innovative ideas, but the work of a pastor, so far as he is faithful to deliver the Word and Sacraments in accordance with our Lord’s teaching is actually Jesus own work. For although our eyes may just see a pastor may preach, absolve, baptize, and distribute the Lord’s Supper, it really the hand of Jesus who is working through the Spirit. Baptizing is Jesus’s work, not ours, absolving is Jesus work and it is truly Jesus true Body and Blood being fed to His sheep through the means of a pastor or shepherd. Our Lord always gives through means, He always has, but it is always Jesus who is the One doing the giving. This is why in holy absolution, the pastor only forgives sin “in the stead of and by the command of Jesus” In holy baptism, although the hand of the pastor may pour the water and speak the Word of God, it is the Lord who is the One washing, giving His name and opening the ears of the hearers to believe. As Jesus said, I will build my church.
Every one of the actions or verbs in our salvation are the Lord’s alone. There is no cooperative effort between man and God, for without Jesus, we are still dead in our trespasses and sins. Our Lord “does the doing” so to speak, for it is Jesus alone who has conquered sin, death and the devil on holy week, and only Jesus can cleanse the sinner with His blood. He is the Lamb f God who takes away the sin of the world.
Without the Word of Jesus, not only are no fish ever caught, but no daily bread is provided, and ultimately no sins are forgiven. But thanks be to God for the victory of Jesus crucified and risen for the sinner. Through His Word proclaimed, preached, sung and with the water, bead and wine, the risen Jesus makes you His own. He has forgiven all of your sins on the cross, He has repented you, given you faith, and continues to sustain you with His true body and blood. He is truly “with you” as we hear in the liturgy, and promises never to leave for forsake you. He blesses you AND keeps you, making His face to shine on you. This is not on account of your good behavior or piety, but is pure gift to you and for you.. He is risen and risen indeed for you, for He alone is worthy to break the seal of death, having defeated all of your enemies, sin death and the devil. He has accomplished this, for He Himself declared that It is Finished!
John in Rev. 5 speaks of this victory for you over death, from the perspective of heaven, as our Lord’s work of dying and rising is brought to you here on earth even today.

“[1] Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. [2] And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” [3] And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, [4] and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. [5] And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

“[6] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. [7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. [8] And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. [9] And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
[10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

[11] Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, [12] saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

[13] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

(Rev. 5:1-14 ESV)

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN