Sermon – January 3, 2021

John 20:1-14 – Jesus and the Church (mp3)

Have you ever been to a movie you think should end, but it seems to have an extra 20 minutes of extra, and seemingly unneeded, material? Many scholars think that is what John 21 is like. The ending of chapter 20 wrapped up both the book and the resurrection appearances nicely. Yet, after that summary and purpose statement, we have yet another resurrection appearance! Why would John include this story? Today, we hope to find the answer to that question, and see something of the necessary relationship between Jesus and the Church. John records this appearance to show that:

1. The Church needs the work of Christ
While fishing at night, the apostles catch nothing. But when Jesus shows up, in the light, and directs their efforts, they bring in a great haul of fish. Certainly, as they have been called to be fishers of men (Luke 5:1-11), Jesus is showing the church that all of their work and labor is for nothing without his presence. Friends, try as we might, we do nothing of eternal value unless Christ empowers our work. Let us rest on his power and ability to bring change to the hearts of men and women!

2. The Church recognizes the work of Christ
It is more than likely that John never recognized the face of Jesus when he exclaimed, “It is the Lord.” Rather, he simply recognized that such a haul of fish is the work of God. This is a theme in John’s gospel – Jesus as the Christ is best known, not by his face or appearance, but by his work. We also should recognize the presence of Jesus by the work he does among us. And respond like Peter – with a desire to be near him in praise.

3. The Church is filled by the work of Christ
The great haul of fish is likewise symbolic of the magnitude of the people brought into the Kingdom of God. It is not a small Kingdom, but is filled with people from every tribe, tongue, nation, language (Rev 7:9-10). Here, John makes it clear that the number of people coming in isn’t some unknown quantity, but a very concrete idea. Jesus knows those who are his, he has them counted and recorded in his book, and will bring them all home! The nets will not break!

4. The Church does the work of Christ
Even though Jesus places the fish there, and directs the men to cast their nets in the right spot, he makes a point of telling them that it is, actually, the fish “you have just caught.” Jesus’ power and sovereignty doesn’t negate our work, but it makes it effective. Let us never forget that! We are not to be slacked in our work because Jesus is powerful, but willing to work all the harder for we know that he effort isn’t going to be wasted.

5. The Church is fed by the work of Christ
Jesus, having asked if they had fish, wasn’t asking for himself but readying them for breakfast that he would provide. After their labor, the Lord watches out for them and nourishes them. Reminiscent of both John 6 and John 4, we are to see that the Lord will likewise provide for us. He gives both physical and spiritual nourishment to us!