The Lord Jesus Christ has loved His own, even to the end. He has sacrificed Himself for them, for you and all the world, and has finished His good work of Redemption by His Cross and Passion.
And now, in the New Creation of His Resurrection from the dead, He manifests Himself to His disciples, to His Church on earth, by His own ways and means of the Gospel: By the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, by the washing of the waters with His Word and Spirit in Holy Baptism, and by the Supper of His true Body and true Blood, given and poured out.
Even so, the pattern we have begun to see continues, and you see it in yourself, as well. That is to say, the very ones who ought to know better — the disciples of the Lord Jesus, who have been so well-catechized and fed by His Word, and who have already witnessed His Resurrection — they fail to recognize Him, and they do not know Him, though He appears to them and beckons to them.
It’s not simply a case of mistaken identity, nor a matter of appearance and familiarity. But, no, there’s too much that clouds their hearts and minds and veils their sight, as though they were still trapped and wandering in the wilderness of Lent. So it is that they do not know the Man.
And so it is a call to repentance: from ignorance to acknowledgment, and from unbelief to faith.
In this case, in particular, even after Jesus is identified, there are multiple echoes and reminders of Simon Peter’s denials, which are not unlike your own foibles and failures, your own sins and transgressions, of which you are so ashamed. Hence, there is a restless tension that permeates the air from the little boat out on the water to the place where Jesus stands on the shore.
What will happen? What will Jesus do or say? And where will Simon Peter go from here?
There is a powerful temptation, for pastors and people alike, to suppose that Easter is now “over,” and thus to go back to your own works and occupations, to business as usual. Odd is it may seem, it is typical of the way that all of us poor sinners avoid the truth and its uncomfortable significance.
You throw yourself back into your routines and schedules, and work to catch up on your to-do list, as though the Resurrection had not even happened, or as though it made no real difference, after all, to life, the universe, and everything.
Which is not to say that your earthly occupations are wrong, nor even that rest and relaxation and good-hearted fun are somehow misplaced or sinful. No, indeed. For all of these good gifts of God are to be received in faith and with thanksgiving, sanctified by His Word and prayer.
But, just so, whether you eat or drink, work or play, or whatever you do, whatever your pursuits on earth, you are to live as a citizen of heaven, and therefore as a pilgrim and a stranger here.
In your vocation as a child of God, as a baptized Christian, a disciple of Jesus, and in all of your various stations in life, wherever the Lord has placed you, all your days and deeds are to be guided and governed by His Word to you. Otherwise, you labor in vain and catch nothing.
Apart from the Word of Jesus, you cannot even recognize Him; you do not know Him, far less do you “have” Him. And apart from Christ Jesus and His Word, you are not able to do or accomplish anything. All of your own works and efforts will amount to nothing: a big fat zero.
Thanks be to God, and Christ be praised, therefore, that He manifests Himself to you in peace.
That is what the Lord Jesus does in response to your doubts and fears, your denials and failures.
He comes to make Himself known to you in mercy and compassion, to reveal Himself and give Himself to you by the Gospel. He calls out to you, and He calls you to Himself; He catches you in His net — with His Word, by repentance and faith in His forgiveness of your sins — and He brings you aboard the boat of His Church, the Holy Ark of Christendom. He draws you back into the waters of your Baptism, and He raises you up in His Resurrection to newness of life in Him.
The One who turned the water into wine, who fed the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, who fed the disciples and washed their feet, and opened His wounds to them, and breathed His Spirit upon them — He it is who washes you and cleanses you with the free and full forgiveness of your sins.
He is the One, this crucified and risen Lord Jesus, who invites you to recline at His Table, to be fed from His own hand the Meal of His sacred Body and His holy precious Blood, which He has provided and prepared by His own hard work and effort for the sake of you and your salvation.
He was crucified for your transgressions, and He has been raised for your justification. Behold, He makes all things brand new in the Resurrection of His Body from the dead. He has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, with which He blesses you in both soul and body.
Dear children, you have nothing to eat, do you? Nothing of your own that satisfies your hunger.
But come, eat and drink what Jesus has prepared for you. All things are now made ready in Him.
Lift up your heart and mind to Christ here at His Altar, which is for you the shore between heaven and earth. It is the very Paradise of God. For here you are freely and fully forgiven. Here you are fed and given Life with God in Christ, who knows you and loves you in mercy, now and forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.