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 in His Name, by the washing of water with His Word and Holy Spirit, and by the Holy Supper of His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you.
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 should 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 is it a matter of appearance and familiarity. But, no, there is 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. That is why they do not know the Man.
It is, therefore, a call to repentance: from ignorance to acknowledgment, and from unbelief to faith.
In the present case at hand, even after the Lord 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 ashamed. Consequently, there is a restless tension in the air, extending from that little boat out on the water to the place where Jesus stands on the shore.
What’s going to 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. Oddly enough, that is typical of the way that all of us poor sinners avoid the truth and its uncomfortable significance.
Like Simon Peter jumping out of the boat, swimming to shore, and then hauling all those fish all by himself, you throw yourself back into your routines and schedules, and you work like mad to catch up on your to-do list, trying to prove yourself, and acting as though the Resurrection never happened, or as though it made no practical difference to life, the universe, or anything at all.
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. All of those things belong to the good gifts of God, which you are given to receive and use in faith and love to the glory of His holy Name.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, work or play, or whatever you do, whatever your pursuits in this life may be, live as a citizen of God’s Kingdom and as a stranger and pilgrim here on earth.
In your vocation as a child of God, as a baptized Christian, a disciple of Christ Jesus, and in all of your various stations in life, wherever the Lord has placed you, let all of your days and your deeds 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 of significance or value. All of your own works and efforts will add up to a big fat zero.
Thanks be to God, and Christ be praised, therefore, that He manifests Himself to you in peace. For 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 by His preaching of repentance unto faith in His forgiveness of sins; and so does He bring you aboard the Boat of His Church, the Holy Ark of Christendom. Not only once upon a time, but day by day throughout your life, as often as you fail and fall short, He recalls you to the significance of your Baptism, and He raises you up in His Resurrection to a new 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 is the One who also washes you and cleanses you with His forgiveness of your sins.
So, too, this crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ invites you to recline here at His Table, to be fed from His own hand the Meal of His Body and His Blood, which He has provided and prepared for you by His own hard work and efforts, by the sweat of His brow and His death upon the Cross.
He was crucified for your transgressions, and He has been raised for your justification. And look, 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.
Of yourself, you have nothing to eat, do you? Nothing of your own that will satisfy 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.