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A sermon preached on John 21:1-14 at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on May 5th, 2019 by Pastor MJonathan Werre.

These two bookends are the same.  This bookend marks a specific point in your life, the time when you were in Confirmation Class or a BIC class.  And this bookend marks a future point in your life. And what do bookends do? They hold between them all kinds of things you have learned.  So that you can apply the truths of God’s Word you learned back here to the situation you are in here.

That’s what Christ was up to in this third appearance after his resurrection.  Because this was not the first time that Jesus had given the disciples a miraculous catch of fish. It was the 2nd time. The first time was three years earlier.  The first time was the day Jesus called them to become pastors and apostles of his New Testament church.  It is in Luke chapter 5. Read Luke chapter 5 and you quickly realize that what happened three years ago is almost exactly like what happened this time after Jesus rose.  Three years ago the disciples had fished all night and had caught nothing, just like this time. Three years ago Jesus told them to let down their nets at a specific place, just like this time.  Three years ago they get a huge catch of fish, just like this time.

Why?  Because Jesus meant for these two events to be bookends.  And bookends hold between them all kinds of things you have learned.  So that you can better apply the truths of God’s Word you learned back here to the situation you are in here.

Three years ago the disciples learned from this miraculous catch of fish that Jesus is powerful; that they are totally dependent on him, because no one catches fish without his involvement; they learned that Jesus cares about helping them pay the bills, this big catch of fish meant a big payday; and most importantly they learned that Jesus wants to keep them close to him.  Because the first time Jesus did a miraculous catch of fish, Peter fell on his knees and cried, “Go away from me, Lord; for I am sinful man!”  (v.8)  Peter understood that he had done things that gave Jesus good reason to keep his distance, offensive things, sinful things, as have you and I—in fact, our very nature is offensive to Jesus.  But Jesus did not do that; he did not go away from them. He did the opposite. He kept them close, took them into his Seminary and started training them to become pastors and apostles. He said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” (v.11)

Roll the timetable forward three years.  To this event, after Jesus has died and rose again.  The disciples have had three years of Bible studies with Jesus and going to worship with him in the synagogues.  At this point they know better than before how powerful Jesus is. At this point they know better than before that they are totally dependent on him.  At his point they know better than before that Jesus cares about paying the bills—their physical needs have been well taken care of these past three years as they studied with Jesus.  But most of all, at this point, they know so much better than before what it takes for Jesus, the perfect Son of God, to be able to stay close to sinners like them, sinners like us. It took a terrible death on the cross, three days in a grave, and then a glorious resurrection from the dead.  This catch of fish after Jesus’ resurrection taught them the same truths they learned back here—but now they would know them so much deeper, so much better.

Which was very, very important.  Because this time they were not entering Seminary training with Jesus.  This time they were about to get sent out to be fulltime pastors and apostles; and Jesus was going to be ascending into heaven.  He would no longer be visibly present.

Jesus meant for these two similar miracles of the catch of fish to be bookends.  And bookends hold between them all kinds of things you have learned. So that you can better apply the truths of God’s Word you learned back here to the situation you are in here.

And he does the same for you and me.  Think of this bookend when you learned in Confirmation Class/BIC that the blessings of marriage are companionship, sexual happiness, and children.  Roll forward to prom night, when there may be temptation to act like you’re married. What you have learned between then and now will make a difference, won’t it.  If a great deal of what has been learned is from the Word of God, good, by the power of the Holy Spirit, good. But that’s not the only thing a student has been learning from—he/she has  been learning dating and sexuality from movies and songs and friends and relatives and even the school they attend has taught them things about this. If the Word of God has not been the biggest influence in these years, handling this temptation and the self-control will be much tougher.  But isn’t life hard enough—why make it harder?

Think of another bookend you learned in Confirmation Class/BIC—that you don’t have self-esteem but Christ-esteem.  As Peter put it in his first epistle, “For…it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ.” (I Peter 1:18-19)—that is what gives you and your life value and meaning, that you were bought with the blood of Christ.  Roll forward to the day your spouse says, “I want a divorce.” That is a kind of rejection that has a unique kind of pain. Or roll forward to the day you retire from your career, and your workplace goes on fine without out, and people treat you like you are old, like you don’t really count anymore.  If a great deal of what has been learned about what gives you your value and makes your life worth living is from the Word of God, good; by the power of the Holy Spirit, good. But that’s not the only thing that has been teaching you about such things. The world has, your friends have, movies have, your culture has, your own sinful ego has. If the Word of God has not been the biggest influence in these years, handling this temptation and its psychological pain will be much tougher.  But isn’t life hard enough—why make it harder?

Think of another bookend you learned in Confirmation Class/BIC—that the marching orders Jesus gave his Church are, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  That’s the marching orders Jesus gave his Church, and therefore to this church, and therefore to you are part of this church. Roll forward to when you are in college or at work and you have a chance to witness your faith…which is one of the main reasons you are alive, which Christ has not yet taken you to heaven, to be a witness for him.  Roll forward to when we have our Soccer Bible Camp or when we get a missionary for Brandon and we are asked to help with an evangelism event. If a great deal of what has been learned about why you are alive, why do you cumber the ground, has been from the Word of God, good, by the power of the Holy Spirit, good. But that’s not the only thing that has been teaching you about why you are alive and what you should be doing with your life, is it. If the Word of God has not been the biggest influence in these years, handling this temptation will be much tougher.  But isn’t life hard enough—why make it harder?

Bookends.  For the disciples, Jesus meant for these two events of the miraculous catch of fish to be bookends.  And bookends hold between them all kinds of things you have learned. So that you can better apply the truths of God’s Word you learned back here to the situation you are in here.  For the disciples, it had been three years of being taught daily by Jesus Christ himself. What will it be for you? What is it for you? May it be being in worship every Sunday; being part of one of our Bible studies; reading through your catechism several times a year; and, and, and having a daily devotion.  Daily. Taught by Jesus. Because you are being taught every day by our culture, by the movies, by the music, by your sinful nature, by the people at school/at work, by our culture, by the video games you play, by your own body. In light of such daily things, how powerful it is to have a daily devotion of with the Word of God.

Let us finish with one more bookend. This one happened for many of us years before the Confirmation Class or BIC class.  This bookend is called baptism. And at your baptism you were connected to Christ and his death and resurrection, as it says in Romans 6.  And just as the water of the flood saved Noah and his family in the ark, so the water of baptism saves you. God has promised you at your baptism to take you to heaven.  And by faith, you hold on to that promise. Now roll forward to the day, or night, that you lay dying. And very likely Satan will launch his last and most cruel attack on your faith, like a rabid dog, trying to get you to despair or become self-righteous.  In those final hours, as you lay dying, with eternity very close, you will not regret one minute of time you in church or in Bible class or with your daily devotion, learning the Word of the Savior who died and rose again so that a sinner like you, like me, might enjoy an eternity in heaven instead suffer an eternity in hell.

Bookends.  God’s bookends. Amen.