Acts 9:1-20; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
The risen Christ startles Saul. Angels, every creature in heaven and on earth serenade the slaughtered Lamb seated on the throne. The resurrected Jesus directs his disciples, eats with them on the beach and gives Peter the opportunity to profess his love, three times. Our risen Lord makes many impactful appearances this third Sunday of Easter. The power of this new creation made evident in Jesus’ resurrection blinds, silences and converts the most virulent of Christian-haters, unites every possible being in praise, and transforms deniers into witnesses willing to die in service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Timidity must be stricken from the believers’ hearts this Sunday. Weeks into Eastertide we who profess to follow Jesus should be bold in proclaiming the unprecedented power of our God.
Violent, murderous enemies will be made great apostles of the faith, imprisoned for their evangelism, tireless in their ministry to outsiders, fringe-dwellers and skeptics. Disparate nations, people, places and creatures will join together unable to squelch their joyous songs of blessing, honor and glory to the Lamb. Dumbfounded disciples, formerly fearful, less-than-loyal friends will be welcomed to sit and eat with the one they abandoned. The very one who denied Jesus three times will be called by name, asked unabashedly about his love, be not just forgiven, but entrusted with the sacred work of the Good Shepherd, feeding and tending the sheep. Truly, through Christ, ALL things are possible. Don’t you see? Resurrection power is on the loose. The eighth day of creation continues to reverberate the new, good, life-saving, reconciling, redeeming, forgiving love through the world, Jesus says then and now: Follow me.
Follow the heavenly songs of glory, join the singing. Follow the fire-breathing Sauls of this world, go right to their door and tell them the risen Christ sent you, with a commission and a word of unfathomable grace. Follow the instructions of the One standing on the shore, throw out your nets, yes, one more time, even after a long, luckless night and get ready for a catch so heavy you cannot haul it over the rim of the boat. Follow the sheep, go find the lost ones, tend to them, care for them, cradle them, give them the compassion given to you when you were lost, afraid, at your wits end, sure no one loved you and no one should. Follow the impulse of love wherever it leads, knowing that where love is, God is too, and therefore you will never be alone, no matter where you go. Follow will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, trusting that all will be given unto you when you do.
This third Sunday of Easter is no time to be timid. In the midst of Eastertide the risen Christ appears on the road to Damascus, on the beach, on the right hand of the Father, Lord of all that is seen and unseen, very much at work and asking us to follow him. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a singular event that foreshadows what is to come for all creation. The grave-busting, death-defeating, evil-destroying, sin-obliterating power it reveals cannot be stopped, and is right now reverberating through time and space, people and creation, bringing with it new life, new possibilities, new relationships. Are you following?
In a world filled to the rim with suffering and shocking, with gut-twisting, mind-bending headlines of murder, cruelty and devastation, ask this: Who are you following? What are you following? Right now, Jesus calls your name: Saul, why do you persecute me? Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? What are you doing? Who are you following? Who do you chase? What do you run from? The risen Jesus knows your name, no matter which road you take, Damascus or Emmaus, there is nowhere our Lord won’t find you and invite you to follow, even if you’ve persecuted him or denied him. The creative, beautiful, life-saving power of our God cannot be thwarted, and those who love the Lord refuse to capitulate to the darkness, the deadly, the hateful because they know that Jesus has defeated everything that does not contribute to abundant life. Are you following?
If you are following you will no doubt find yourself throwing your net to the other side, even when you are dog-tired and have come up empty all night long. If you are following, you will find your deepest convictions turned upside down for the sake of the one who turns our disdain of “the other” into a willingness to die for the ones we once wanted to kill. If you are following, you fill find yourself tenaciously protecting the sheep, the vulnerable ones, the frightened, the ones desperate for water and shelter and green pasture and peace. If you are following, you will not go your own way, but find yourself inexplicably on the Way, singing with joy alongside a strange group from every tribe and nation. If you are following, you will be fed by no less than the Messiah, the slaughtered Lamb worthy of all glory who humbles himself and serves you. If you are following, you will go to people who make you tremble in fear only to find yourself more than just friends, but members of the same household and family. If you are following, you will be known by name, loved despite your flaws, forgiven and made new, commissioned, sent and sustained.
Now is no time to be timid. The new creation power of the resurrection is on the loose. The risen Christ is appearing. Don’t you hear him calling your name? Are you following?
- When have you gone somewhere unexpected to say or do something you did not anticipate because you believed Jesus was sending you? What happened?
- What does your worship look like week in and week out? How does it resemble the worship described in this week’s text from Revelation?
- When you read the account of Saul’s conversion, where do you see yourself? Why?
- Imagine what it would be like to be among the disciples on the beach, eating breakfast with Jesus. What do you picture? How do you feel?
- How and where are you called to feed and tend Jesus’ sheep?
- Did you notice the disciples followed Jesus’ instruction to cast their nets to the other side before they realized it was Jesus telling them to do so? How is it that we are obedient to God’s commands even when we aren’t certain that Jesus is present?
Want to receive Looking into the Lectionary content in your inbox on Mondays? Click here to join our email list!