Needle and thread; Jesus and his followers;

tumblr_liuka9yloc1qhheyho1_500Title: Needle and thread; Jesus and his followers;

Scripture: John 21:1-14

Date: April 21, 2013

 21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Just the other day, I went out for a cup of coffee after spending long time at home working.  I was stuck indoors for a long time and I was stuck at my desk for a long time.  It was not like I was able to move around my loft condo, I was genuinely stuck in front of my desk, specifically in front of my computer because of the nature of my work.  So when I went out for a coffee, I realized had two choices.  There is a coffee shop called Dark Horse that is just about 3 minute walk from my place and there is another coffee shop called Mercury which takes about 15 minutes of walk to get to.  For convenience sake, I could have simply gone to Dark Horse and just get there in three minutes of time, but I chose to go to Mercury – I just needed to walk off my stress.  In fact, the whole coffee break was just an excuse.  I just needed a destination to walk to.  Realizing the importance of the destination, I also realized I never was able to just wander around on the streets like many people could at shopping malls.  Which direction will I go to? At which street would I make a turn?  Which building or household would I look at during that walk?  And most importantly “WHY” would I walk, make turns and look at those things?  I have brought so much baggage thoughts to a simple stress relieving walk but my conclusion was that wandering aimlessly does not really work for me.  I needed a destination and that delicious cup of latte that’s 15 minutes away was just perfect for me.

Imagine, however, I went out for a walk at late evening and the latte store was closed.  Where would I go?  When all directions are available to me, which direction and which turn would I choose? And for what purpose?  When too many choices are given to us, we might welcome it since we don’t really like someone else choosing on our behalf but I also realized with too many choices come confusion.  That sense of confusion, that sense of being lost and that sense of all of sudden losing the lead, was what the disciples felt after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jesus spent three years in ministry and the disciples were called to Him in the beginning of his ministry.  The disciples went wherever their master went.  For three years, they were like needle and thread – inseparable, attached and intimate.  And one day, their master was gone just like that.  After three years of not having to think about what to do the day after, they are all of a sudden faced with a big dilemma.  “What do we do now?”  A sense of fear but also senses of being helpless and lost are dominating the minds of disciples.  That’s where today’s scripture begins its story.  Lost disciples, lost in the sea! Where are you going and why would you go there?  Let’s look at what they had decided to do and what Jesus did about that.

1) First off, we have to see that Peter, the dominant and vocal one of the twelve, leads 6 others to go fishing.  Peter, along with John and James were fairly well established fisher men.  They were doing financially quite well for themselves before being called to minister to people.  That is where Peter had gone back to and led 6 other disciples with him.  One problem – this is exactly opposite of Jesus’ calling.  When Jesus first called the disciples, the calling was “drop what you are doing and follow me.  I have much greater things for you to do.”  Peter at this point still does not understand what had taken place over the Easter Weekend or at least his denial of Jesus was so stunning and shocking to him that he had become like a little baby chick rather than a ferocious lion whose confidence out wits the wisdom of the world.  Even after seeing the empty tomb and even after Jesus had declared that on this rock called Peter, I will establish my church; Peter had decided to go back to fishing and led 6 others with him.  How is that for a wrong turn?

Peter had heard Jesus preach and Jesus even provided personal interpretations and explanations for the disciples for three years.  Also during those three years, the disciples witnessed countless miracles, healings, exorcism and with commission from Jesus the disciples themselves were able to perform the miracles themselves. For those three years, Peter, John and James among all the disciples spent the most intimate times with Jesus but as if those times meant nothing to Peter, he turned back to fishing.  Instead of repeating his master’s message to the world; instead of believing that that man from Nazareth had the message to preach to the world, Peter escapes to a private life devoid of mercy work, living only for himself and unto himself.  Again, how is THAT for a wrong turn?

2) Let’s see what happens when Peter and the others turned away from their calling and had gone back to their old ways.  The verse 3 says “So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”  It wasn’t due to lack of skills that the disciples did not catch anything that evening.  As I mentioned Peter, Andrew, James and John were commercial Fishermen who probably grew up fishing in the Sea of Galilee.  They know the sea floor like palm of their hands!  So why did they not catch anything?

It is plain that God prevented them from catching anything that night.  Just like that time when Jesus wanted to get Peter’s attention that He was serious about calling Peter to ministry, God had to disrupt Peter’s “old” vocation of fishery in order to make a point.  Peter only understands things about fishing and not much else, so God uses fishing to speak to him.  Peter needed to understand that apart from God he would not produce any fruit in life – never mind the ministry where he actually lacked the confidence and the skill, even in commercial fishing, apart from God’s blessing, there is no fruit to bear.

3) Thirdly, this man appears and points to a location.  He says fishes are there for a collection and the futile efforts of the 7 disciples came to fruition. They caught so many large fishes that the net was about to tear and it was far more than what the disciple turned fishermen can bear.

Jesus is making a point here: Once we are called, we are called for life.  The disciples should have never returned to old way of living.  Do you know which book is after the Gospel of John?  Book of Acts.  Do you know what happens in book of Acts?  Peter, the scared one who fled to fishing, speaks and addresses thousands of Jews that he feared and after he had spoken three thousand people came to believe and received new life.  After that Peter performs a miracle where he cures a lame person.  This is the prototype of the faithful life he was supposed to live!  Peter was to preach, perform miracles and cause people to repent.  There were too many to reach that there was no time to play with his net trying to catch fishes.  Peter was to be a fisher of men not of fishes.  He was on the verge of break out in his ministry but it was about to slip because of his guilt, had it not for Jesus who came to restore Peter to his ministry.

But we also have something else here….  Everyone is familiar with the next scene to today’s scripture.  It’s the famous dialogue between Jesus and Peter where Jesus asks “Do you Love me?” and Peter replies “Yes Lord you know that I love you” and so on.  Everyone also knows that that scene is where Peter is restored back into ministry – a fisher of men.  But look what made that scene possible.  Jesus came to Peter.

Not only Jesus had enough love to forgive Peter, Jesus’ love was so overwhelming that he approached Peter first.  He came to Peter offering forgiveness –Peter’s loving Jesus back was the only requirement.  That’s grace.  There was more grace in God than there was betrayal in Peter.

So what does this have to do with us today?

 

4) I know that Easter weekend has been long past but post Easter is when we need to think about God’s calling for us in life.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14 says, if Jesus did not resurrect, our faith is in vain but post Easter epilogue insists that Jesus resurrected.  That should make us pause in life and reflect a little bit.  Jesus resurrected and all of his claims about himself being God have been proved to be true.  Then all of a sudden, his calling of you must be taken seriously as well.  For sure, he has been speaking to you!  The most visible feature of Christian God from 3rd point perspective is that He speaks!  If we have not been hearing him, then perhaps we should suspect we haven’t been listening. 

What does your faith tell you to do?  What does your faith tell you about the transformation that’s needed in your life?  For sure, we are to love our God and our neighbour but when was the last time you caused a smile on someone’s face?  When was last time, you actually lived to make someone’s day?  When was the last time people praised God because of your actions?  I’m not merely talking about one time, random, undecided moments of actions but I’m talking about lifestyle of honouring God and living unto others.

I cannot tell you what God’s been speaking to you about since it is between you and God but if he has been speaking to you (and no doubt he has been) then I have to encourage you that you respond as soon as possible.  A delayed answer is always a no.  Let’s suppose for a moment that I asked a girl out and she said “hang on, let me think about it” and she delays her answer for one month.. what do you think her answer is for me?  Sure, we can give it a benefit of the doubt and say she is still “thinking” about it but let’s face it, she is saying no.  It’s the same thing.  A delayed answer to God’s invitation always says “I don’t want to therefore no.”  But you know where that road gets you.  It doesn’t get you anywhere!  Effort will be in vain and your labour will be fruitless.

Follow Jesus and never return to your old ways.   Now that you know Jesus and now that you confess that we belong to Jesus, the only way to live is for Him.  Don’t be scared and don’t be afraid.  All of us are at a verge of gathering much fruit, we just need to recognize that God’s calling for us is for life and just move on forward boldly with it.  Just like the needle and the thread, wherever Jesus goes we go also. God will take care of the rest.

And I have a special address for the leaders among us.  Today’s praise leader for example, have you ever seen her go up to the stage without a smile?  Personally, I have never seen her not smile during the praise.  I haven’t had a chance to train our praise leader but one thing I always encourage praise teams to do anywhere is to offer genuine smile.  One’s poor evening night before Sunday should not ruin or provide the overtone for the praise for the worship service.  But despite of the importance, life is simply hard at times.  Life is stressful and one can commit sin and before she thinks she’s ready, she may have to face the congregation upon that stage leading the people of God to the worship of God.  What to do then?

I’m not taking sin lightly at all.  All sins need to be dealt with appropriately with God and when necessary with other parties involved in sin.  But having dealt with sin and confessed before God, we must insist our ways in serving God.  Going back to our old way of life away from serving God and his people must remind us Peter’s going back for fishing.  The old way of life simply sin multiplying.  We are committing sin upon sin when we let our sin guide us away from God’s calling and back into old way of life.  God the King deserves our commitment and we must insist on it despite of our failures.

tumblr_liuka9yloc1qhheyho1_500

(sermon) Glory that the world will never understand

urlTitle: Glory that you and I will never understand

Scripture: John 12:12-29      

Date: March 24, 2013

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.”

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

 

Introduction

It is Palm Sunday.  Today we celebrate what we so-call “triumphant” entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and of course this is the week before the Easter Sunday where Jesus who died resurrects from the dead.  Question for you: Why do Christians call Jesus’ entry, only few days before his Crucifixion, triumphant entry?  What is so glorious about it?  If you are only considering the fact that people have gathered to lay down the palm tree leafs and shouting Hosanna and “blessed is the King of Israel”, I’m afraid that you haven’t understood the nature of the Gospel and therefore the nature of Jesus our Lord.

We will all see “glory” in NFL champions Baltimore Ravens. We will all see “glory” in LeBron James and his 2012 NBA championship and Miami Heat’s 25 consecutive wins (as of today).  We see glory on red carpets and movie stars.  These “glories”, no doubt a form of glory, is not the glory our Lord Jesus Christ will experience in today’s scripture!

To be sure, we may easily misread and misunderstand Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and confuse world’s glory with Christ’s glory.  Why wouldn’t we?  Jesus seems to be appreciated, adored and worshiped.  Furthermore, Jesus seems to be recognized as God and he seems to be held up in a high place.  In modern day terms, Jesus is on a red carpet, Jesus is in the cover of GQ magazine, news about Jesus has been thoroughly shared on facebook, re-tweeted by the millions and there is a twitter trend and re-blogging happening about his entry.  So why wouldn’t we think that this IS the glorious moment for Jesus?

Gospel of John insists that the red carpets, magazine covers and millions of followers on twitter aren’t glory for Jesus.

1. So then what IS the glory according to John and according to our Lord Jesus Christ?  Let’s first take closer look at today’s passage and understand what his mission was because glory and purpose for an action has close relationship that they cannot be so easily separated.  Think about it this way: not too long ago, there was a Youtube sensation with an infant named Titus between the ages of 18-24 months old.  That infant couldn’t even speak but he started making all these trick basketball shots.  The baby was talked about on ESPN, Good Morning America, Today Show, Anderson Cooper and other talk shows.  And people are talking as if he WILL be going to NBA in the future but given that kind of talent do you see NHL being excited? MLB being excited?  Of course not.  The infant’s skill has nothing to do with the purpose of “other” games such as baseball and hockey.  Purpose and Glory are closely associated.  So then we HAVE to understand Jesus’ mission before we can understand his glory.

To know Jesus’ mission, we have to see that Jesus has chosen a donkey rather than a horse.  A horse is an animal of war whereas the donkey is an animal of peace.  But peace with what? Or with whom?

Is it peace between Israel and Rome?  No, if that was Jesus’ mission, he probably accepted Jewish people’s desire to become political king over them and started a diplomatic foreign policy.

Is it peace among Jews? No, if that was Jesus’ mission, he would NOT have picked fights with the Pharisees and other religious leaders.  (You ever noticed how Jesus always seems to brew trouble wherever he went?)

Is it a world peace?  Well, we are little closer but if, by “world peace”, you mean the type of peace where people are focused on getting along with each other while abandoning faith that binds us to Christ and therefore God the Father, we are wrong on that.  If such was case, Jesus would have used his charm and intelligence to focus on his humour skills to keep people laughing instead of teaching but of course that wasn’t the case.

So peace with what or whom?  It’s the heavenly peace where the Kingdom order is restored.  It is the peace that restores mankind to what it was meant to be – in a loving relationship with God the creator, fellow neighbors and rest of God’s creations.  So the peace that the Gospel is talking about is peace between God and man.  Romans 5:1-2 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”

Without our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not have access to grace and without grace, there is no peace with God.  That is to say, without Christ, we remain under God’s judgement of death and without Christ all we can see is the anger of God.  Making peace between two parties is called “reconciliation” and Jesus’ mission was precisely the reconciliation between God and man.

2. Only under this purpose, we can understand the glory of God.  Take a look at verse 23 – 24 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  Isn’t it interesting that Jesus would say this not during his entry but after the fact?  Only after the adoring public has gone away, Jesus talks as if the “hour of glory” is still coming rather than has just passed.  Yuna Kim of Korea won Gold medal in World Championship just the other day.  Do you remember where she stood during the medal ceremony?  She stood on the highest place on the podium.  In today’s scripture, to many people, his way into Jerusalem appears to be THE moment for Jesus.  Jesus appears to be having highest point of podium moment BUT instead of savouring it and say “that WAS my glory”, Jesus says the hour is “coming” and “has come” only after the public recognition.  Why is that?

It is because public support had no value to him whatsoever – Jesus’ agenda was much greater than THAT.  For reconciliation, the Cross was the ONLY way to achieve purpose, so for Jesus glorification had all to do with the Cross rather than people’s approval and praise of Him.

You see, we may not understand what it means to be “absolute”.  Absolutely pure means, there is no blemish.  Even a slightest spot takes away the status of “absolute” pure.  That’s just the definition of “absolute”, there cannot be any other element.  So for God to be absolutely “Holy” means there cannot be any “unholiness” in Him.  Which in turn means there cannot be any wink at sin or any hint of sin in Him.  There is no such thing as “Ah, we’ll just let them get away with one”.  So God must pronounce the judgement of death on every single sinner who commits sin!

You and I are no different.  There WAS pronounced judgement of death upon us!  That is until Jesus took away that judgement from us and placed onto himself to pay for our sins instead.  THAT is the reconciling work of our Lord Jesus Christ and because the Cross completed reconciliation (as in achieving the purpose of Jesus’ mission), Gospel of John insists that Cross is the glory of God.  Cross is the place where the purpose of God is achieved and both his Loving character AND justice character in whom no sin is found are (displayed ultimately) and (reigns supremely).

3. We live in a world where high places are envied.  High grades, high income, high square footage of your house, high number of followers on your twitter, facebook, Tumblr and/or any other types of blogs you might maintain.  What Jesus has done on Palm Sunday 2000 years ago was exactly the opposite.  What Jesus had done on Good Friday 2000 years ago was also exactly the opposite of what this world understands as glory.

Instead, Gospel of John insists that Cross, the lowliest of lows, IS God’s glory. That’s because it is the place where you and I have found life in God and God’s purpose is achieved – this is how much God loves you and me.  The only thing we could do is to stop doubting, start believing and forever remain thankful about it.  So while I usually give out one or two applications, there is no application for this message other than as we start our Passion Week 2013 I just invite you to rethink Jesus and his reconciling work and remain thankful in everything you do.

We live because Jesus died and resurrected.

Thanks be to God.