When I studied what is known as narrative preaching in seminary, I learned to respect the text—to let the selected Scripture drive the sermon.
This approach can place me in a quandary, however. There are stories in the Bible that are so powerful that I find it daunting to try to expand or elaborate on them in any way. To do so is like standing before a beautiful painting and breaking the holy silence in the gallery by saying, “Note how the lines merge at this point.”
In this Easter season, I want to share with you such a text. It is, by the way, my favorite part of the Bible, the story I turn to for comfort. For me, it captures everything being revealed about God from Genesis to Revelation in one simple story.
And yes, I feel like I’m already over-explaining it.
As a reader, do me a favor. I know we often read blogs as part of our hurried lives, our eyes racing over the words while our e-mail and texts beep for attention. Don’t do that today.
Please, either slow down or come back when you have more time, and carefully read John 21:1-19 the way you would read a really good novel. There are characters in pain in this story; remember, the disciples know Jesus is alive, but they also know they ran and hid when Jesus needed them most. And most of all, there is the resurrected Jesus, bringing healing.
Now that you’ve read it, I just want to share with you a few of the thoughts this text has given me over the years.
- Even when faced with miraculous evidence of God’s presence, the best of us, when confronted with our sinful weaknesses, may want to turn back to what we used to be.
- Because of the resurrection, we are a people of abundance. We simply have to see and accept that abundance.
- The resurrected Jesus is exalted and glorified, and yet he meets us where we are, with love, grace and forgiveness, even if the sin is abandonment and betrayal. (I wonder, had Judas lived, how would Jesus have offered him forgiveness?)
- And of course, as we are restored by Jesus, there is a mission—perhaps a difficult one—but a mission that gives us purpose beyond our former lives.
Because of Jesus, we know we worship a God of love, a God who asks only that we return to him by accepting the free gift of forgiveness and salvation and then respond accordingly.
God forgive me if I just got in the way of a good story.