Easter’s over with. Time for life to go back to normal, right? Time to catch up on some much needed rest, visits, and reading. Time to get back to “business as usual.” At least, that’s what I was thinking a couple of weeks ago.
Maybe you were too. Lent is a big time commitment not only for pastors, but also for choirs, for secretaries, for ushers and other assistants. Easter weekend is, for lack of a better word, busy. There’s the Easter breakfast to plan and execute. There are bulletins to run. There are sermons to write, flowers to order, Easter egg hunts to attend, and so many other things to do. It’s no wonder pastors and church members alike breathe a sigh of relief when it is all over.
Back to business as usual. That’s what your sinful nature is thinking too. You were really good during Lent. You held back your tongue from speaking evil. You closed the computer lid and said “no” to your sinful and lustful desires for a few weeks. You kept eating and drinking to a minimum, and did your best to show love to others.
But, now that resolve seems to be slipping again.
Now that you’ve celebrated Easter, your sinful nature is telling you: it’s time for life to go back to normal; time to get back to “business as usual,” back to what is most familiar and comfortable, back to what you know so well. Time once again for sporadic attendance at church and Bible Class; time for the complaints and bickering; time to put devotions aside; time to do all those things that you have said you will never do again.
The devil and your sinful nature want you to think: nothing has changed. Easter hasn’t changed anything. I’m still the same person I was before. Don’t listen!
Maybe that’s what the disciples were thinking that morning when Christ appeared to them a third time. What were they doing out in the boat fishing anyway? Hadn’t Christ told them, “From now on you will catch men”? Hadn’t they all left their nets and followed Christ? Christ was raised from the dead, but there they were, doing what they had always done before. Business as usual!
They had seen him twice already in the Upper Room. Had these appearances meant nothing to them? What were they waiting for? Did they think that life would just go back to the way it was before they met the Lord, before his death and resurrection? Had nothing changed?
Suddenly Christ appears to them. He reveals himself to them on the seashore. He takes them back to the time when he had first called them as disciples. Perhaps they would remember when he had said to them before: “Let down your nets for a catch.” Perhaps they would recognize him like they had before, when they pulled in the miraculous catch of fish.
At that time it was Peter who recognized the Lord. It was Peter who said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Now it was John’s turn to cry out in faith: “It is the Lord!” Suddenly it all made sense. Like men who have just awakened from sleep, they are spiritually groggy. But now they were beginning to remember. A boat; a late night fishing expedition; a huge catch of fish; nets breaking—oh yeah! It is the Lord!
Then comes the feeding. They confess His name; then He feeds them. He is intent on giving His disciples what they need. He knows they are hungry, so he says: “Come, let’s have breakfast.” He breaks bread, and gives it to them, along with the fish. Perhaps this too was meant to jog their memories a bit. Remember the feeding of the four and the five thousand? Remember the loaves and the fish? Remember the Upper Room, the bread, and the Cup: This is My body, which is given for you? “It is the Lord!”
The Lord is intent on feeding His holy believers and sheep. He even tells Peter later on: “Feed my sheep.” He knows that you are hungry too. You have been battling your own doubts, sins, and the temptations of the devil. Christ knows how easily you forget, how much you need to be reminded of His work and His love for you. We pastors conveniently forget that it was for Ministry that we were called, not for leisure or social status. If the Lord Himself came “not to be served, but to serve,” then should it be any different for us?
The same is true for you and for all Christians. How easy it is to forget that you are baptized, that your life does not belong to the devil, that your citizenship is in heaven. How easy it is to go back to your normal, sinful lives—back to the gossip, back to the hateful words and actions, easy to pretend like nothing has changed.
So Christ takes you back. He makes you remember who you are. He brings you to this place, and says the same words, does the same things he has always done. He points you to your baptism. The Pastor invokes the name of the Triune God: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” These words remind you that you are baptized.
You are children of His heavenly Father, brothers and sisters of one another. You are children of the free woman, called out of bondage and slavery to sin, out of the pit of hell, and redeemed by the blood of Christ. In water and word, Christ revealed Himself to you. There He drew you out of the sea of unbelief and brought you into the vessel of His holy Christian Church. Remember?
But there is more. He reveals himself to you in the breaking of bread. “Come, let’s have breakfast.” If your bodies need food to survive, how much more do your souls need Christ! Your minds and hearts, spiritually groggy from sin and doubt, are awakened once again as the pastor takes the bread and the Cup and says: “Take, eat, this is My Body given for you; Take, drink, this Cup is the New Testament in My blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Remember what I have done for you, how I shed my blood for you, how I rose for you. Wake up! Open up your eyes!” And faith cries out with the beloved disciple, “It is the Lord!” It is Christ himself. He is not dead, but He lives! No time for “business as usual.” Easter has changed everything. Your sins are gone. Your fear of death is no more. You have been called by Christ out of the darkness of unbelief and sin, and into the marvelous light of His Kingdom.
Remember this, dear Christians. When your sinful flesh bids you follow its desires, remember who you are. You belong to Christ. You are no longer slaves of sin, to do its bidding. When death stares you in the face, and thoughts of the past haunt you, remember that Christ has overcome sin and death by his own death and resurrection. Easter has changed everything.
You may still be a farmer, a government worker, a father, a mother, a daughter, a son, or a church worker. That hasn’t changed. The Gospel does not tell you to leave your nets, your homes, or your tractors. Your service to God is carried out in those places that God has placed you. We don’t abandon our occupations in search of more “godly” work. A mother changing her son’s diaper is as godly a work as a pastor preaching in church or a missionary taking the Gospel to distant lands.
But Easter has changed you. You are not the same person you were before you met Christ, before He redeemed you from sin. You can get out of bed each morning and go to bed each night with a clear conscience, free from the guilt of sin. You can look with joy to the day when the Lord calls you to your eternal home. This is how Easter has changed things. Those four words that we heard this morning say it all: “It is the Lord.” Amen.