Smartphones are powerful. Last week I mentioned that I am able to keep track of tasks with mine. But that’s just one of many things a smartphone can do. It is a calculator, a street navigator, an internet browser, an email sender, a calendar, an alarm clock, a music player, video watcher, camera, video recorder, flashlight, an Angry Bird launcher, a best price on gas station finder, a coupon clipper, a pack of cards, and a lightsaber. Believe it or not, I also think that you can call people up and talk to them, too.
Unless the little battery meter run outs. Then, it’s out of power. And, if you aren’t near a charger, your powerful cell phone has now left you powerless.
Jesus was powerful. He stopped storms, drove out demons, healed the sick, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise.
Then, he died.
Suddenly, was he completely powerless? Sure, he came back from the dead, but did he have the same powers? This all took place 2000 some years ago. Is God still as powerful even today?
Jesus' disciples must have wondered the same thing. Yes, Jesus was back. They had seen him on a few different occasions. But each time they left, new questions must have formulated:
Had their leader changed? Had defeating death zapped him of his power? If his power was gone, how would that affect the missionary journeys they knew they were being commissioned to do?
Now, gentlemen, when you have a lot on your mind, what's a great way to relieve your mind? Fishing. Isn't it relaxing to head out on the peaceful lake away from the hustle and bustle of the city? You don't hear the traffic on Falls of Neuse nor do you smell the exhaust of all the commuters.
I'm sure there was a similar relief even at that time. Away from the marketplace. Away from the pressures of the Pharisees. Away from these nagging questions about their leader. So scripture says, "They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing."
Verse 4 tells us that early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn't realize it was Jesus. Verse 8 tells us that Jesus stood about 100 yards from the disciples. That isn't easy to identify someone from that distance. That's like looking across from endzone to endzone of the football field. Only hampered further by the dim morning light.
Jesus calls out to them, "Friends, do you have any fish? No," they replied. "6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
I want you to note that there were a couple of things working against the disciples tossing the net back into the water:
For starters, they were men. Ladies, do men like to have people tell them what to do? Not often. We have a sense of manliness. We want to be successful by ourselves. We don't need strangers telling us how to fish.
That was probably amplified for the disciples. They were professionals! Remember: for at least 3 of the disciples on the trip, this had been a way of life. Peter, James, and John were all fishermen before Jesus had called them to be "fishers of men." So, I'll bet they knew what they were doing and didn't take a 'zero catch' morning lightly. Perhaps they cast the net in the shallows and then rowed out to the middle and dropped it deep. Maybe, one of the spotted a seaweedy area that looked like it had potential. They might have even lowered the net and 'trolled' in 1 first century, non motor fashion!
Now, they were tired. Time to head in. It just wasn't their day. And who was this guy? Unless it was some Bass Pro Shops professional or the Fishing Warden, they had no reason to listen to him. Besides he was 100 yards away. How could he see where the school of fish was? They were much closer and they didn't see anything!
Yet, there must have been authority in those words. Something about them that said, "You should listen." Scripture says that they cast the net as Jesus said and when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
This was instantaneous. It was incredible. It was...a miracle. Which could only mean one thing!
Back in high school, I remember there was a tutor -- which is like an R.A. for the boarding school that I went to -- who always wore wind pants. I suppose that was nice for him because they were comfy and he was able to teach Phy Ed without much of a problem. But it was also nice for us. Because if we were 'up to no good,' the wind pants always gave us a bit of a warning. You'd hear 'swish-swish-swish' and you knew who was coming! Time to go back to studying.
Jesus had something that was unmistakable about him. He did miracles. Everywhere he went he healed people of diseases, stopped storms with his words, cast out demons. In fact, he had even caused the disciples to catch a miraculous amount of fish on one other occasion!
This meant that as soon as the fish miraculously filled the net, they knew who it was on the beach. It could only be the One.
John turned to Peter, "It is the Lord!" The Master. The Divine Authority. The miracle working ruler of the universe!
I know you can see the Lord, too. That beautiful sun outside is in orbit because the Lord is powerful. The rain came down around here on Friday, because the LORD is still powerful. The reason you and are alive today is because the LORD's almighty power is feeding us, taking care of us, and blessing us beyond our needs! God's promise of eternal life in Jesus still stands because the LORD is the only one powerful enough to back such an eternal promise up!
When the Apostle Peter realized who this was, listen to how he reacted: 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.
Notice it doesn't say that he decided to count the fish first. He didn't stop to muse on whether it was God or not. He didn't even offer to help bring the net in. No, he wanted to follow his Powerful Savior immediately. With reckless abandon he jumped into the deep and swam the 100 yards to shore. Bowing in worship to the Lord as he dripped with seawater.
What about you? The Lord is alive. He's still powerful. He's still the most powerful being in the universe. You'd think that we'd jump right into following him with a reckless abandon and passion.
But what usually happens?
This financial problem I've got is too powerful to overcome. I don't have time to worship the Lord. I need all my strength focused on paying the mortgage.
The media on TV is really powerful. They've been making Christians look like fools recently. I'll be safer if I simply delete "Christian" from my Facebook status. (And I better block all my friends who keep posting Bible passages...)
My relative is sick. Really sick. Yes, I suppose I could pray to the LORD, but what could he do? It's useless. Cancer is just too powerful.
My neighbor doesn't know about Jesus. I should tell them. But, the nervousness is just too powerful. I'll keep my religion to myself.
I know. I know. God is powerful. But my guilt is just too powerful. I can't believe that he could ever have taken away all of my sins. The things I did...they are too awful. Too powerfully awful.
Isn't it amazing? Rather than following God with reckless abandon, we generally follow God in a meek, quiet, secret at a distance, if I have the time type of following.
That's sin. It reflects at attitude that doubts God. It doubts who he is. It doubts that this absolutely powerful, making 143 large fish instantaneously appear in a net after indisputably rising from death on the cross can make a difference in our lives.
Repent of a such an attitude. Repent of your doubts. See who it is on the shore. See who it is calling out to you. See that it is the all powerful, divinely driven, nothing can stop him, indisputable champion of everything--Jesus Christ your Risen Lord!
A Lord that powerfully defeated not just one of the sinful times you doubted. Not just two of those sinful times, but all of those sinful times. In fact, he powerfully defeated all of your sins with his perfect life, innocent death, and triumphant resurrection.
In him you are (And this is a POWERFUL WORD) completely and utterly FORGIVEN!
Brothers and sisters, this Jesus is the powerful Lord calling out to you. And he’s still as powerful as ever! He still works miracles. He still holds the universe together. He still promises you that with faith in Him, he will defeat eternal death for you!
Jump in and recklessly follow him this summer. Here's two areas to work on doing just that:
1) Jump into his Word. Read through the whole Bible once. Maybe twice. Pick out one book and start every morning meditating on it. Join a Bible study. We got the Bible Basics challenge. Sign up and take that. Don't have time? Make time. Leave behind the powerfully busy life, for the powerfully busy God. I'm sure you can find some time for Jesus! Jump in and follow Him! (And moms and dads...take your family with you. Renew devotion. Renew bedtime Bible stories. Renew your dedication to bringing them to church!)
Which kind of goes hand in hand with the second way to recklessly follow Jesus:
2) Share the Gospel. Speak up on religious topics. Learn, relearn, practice, and share the simple message of Law and Gospel. Grab some of the business cards out back and invite your relatives to church. (Then offer to pick them up.) Share Bible readings and devotions with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for one of the upcoming summer canvassing days. Speak to the visitors at church and encourage them in their faith! Jump in and follow Jesus by immersing yourself in Evangelism like never before!
There's no need to be afraid! There is no one more powerful than the one you'll be following!
And you know what? There will be more blessings than you've even imagined!
Take Peter for instance. He had just seen the net filled with fish. That was enough. He swam in to see Jesus.
Then, can you believe what he saw next? Verse 9, "When they landed, a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread...Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."
I love this. Jesus just gave them a miraculous catch of 153 fish. That's probably enough for breakfast. Yet, when the disciples pull up, there is more fish..already being cooked for a meal.
Jesus' power is incredible and it produces abundant blessings!
Trust me. When you follow Jesus, you will receive abundant blessings! Now it may not be a net full of fish. It may not even be a wallet full of money, a portfolio full of career accomplishments, or a body full of health.
But it will be a spirit full of peace. A life full of grace. A promise full of truth. A heaven full of God's eternal, awesome, indisputable, undefeated powerful keeping you in his awesome presence for all eternity!
May this powerful Lord hold us in his powerful love. Amen.
I have this app on my smartphone called "ToDoist." It keeps track of tasks that I am going to do each day of the week. Each time I finish a task, I swipe it off as complete.
This past week I didn’t get much done Monday-Wednesday. I was at a Pastor’s Conference in New Jersey. It turns out that 18 hours listening to corny jokes from 5 other pastors is not conducive to getting a lot of work done. So my Todoist list had stock piled. But, as I looked at it again and again Wednesday evening, I was confident that I had a good plan for getting all of my tasks done the next day.
Then, Thursday happened. An unexpected meeting here. A longer phone call there. A few conversations that lasted a little longer than I thought...and suddenly, my Thursday Todoist "to do list" looked the exact same as the Friday list...only with few more tasks than before.
I had such a good plan to get everything done, but it failed.
Ever happen to you? Ever plan to do something only to watch your plans fail?
Did you know that God plans too? In fact, while Jesus was on earth he told his disciples about God's plan. John 3:16 gives it to us in a nutshell: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
But then, Jesus died. Life happened. Death happened. The question is: Had God's plan failed? Can God’s plans fail?
I. When God's Plan Appears to Fail.
This appears to have been the basic premise of the disciple's conversation on the Road to Emmaus. Scripture tells us "They were talking with each other about everything that had happened." And later "That their faces were downcast." Their Messiah had died. God's plan had failed. They would never see him again.
Then, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
But what's interesting is that Scripture says: They were kept from recognizing him. It isn't like Mary Magdalene whose grief and tears prevented her from recognizing her Savior. They were kept from recognizing him by God. By Jesus.
Why did Jesus do that? Presumably for two reasons:
1) He wanted to give them an opportunity to voice their faith. Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden. God asks, "Where are you?" Not because he didn't know, but because he wanted to give them a chance to fess up to their sins. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus had asked Philip, "How will we feed these people?" Not because he didn't know that he was about to perform a miracle, but because he wanted to Philip to voice his confidence in that miracle.
Jesus is doing the same thing with the Emmaus disciples. He wants them to have a chance to voice their faith in God's plan.
But just like all those other times, the Emmaus disciples don't voice faith. They only voice their disappointment with God and his plan.
They explain that they were talking about: “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Isn't it interesting? They mention the third day, a part of God's plan to raise Jesus from the dead. They mention the women seeing an empty tomb. They mention that a few disciples had confirmed this. But they still did not believe God's plan had worked. Look at verse 21. It's most telling, "We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
As in: "They didn't believe it anymore. The plan didn't work. They were still under Roman rule. Their lives still felt the same. In fact, they were probably crummier. They had wasted time and effort believing this Jesus was a part of God's plan, and now that plan wasn't working."
Ever felt disappointed with God? Ever felt like God's plan has failed you? Maybe it sounds like this:
"I was supposed to have a career! I was supposed to climb up the corporate ladder. Instead, I'm stuck in my first job at a pay rate much lower than I expected and I don't have any hope of climbing out of it. God, your plan, must have failed!"
"God, I thought, you "knew the plans you have me, plans to prosper and not to harm me..." Then, why can't I find the right guy? Why am I still single? Why are all the people I date 'Sleazeballs?" God! Your plan is not prospering, but harming me!
"My marriage isn't happy all the time. There is tough stuff we go through. God. That can't be your plan. Which must mean that your plan has failed!"
"My relative is super sick. They are suffering. God is love. He doesn't like suffering. Which can only mean that he can't stop the suffering and his plan is failing!"
Now. Stop and think with me. Is God that bad at planning? Is the ruler of all eternity that poor at future planning? Of course not.
Listen to this carefully. God’s plan’s don’t fail, we simply fail to see God’s plans.
II. We Simply Fail to See God's Plan
This is exactly the problem that the Emmaus disciples had. They expected God's plan to be that Jesus would rid them of Roman rule, they themselves would become officials in his kingdom, and life on earth would become 'awesome.'
When Jesus died and this didn't happen, they felt terrible.
But listen to Jesus' assessment: 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
If you wanted to build a house, an architect makes a blueprint for the contractor and everyone he works with to follow. If they want to know where the support beams are supposed to be, they look at the blueprint. If the electrician is wondering how many outlets to run in the living room, they look at the blueprint. If the homeowner has a complaint about the window sill being placed too low on the wall, they look at the blueprint to see if it's valid.
A second reason that Jesus didn't show himself to these disciples right away is that he wanted to teach them where to look for God's plan. He wanted to show them the Almighty's Divine blueprint. It showed them, at that time, the Old Testament Scriptures which contained a detailed explanation of God's plan.
Through the prophets God gave his people details about the coming Savior so that they wouldn’t miss his coming. Malachi said where Jesus would be born. Zechariah foretold how Jesus would be betrayed for 30 silver pieces. Psalm 22 detailed how he would be crucified, how they would cast lots for his clothes.
Various scriptures talk about God's son had to die. Which in reality as it happened, must have seemed awful. But it needed to happen. It was God's plan. Isaiah 53 explains it beautifully. Memorize this passage. Commit it to memory. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This is God’s greatest plan. He desires to save you from hell. He wants you in heaven. So, no wonder, he doesn’t always take care to make sure that you have the roomiest house, the fanciest car, and the big scholarship to school. When push comes to shove, God wants you in heaven! That’s his goal. It’s his plan. It’s his desire!
When the disciples realized that Jesus’ death was a part of this plan, do you know what the result was? Verse 32 reports that the disciples confessed: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
What had changed? The Romans were still rotten. The taxes were oppressive. The Jewish leaders were corrupt. What changed was that the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures had opened their minds. They understood God's plan. They understood that it had worked. They understood that God's plan was way better than anything they had imagined. It didn't just involved a perfect marriage, a good job, and the latest electronic always in your possession.
It involved eternity. It involved forgiveness. It involved escape from eternal hell. It involved the promise of heaven.
III. God's Plan is Alive and Well
Now the disciples understood something. They understood that God's plan was alive and well. But they didn't grasp exactly how alive and well God's plan was until later that night: 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Brothers and sisters, recognize that God's plan for you is alive and well. He lives! Because he lives, so does God's plan for you. It doesn't matter what happens in our lives. It doesn't matter how sin gets the best of us. It doesn't matter what evil can do to us! The LORD lives! Our divine planner lives AND he is still in control. And I'll tell you what...that takes trust! It takes trust cause you aren't in control.
Ever been to a financial planner? That's hard to do. You know lots about your money. You know lots about what you want to do with it. Nobody likes to be told how to plan their future.
But...I recommend you see one. Planning finances is their job. They understand economy. They understand stocks, investments, and bond value. They're professionals at planning money. It's what they do. Trust them.
God's a professional at what he does too. He's a professional at planning for your eternal well being. It involved sending his Son to die and giving him power to rise again. He knew what he was doing then and he knows what he is doing no.
I know it's hard to give up control of your life and to totally trust God. It’s your life! But consider this: He's smarter than you. He's more powerful than you. He's been around longer than you. He loves more than you. He loves you more than you.
Trust Him. His plans don’t fail. His plans are good. His plans are alive and well. Amen.