The three assigned readings for the third Sunday of Easter on 4/22/07 are Acts 9:1-22 (Saul’s conversion); Revelation 5:1-14 (Opening the scroll) and John 21:1-19 (Boat filled with fish). This week we preach on John 21:7b which reads, “Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.”
While it is certainly true that the Bible never contradicts itself, at times it appears that the disciples contradict themselves. One example at first reading is found when comparing this miracle of fish found in John 21 with the previous miracle of fish in Luke 5:4-9. In that earlier miracle Peter’s response was quite different. Verse 8 reveals Peter’s reaction. “He fell down at Jesus’ kness, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” How does one reconcile the different reactions by Peter to the two different miracles of fish?
By using the distinctions between Law and Gospel we can understand the different reactions. In the first miracle of fish, Peter is much like Isaiah in chapter 6 of Isaiah when he bemoans the fact that he, an unclean man, has seen God. He concludes that he will be put to death. Both Isaiah and Peter are living under the Law in the sense that they are of the opinion that God will permit you to come into His presence only if you are perfectly sinless. Thus, both Isaiah and Peter recoil at the presence of God.
However, after Isaiah’s mouth is touched with the coal from the altar of God that cleanses him and after Peter hears the words of Jesus after the resurrection, “Peace be with you” there is a new living under the Gospel. This means that there is a trust in God Who not only invites us to come to Him but also regards us as His children through faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The sermon would point out that due to our weak faith and our constant sinfulness, we often imagine that God is punishing us through suffering. But in light of the promises of the Gospel, we can now be certain that no such eternal separation from God will ever take place between the believer and the Trinity because Jesus took upon Himself the curse of sin and separation with the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The resurrection is God’s “Amen” to the sufferings of Christ.
The different responses by Peter in light of the two miracles of fish in Luke 5 and John 21 are a wonderful indication of the difference between living under the Law and living under the Gospel. Christians need to become more aware of this precious distinction between Law and Gospel in order to be comforted not by our lack of sins but by the fullness of the promises of our merciful and gracious God and Lord Jesus Christ.