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Breakfast By The Sea: The Rest Of The Story

John 21:1-19

Paul Aurandt is one of the best known, most admired figures of our time. Most people know his face. Everyone knows his voice. Now you may be thinking to yourself, “What in the world is he talking about? I have never even heard of Paul Aurandt.” Well, the fact is you don’t know him by his first and last name. You know him instead by his first and middle name. He dropped his last name because it was difficult both to spell and to pronounce. His full name is Paul Harvey Aurandt—Paul Harvey. Now, you know the rest of the story. Of course, that phrase, “the rest of the story,” is one which Paul Harvey himself originated. You know how it works. Paul Harvey will begin telling a colorful, human-interest story, and just when you think you know where the story is headed, Paul Harvey will go to a commercial break with these words, “When we come back, I’ll tell you the rest of the story.” Sure enough, the rest of the story always provides a surprise ending—usually some amazing conclusion about courage, heroism, perseverance, redemption, love, or reconciliation, and he always ends by saying, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

The Scripture passage we highlight today is a great example of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.” This particular story involves Simon Peter as the central figure. You remember how, during the events just before the crucifixion, Peter brought shame and dishonor upon himself by outright denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Him not once, not twice, but three times. Even though, later on, Peter saw the risen Christ and recognized Christ’s resurrection power, that did nothing to alleviate the guilt and remorse he felt at turning away from Jesus in such a colossal act of cowardice. It was, at that point, that Peter and the other disciples retreated back up to their home turf in Galilee. They had no idea what the resurrection was going to mean for them, and they had no idea what the risen Christ might want them to do. So they waited, and they waited, and they waited some more. Nothing happened. All this while, Peter was being ripped apart by his guilt. He was so ashamed because he, Peter the rock, had crumbled under the pressure. The waiting was just making him agonize over it all the more. It was driving him up the wall. Suddenly with a tone of agitation, he said, “I’m going fishing.” What he meant was this, “I can’t handle this anymore. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m out of here. I’m going back to the only thing I know how to do—fishing on the Sea of Galilee.” The others followed his lead. They wound up fishing all night—no luck. Then in the dawn’s early light, they saw someone standing on the shore. From the distance, in the semi-darkness, they didn’t recognize Him, but He called out to them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Now you may wonder why these professional fishermen would follow that kind of advice. It makes perfect sense actually. You see, the land around the Sea of Galilee slopes rather sharply up to the hills, and consequently, from the elevated vantage point of the shore, sometimes one can see schools of fish out in the water better than the fishermen who are right on top of the fish. In any case, they obeyed the directive from the shore. As a result, they netted an enormous catch of large fish—153 of them to be exact. Now at that point, the disciple John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Simon Peter, always impulsive to a fault, dove over the side of the boat and swam to the shore. The others followed along in the boat, and when they arrived, they were confronted by an amazing scene. There was the risen Christ, cooking breakfast for them over a charcoal fire.

Now check this into your memory bank for safe keeping. The Thursday night, before the crucifixion, Jesus engaged with His disciples in what we call “The Last Supper.” Ever since we, as Christians, have drawn powerful, spiritual meaning from what happened during that meal. Now here, after the resurrection, we have what I would choose to call “the first breakfast.” We don’t place the same emphasis on this meal but we certainly could, for I am convinced that it is filled with equally powerful, spiritual meaning. The meal includes one of the most beautiful and moving moments in all of the Bible. Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question, “Simon, do you love Me?” Three times, Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, I love You.” Three times Jesus then commanded, “Feed My sheep.” Same conversation, three times. Obviously, Jesus was giving Peter three chances to affirm his commitment in order to make up for his earlier three-fold denial.

Now, please don’t miss this! At this breakfast by the sea, here is Jesus risen from the dead, hailed as King of kings and Lord of lords, holding all the power of Heaven and earth in His hands, and yet we see Him as a kind of short-order cook standing by a charcoal fire ready to serve breakfast to His disciples. Of course, the reason for the breakfast meeting was quite specific. Jesus knew that His earthly ministry now was over. If His work was going to continue, someone would have to take up His cross, someone would have to step up to the plate, someone would have to assume the responsibility, someone would have to rise to the occasion. So Jesus extended His call to His disciples, especially to Simon Peter. He said to Peter, “If you love Me, feed My sheep.” That’s the same call to service He offers to us today, “If you love Me, feed My sheep.” The point is this: The best way for us to express our love for Jesus Christ, is to do His work, to take up His ministry, to respond to His call to serve. He doesn’t want burnt offerings, animal sacrifices, or long flowery prayers, or painfully pious expressions. No, He just wants us to take up His work in the world.

Of course, we now know the rest of the story. You see, on the strength of what happened that morning during this breakfast by the sea, Peter went on to become the bold, courageous leader of the early church. He wound up dying a hero because of his faith in the risen Christ. Peter responded to the call of his Savior, and he wound up changing the world. Might we do the same?

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