The Rest of the Story

Rest of the Story“The Rest of the Story”
John 21:1-19
Sunday, April 14, 2013 – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Have you ever been to a play or movie where the ending simply did not satisfy you?

It’s as if the story has not been completely told and you are left wanting just a little bit more to get you to the end.

Very often the playwright or the screen writer will add an epilogue to offer us a hint of what we’re missing after the action stops.

Novelists do this too – we come to the end of a fascinating novel and we’re not ready for the story to be over;

We want to know what happens next and they offer us an epilogue to help us see how the characters resolve the situation.

One of my favorite commentators was the great Paul Harvey who passed away in 2009…

Each day he would bring us a wonderful story about a little-known fact, an obscure bit of history, or some other interesting item that we thought we had heard about before…

At the end of each tidbit Harvey would surprise us with a connection to a celebrity or political leader; he would tie the item to an unknown heroic event; something we didn’t know would cause us to go: “Really!”

This is what Harvey called,
“the rest of the story.”

These epilogues and intriguing bits of history are fascinating because they usually help us to see a new perspective on a familiar story or gain a richer understanding of why things worked out the way they did…

I think that’s important stuff for us as we try to make sense of the world in which we live and the lessons we can learn from the past.

Today’s reading from John’s gospel is a type of epilogue that presents the rest of the story of Jesus’ resurrection…

Last week we read the final verses of Chapter 20 and we heard what could have been a very fine ending to John’s gospel…

“These [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” 

That makes a pretty good ending for the book and offers us much the same final message we hear from the other gospel writers…

There seems to be a feeling, however, that we didn’t get the meaning of everything John had to say in the previous 20 chapters, so an epilogue is needed to wrap things up in a tidy little package we won’t forget…

It may have worked…judging from the fact that so many people remember this particular story.

When we look at this story closely we realize that it takes us into a series of flashbacks to remind us of what Jesus has been up to…

As the writer reminds us of familiar themes and events, our understanding is reinforced…

This “rest of the story” helps us to see beyond the obvious and look deeper into what God wants us to take away from the story.

The first image we see is Jesus at the Sea of Galilee feeding the Disciples with fish and bread…

Sound familiar?  It should…remember the story where Jesus blesses five loaves and two fish then feeds more than five thousand people?

If you had any idea that God’s generosity and abundance belongs to some distant time in the past, this epilogue tells us that Jesus continues to feed and care for us even now.

When we hear Jesus tell the disciples where to cast their net for fish, it’s almost amusing…

We’ve heard the story from Luke’s gospel about the time Jesus told these same men where to fish and they caught so many they nearly sank their boats…

You’d think these guys would learn!

But, when you think about it, maybe what John wants us to notice is that the Disciples have always needed Jesus’ help to catch fish…

If we are going to be successful at following the mission we’ve been chosen for, then we had better be prepared to listen to Jesus for guidance and instruction.

I used to wonder why the disciples had a hard time recognizing Jesus standing on the shore…

They had already seen him raised…

They knew he was still alive…

Was their eyesight so terrible?

Then I read a commentary by Dr. Tom Troeger of Yale Divinity School…

He suggests that we remember the story of Mary in the Garden and her inability to recognize Jesus…

Then we look at this example of the Disciples’ inability to recognize him…

Suddenly, we begin to realize that the failure to recognize Christ as the Risen Savior is a continuing problem…

We should not come away from John’s Gospel thinking that we would never have a problem recognizing Jesus…

The epilogue challenges us to see that we too might be slow to recognize his presence if he were standing right in front of us.

The fact that Jesus once again spends time with his disciples over a meal reminds us that the Last Supper wasn’t really “the last”…

Christ continues to share table fellowship with us…2,000 years later…through Holy Communion…

He continues to supply us with the nourishment and encouragement we need for our lives and the work we are called to do.

Finally, we come to that haunting question –
“Do you love me?”

He asks Peter three times…

Remind you of anything?

Like maybe the fact Peter denied Jesus three times just a couple days ago?

Some may see this as a hurtful reminder of Peter’s unfaithfulness…

I’d rather hear it as a word of grace from Jesus that proves his willingness to forgive us and entrust ministry into the hands of someone who has been less than perfect and filled with denial.

John’s epilogue is a good idea…

It takes significant elements of Jesus’ story and asks us to be careful how we treat them…

We should not look at the life and actions of Jesus as being part of a distant time and place far removed from us…

These stories are not simply relics of the past.

The epilogue takes us to the Sea of Galilee and reaffirms the truth that John presents at the very beginning of his gospel…

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)

The darkness of our hunger for God…

The darkness of our fear and failure…

The darkness of our inability to recognize Jesus…

The darkness of our unfaithfulness…

NONE of this darkness could overcome the Light of Christ.

The truth is that the light of the Risen Christ still reaches us across the darkness of the world…

He still calls us…

He still feeds us…

He still empowers doubters and deniers for ministry.

Everything that John tells us in his beautiful gospel drama doesn’t end…

The epilogue shows us that the real-life drama of Jesus Christ continues even now…

John has shown us great things and those things continue to play-out from the past into the present and forward beyond us for eternity.

And now you know…The Rest of the Story…

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen

Advertisements