LIVING THE RESURRECTION — WITH HOPE
by Pastor Mike Fortune
June 11, 2011
YouTube "No arms, no legs, no worries"
- Hope comes from Jesus' words [John 21:1-6; Psalm 30:5]
- Hope doesn't hesitate [John 21:7-9; Philippians 1:20]
- Hope is more than enough [John 21:10-14; John 20:30-31; Romans 5:5]
In 1982, Nicholas Vujicic (pronounced “Vooya-cheech”) came into the world with neither arms nor legs in Brisbane, Australia. Imagine the shock his parents felt when they saw their limbless son for the first time. How would their son live a normal happy life? What could he ever do or become when living with such a massive disability? Little did they or anyone else know that God would use Nick to touch millions of lives with the hope of Jesus all across the globe. As head of Life Without Limbs, a registered 501(c)3 federally approved non-profit organization since 2005, Nick has embraced his calling as an ambassador of hope to the world. When he isn’t traveling the world telling people there is hope beyond their present circumstances, and that Christ is that hope, he enjoys golfing, fishing, swimming and listening to music of all varieties. He smiles a lot. He lives the resurrection with hope saying, “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, then He will certainly use any willing heart!”
This is a lesson all disciples of Jesus have to learn and re-learn. Some men fish to get away from the crowds. These men fished so they could afford to go back to the crowds. After having their faith and hope miraculously restored by the appearances of Jesus in the upper room, they return to life as they know it to fuel their outreach activity. I think it’s because they embraced their roles as ambassadors of hope and fishers of men (cf. Matthew 4:19) disguised as fishers of fish that they went fishing. But now, the fish you catch with nets at night weren’t cooperating. But all is not lost. Because the 2nd Adam with dominion over the earth including the fish of the sea arrives [cf. Romans 5:12-21; Genesis 1:26-28] and His words bring them hope. Please open your Bibles to John 21 as we continue our series Living the Resurrection.
John 21:1-14, "1Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. 2Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. 3Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing." "We'll come, too," they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. 4At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn't see who he was. 5He called out, "Fellows, have you caught any fish?" "No," they replied. 6Then he said, "Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you'll get some!" So they did, and they couldn't haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. 7Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "It's the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. 9When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. 10"Bring some of the fish you've just caught," Jesus said. 11So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn't torn. 12"Now come and have some breakfast!" Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead."
At the beginning of their ministries, on the day Matthew 4:19 says Jesus called them to be fishers of men, Luke 5‘s parallel account of that day says Jesus told Peter to go out where it is deeper and let down the nets. But Peter says, “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish the nets began to tear. A shout for help brought their partners James and John in the other boat and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. Now years later, Jesus is repeating this re-commissioning miracle to bring them hope. But notice they don’t know it’s Jesus sharing these words at first. Verse 4 says, “At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn't see who he was.”
So the first point is you don’t have too see Jesus to have His hope. Because hope comes from His word. The watcher on the shore is always watching out for you whether you recognize Him there or not. Psalm 121:4 says our God neither sleeps nor slumbers. Although no longer physically present in the same way, Jesus was showing the disciples that even though we continue to sin / make mistakes / fall short of the glory of God, the same call to be fishers of men still applied. And that they would be able to reap a harvest if they do what He says.
Significantly, there are a couple of differences however to this fishy story from the first one. In Luke’s version at the beginning of the ministry, the nets break. In John’s account at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry in verse 11, the nets do not break. Jon Paulien says the unbroken nets symbolize the unbroken unity of the church on the verge of being filled with a 2nd generation of believers who would not have been alive to literally see and hear Jesus’ words in the flesh. But because Jesus’ words bring hope, they would not be at a disadvantage. The other difference is Jesus caught some fish on His own apart from the efforts of His disciples. Some folks think this is all about how Jesus provides for our needs. Since He knew the disciples would be hungry, he provided breakfast for them. And of course God promises to provide (cf. Psalm 37:25). But what if there is a deeper meaning here? If this story at the conclusion of John is meant as a re-commissioning of the original call to become fishers of men, perhaps the provision of fish already caught was meant to teach the disciples that Jesus also calls others to catch fish too and will bless their efforts as well. Yes, God has always used a remnant of people to call the larger community around it to commune with God. (Some commentators note that the breakfast Jesus provides is described in language of the Lord’s Supper from the other Gospel writers and specifically the feeding of the five thousand. The same words being used in verse 13 are found in John 6:11. “Jesus...took the bread and gave it to them.” Although the Gospel of John contains no account of the Lord’s Supper, this incident at its conclusion sounds an awful lot like the others).
But the point is Jesus has dominion over other fish in the sea! To be his disciples in the 2nd century or the 21 century, we need to accept that God is bigger than our boat. Jesus loves the communion that comes from all the fish in the sea. Which is why I think Jon Paulien is right about this. That church of the remnant is a much better and Biblically accurate term to describe the followers of Jesus than the remnant church. But whether the rest of our church ever fully grasps this and updates our fundamental beliefs to more accurately reflect this (apparently the disciples didn’t since verse 12 says none of them bothered to ask Jesus where these fish came from), the big take away is hope comes from Jesus’ words. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Even for the follower of Jesus, there may be weeping and times of sorrow and loss. But hope comes in the morning. Lamentations 3 adds, “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (verses 22 & 23).
Moving on by backing up, the disciples obey the words of Jesus and throw their nets on the right side of the boat and miracles occurs. Once again, John is the first disciple to put the pieces together. Previously, all it took for him to hope was a glance inside the tomb at the grave clothes Jesus left behind (cf. John 20:8). This time, John John says to Peter verse 7, “It’s the Lord!” And Peter to his credit this time, doesn’t hesitate. He grabs his jacket and jumps in swimming the 200 cubits or 100 yard to shore much faster than the others with a boatload of fish could row. Previously, Luke 24:12 says Peter saw the same grave clothes but went home wondering what had happened. This time, when his younger colleague and friend says “It’s the Lord” he takes his word on it. He’s already seen the resurrected Jesus twice. Once on Sunday evening the day rose from the dead according to John 20:19. And then again a week later according to John 20:26. But for followers of Jesus, they want more and more about Jesus. He is what fuels their humility. And hope. And hope will not be delayed. Point number two is hope does not hesitate. It just dives in. Thank God for young people like John. Who intuitively put the pieces together faster than most. They are uniquely qualified to lead new generations of believers. If we know how to fish for them.
A couple weeks ago I was invited to Media Summit in Southern California sponsored by the North American Division. Jackie came with me and we got to visit Pastor Nathan and Christina and enjoy a day at beach after I made a short presentation there and they filmed another longer interview about how pastors can use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter and Blogger them for free to connect with emerging generations of people. Did you know one accurate study of Millenials revealed that this generation is disconnected from their smart phones and online devices less than an hour a day? That means their devices are online even in their sleep! So if you want to reach your kids or grandkids, get online! Grab a teenager and ask them to teach you how to post on Facebook. That’s where they archive all their pictures and reality TV episodes of their lives. The well known communication acronym KISS used to stand for keep it simple stupid. Today, it stands for keep it significant and sharable. Facebook lets you post comments with 420 characters. Twitter, another social media tool, keeps it even shorter with 140 characters. But even with these limits, you have enough space to give hope.
Yesterday, I posted a Scripture verse I planned on using today to illustrate that hope never hesitates. It’s found in Philippians 1:20 where Paul says, "For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die." Over 500 of my Facebook friends had access to that verse after I posted it, but only one of them was online by the bedside of their father who was dying a slow painful death when they read it and immediately commented in reply, “Especially comforting right now as I sit by my dads beside listening to his agonal breathing. Shouldn't be long now but he did bring honor to Christ for all the lives he touched.”
Hope doesn’t hesitate. The world is dying to hear that there is hope for them. And that Christ is that hope. “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, then He will certainly use any willing heart!” The question is are we willing? Some men fish to get away from the crowds. The disciples fished so they could afford to go get back to their real jobs as ambassadors of hope and fishers of men. So just dive in. Because point number three, hope is more than enough. John 20:30-31 says, “The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, "Eighteen to nothing—we're behind." "Boy," said the spectator, "I'll bet you're discouraged." "Why should I be discouraged?" replied the little boy. "We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!" John begins his Gospel in chapter 1 verse 12 saying, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” That term “children of God” is a term of endearment. It’s the same word Jesus uses to address the disciples at the end of the Gospel of John in chapter 21 verse 5. The New Living Translators we’re reading today chose the English word “fellows” but in Greek it’s children. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness / When darkness seems to veil His face / I rest on His unchanging grace / In every high and stormy gale / My anchor holds within the veil.” Jesus has promised to go with us to ends of the earth. He will not leave us his children in the middle of the night. No loving parent would. Even when we can’t see him, He sees us and by the Holy Spirit, He is here comforting us. Encouraging us. Giving us hope. Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in "I hope something will happen." But this is not what the Bible means by hope. The Biblical definition of hope is "confident expectation." Don’t try to write all these down, they’ll be online later, but here’s what else hope is all about.
Psalm 28:7 says the righteous who trust or put their hope in God will be helped . Isaiah 49:23 says they will not be confounded, put to shame, or disappointed. Jeremiah 29:11 says the righteous who have this trustful hope in God have a general confidence in God's protection and help. and Psalm 46:2-3 says they are free from fear and anxiety. Acts 23:6 says we have a hope of the resurrection of the dead. Romans 8:23-25 says we have the hope of the redemption of the body and of the whole creation. Romans 8:23-25 adds that we have the hope of being brought into the presence of the Holy Spirit and 1 John 3:2-3 says we have the hope of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Titus 2:11-14 provides the lyrics for the song we sing called “We Have This Hope” in the return of Christ and Titus 3:5-7 records we have a hope of eternal life and an inheritance of the saints.
The certainty of this blessed future is guaranteed through the indwelling of the Spirit according to Romans 8:23-25, Christ in us according to Colossians 1:27, and the resurrection of Christ according to Acts 2:26. Hope is produced by endurance through suffering according to Romans 5:2-5 and is the inspiration behind endurance according to 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and Hebrews 6:11. Those who hope in Christ will see Christ exalted in life and in death according to Philippians 1:20. Because God’s promises are truth worthy according to Hebrews 6:18-19. We may boast in this hope according to Hebrews 3:6 and exhibit great boldness in our faith according to 2 Corinthians 3:12. By contrast, those who do not place their trust in God are said to be without hope in Ephesians 2:12 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
Along with faith and love, hope is an enduring virtue of the Christian life according to 1 Corinthians 13:13 because love springs from hope according to Colossians 1:4-5. Hope produces joy and peace in believers through the power of the Spirit according to Romans 12:12 and Romans 15:13. Because Jesus is our hope according to 1 Timothy 1:1. Paul sums it up this way Romans 5:5: "And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." [I’m indebted to this site for all the texts about hope: http://www.gotquestions.org/
Here’s the bottom line. All of us can live resurrected lives of hope in Jesus just like Nick and the disciples of Jesus. So please don’t hesitate to do so! Because hope still comes from Jesus' words. And as we’ve seen, hope is more than enough.