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Worship, prayer and Bible Study Resources, Third Sunday of Easter

Year C, Colour = White or Gold

Opening Verse

miraculous catch of fish

 

Christ is risen from the dead;
by death he conquered death;
and to those in the graves He
granted Life.

 

Collect Prayer
First Reading:
Second Reading:
Gospel Reading
Post Communion Prayer
Commentary:
Meditation:
Hymns for this week
Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead :

miracukous catch of fishIntroduction

Nobody would have felt worse about his failure than Peter. he was the disciple who was supremely confident that he could not let Jesus down. Even if everybody else was a disappointment to Jesus, he knew that he would stand firm. So when he denied Jesus the depth of his fall must have been very low.

So it was to this miserable Peter, full of remorse and bound by past hurt and disappointment, that Jesus came and offered hope. Jesus did not have to forgive Peter, that was already clear from the fact that Jesus endured the suffering of the cross. But Jesus did have to convince poor Peter that he was forgiven, to enable him to move forward and leave behind the past.

Of course it is not just Peter that Jesus speaks to, he speaks to us all and encourages us to move away from the pains and failures of the past and to discover a new and better future.

 

Opening Verse of Scripture    Psalm 33:20

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth. through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.   Common Worship

Risen Christ, you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: strengthen us also to proclaim your risen life and fill us with your peace, to the glory of God the Father. Common Worship Shorter 

God of life and love, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread. Open our eyes that we may see him in his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

Christ our friend, you ask for our love in spite of our betrayal. Give us courage to embrace forgiveness, know you again, and trust ourselves in you; we pray in your name. Amen. Methodist Worship  

First Bible Reading   Acts 9:1-6

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

Second Reading  Revelation Chapter 5:11-14

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.
 

Gospel Reading John 21:1-19

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" 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. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
 

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
 

Post Communion Prayer

Living God, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in all his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns, now and for ever


Commentary


Jesus has already appeared twice to his disciples, once to Mary Magdalene and the second time to the disciples, as they hid behind locked doors. We are told that this was ‘for fear of the Jews’, is that anti-semitic? Each time we are told that Jesus is not immediately recognised, yet they know that he is there and his body bears the marks of the death he endured. The disciples are given the Holy Spirit and sent out by Jesus.

Then in the story today we read that the disciples have gone fishing. This seems to be a strange thing for them to do at this time. Jesus has been raised from the dead, surely they had been called to be fisher’s of men, why return to the boats? There is no doubt that Peter was the driving force of the disciples, yet it was he who must have felt a serious failure after his abandonment and denial of Jesus. He had felt able to understand that others might deny Jesus, but he would never countenance that he would behave in such a disappointing way. In Chapter 13 Peter proclaimed his loyalty to Jesus and it is clear that he considered himself to be a cut above the rest. However in Chapter 18 we read how Peter had let Jesus down and denied him three times. Subsequently he probably felt worse than everybody else and no doubt he would be incapable of leading the disciples and being the rock which Jesus considered him to be.

Such failure and disappointment, serious defeats and setbacks in life can have debilitating effects upon everybody, not just Peter. We can all understand how inadequate he must have felt for the task, and now he can’t even catch fish! It was for him one of those times in life when nothing was going right. Perhaps he went to sleep at night with those same words echoing in his ears which he used to deny Jesus.

So it is that the three questions of Jesus to Peter cannot help but be a means of erasing the three denials which Peter had previously made on that most dreadful night of Jesus arrest. Jesus now shows Peter that he does trust him, in spite of the denials which he made. The disappointing denials were a surprise for Peter, but they were not a surprise for Jesus, he had told Peter that this would happen. It was Peter who needed to let go of the past, not Jesus. If Jesus had not come to Peter that day then he might have stayed fishing in the boats on Galilee for the rest of his life. He would have been trapped in the bad memories of the past and spent the rest of his life trying the impossible task of burying his failure. Fortunately Jesus did come to Peter and as Jesus asks if Peter loves him, the three answers by Peter are received by Jesus with the sincerity in which they spoken. We might understand if Jesus had said something like ’well are you sure, you said all kinds of things before and you let me down?’ Jesus doesn’t, he asks Peter three times not because he doubts him the first or the second or the third time, but rather for the benefit of Peter, to show that what was in the past lies in the past and is forgotten.
Jesus is showing Peter that he trusts him in spite of failure and there is important work that he wants to share with Peter. There has been much speculation about the significance of the number of fish caught, the different Greek words used when Peter and Jesus speak about love, most of it is utterly ridiculous. What is of significance however is that Peter realises that Jesus forgives, that after all is why the crucifixion took place. Peter does nothing to earn the forgiveness of Jesus, it is just there and he needs to recognise it to enable him to heal the hurts and failures of the past and discover the new life and ministry which Jesus has for him. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

A Russian called Anthony Bloom was an atheist when he was a university student in Paris. Simply to please somebody, he attended a meeting to which a Russian priest had been invited. Anthony Bloom hated the thought of being there, and grew more and more annoyed at what he heard about Christ and Christianity. When he got back home he asked his mother for a copy of the Gospels, because he wanted to prove that the priest had been lying. Anthony decided to read quickly one of the Gospels. He counted the number of chapters in each of the four Gospels, and found that the Gospel of Saint Mark was the shortest - he didn’t want to waste too much time reading what he thought was rubbish! Before he reached the third chapter of Saint Mark’s Gospel, he became aware of a Presence on the other side of the table. He became so sure that the Presence was the Risen Jesus, that his life changed forever. He became a Christian, and later became a priest. He is now an archbishop in the Russian Orthodox Church. From having hated all that he thought Christianity was about, Anthony Bloom’s life changed when he had some kind of experience that Jesus was alive and was beside him.

Hymns

  1. Lift high the cross
  2. Give thanks
  3. Restore O Lord
  4. All I once held dear
  5. I heard the voice of Jesus say

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian. If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

O God, your Son remained with his disciples after his resurrection, teaching them to love all people as neighbours. As his disciples in this age, we offer our prayers on behalf of the universe in which we are privileged to live and our neighbours with whom we share it.

Guide us in the path of discipleship, so that, as you have blessed us, we may be a blessing for others,
bringing the promise of the kingdom near by our words and deeds. Amen.

God of victory over death, your Son revealed himself again and again, and convinced his followers of his glorious resurrection. Grant that we may know his risen presence, in love obediently feed his sheep, and care for the lambs of his flock, until we join the hosts of heaven in worshiping you and praising him who is worthy of blessing and honour, glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father we thank you that our lives are not without meaning and that you have a call for each one of us to be a part of your process of change in the world. Thank you that like Peter we are called by you and receive your strength as we seek to live out your calling for us. Help us to move past our failures and weaknesses so that we might be more faithful and follow you more closely day by day.

Additional Resources

Commentary

One aspect, which springs from the resurrection of Jesus, is that it has so much to do with new beginnings. The readings set for today are very much focused on the new beginning of Paul, or Saul, as he was then known, and also with the new beginning for Peter.

The call of St Paul on the road to Damascus is considered to be a classic example of a conversion experience, in which a person undergoes a profound change of mind. We can all imagine how Paul must have been terrified when he was struck blind, and how he must have wondered what was going to happen to him. Also, we can understand the hesitation of Ananias in not wanting to go and meet this man who had been so enthusiastic in the persecuting the followers of Jesus. We must admire the faith and courage of Ananias in going to meet Paul, and then all must have marvelled when Paul's conversion produced a complete turn-around in his behaviour, from being a persecutor of Christians to one of their greatest leaders and evangelists.

This account of Paul's experiences tells us what can happen when a person is confronted by the living Christ and makes a completely new beginning. But of course, at the centre of that new beginning is the image of the crucifixion, and we are reminded that the freshness of the new beginning comes in turn from the freshness of the resurrection life which itself was purchased at the cost of sacrificial love. This means that there is a connection between the self-disclosure of Jesus as 'the one whom you are persecuting' and his promise to Ananias 'I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name'. Clearly the servant will not be above his Master. This idea is developed in Revelations where there is praise at the vision of God: it is the Lamb who was slain who was considered worthy enough to receive 'power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing'.

In the passage from St John's Gospel we have another new beginning. Here, the disciples who knew and followed Jesus in his earthly life had returned to their old patterns of life. Could it be that Peter's decision to go fishing was really as a way of getting time to think things through, or a sort of cathartic activity? Could it be a desire to return to the old ways, when life, before Jesus' arrival, was that much less complicated and so much more secure? Or could it be that Peter had gone fishing simply because he needed something to eat? Whatever the reason, the incident set up the opportunity for an encounter between Jesus and his disciples, and provided the context in which Jesus was able to show himself to and renew his love, confidence and trust in Peter.

J. B. Phillips' translation of this chapter, I believe, got at the real meaning of the incident rather nicely when he wrote that Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him, and Peter replied, ' Yes, Lord, you know that I am your friend.' Jesus asked the question again, and again Peter replied, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I am your friend.' The third time, Jesus asked, 'Simon, son of John, are you my friend?' This caused Peter to feel deeply hurt because Jesus' third question used Peter's own language - 'Are you my friend?' - and Peter replied using the same expression, 'You know that I am your friend!'

The second way in which the language played an important part is when Jesus used different expressions in his conversation with Peter for the role he will play as the leader of the church and in exercising his pastoral care - 'feed my lambs', 'care for my sheep', and 'feed my sheep'.

In these passages, both Paul, the completely new, and Peter, the renewed, had their place in the work and mission of God; and both their 'newnesses' had their origin in the resurrection of Jesus, with whom everyday is a new beginning, every fall a new start, and every encounter an opportunity for conversation and deepening of the relationship.

If we look at Psalm 30, which will not be read during the services today, then it could almost have been written for these two disciples. The one whose misplaced zeal which led him to persecute and then suffer blindness, the other who denied Jesus and then ran away in great distress: for both, God, 'rich in mercy' restored them to life 'from among those gone down to the Pit'. Peter Littleford

Prayers

Lord Jesus - you come to us you confront us about how we are living our lives—you come and you challenge us, as you challenged Peter, to answer the question, "Do you love me?" Help us dear Lord to answer the question as did Peter—help us to answer it not only with words - but by how we care for one another - for how we feed one another—by how we tend one another. Make us disciples who are worthy of that title - make us a people who actually follow you—a people who actually learn from you—and most of all—a people who actually do what you want us to do - a people who feed and tend your sheep - both those within the fold - and those who are lost beyond its gates.

Loving Father - hear our prayers for those who would be enemies to you and to your church and to the love that we owe our brothers and sisters in this world. Bring them, as you brought Paul, to a deep love for your Son and our Redeemer.

Tender and Merciful Saviour - hear too our prayers at this time for all who need your healing and redeeming love to touch their lives in a special way, those we name in our hearts before you

We praise you, O Lord, for hearing us and calling us to come unto you. And we give you thanks for the challenge and for the assurance of our faith - the challenge to follow Jesus wherever he may lead, and the assurance we see in his life and death and resurrection. We thank you and we pray to you in his most glorious name. Amen

Gracious God, girded with gladness, we come rejoicing before you. You are the God of salvation. We give you praise. When we cry for help you hear us; from out of the pit you rescue us. You have turned our mourning into dancing, you have loosed our sackcloths and adorned us with favour. Today, O Lord, we raise our voices in faithful thanksgiving, in prayer, and in song. We ask that you would continue to grace us and that al we say and do in this place, and beyond it, give glory and honour to Your wondrous name. AMEN.

Wonderful God - stretch our understanding of your love - expand the size of our hearts - help us embrace your purpose for us - grant that we may grow beyond ourselves - and enter the fullness of your grace. We ask it in Jesus' name. - Amen

Lord, remind us that we must "be" the church if we are to "be the church" in mission. Help us to continue to grow in the likeness of Christ by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Only by continued growth in him can we be released for mission to the lost, the poor, the broken. We would be instruments, O God, of extending the ministry of Jesus and his kingdom for your good pleasure. To serve you all our days is our hearts' fervent desire. Amen.

Lord Jesus, we remember that you said that you would be with us, so we do know in our minds that you are present. But there’s a difference between knowing that you’re present and growing in the faith that you are beside us. We ask for the power of your Spirit in our lives each day, so that we may live more fully in your presence. Only then will our attitude and words and actions better reflect yours. Amen.

God of life and love, your son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread. Open our eyes that we may see him in his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Grant us, O Lord, to seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness. Out of the abundance of your grace, grant us sufficient light and strength for our journey. Forgive what we have been, sanctify what we are and order what we shall be, in you and for you, now and for ever. Amen Mary Tileston, 1820 -1895

O mighty God, it is in the struggles of our doubting that we are driven to discover the Living Word, Your Son Jesus, and to proclaim, "My Lord and My God!". May the blessings won in that struggle ever light our way. We ask through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Risen Lord. Amen.

 

Hymns

  1. We sing the praise of him who died
  2. Rejoice, rejoice
  3. Healing God almighty Father
  4. Dear Lord and Father
  5. Come and see the shining hope

Additional Material

Making mistakes does not mean we cannot continue to share with Christ in his work. We know this from our story from John’s Gospel this morning. Peter has made a phenomenal mistake. He was the one guaranteed not to let Jesus down. All the others would fail, but not Peter – or so he thought. Then it was Peter who denied Jesus three times. Fear took over, fear of loosing his life, fear of being associated with somebody who claimed to be God. Fear of standing up for what he knew to be true.
So Peter goes fishing, good idea! Get away from it all, catch food, make money – but more importantly try and hide away from the failure. Peter could never come to terms with letting Jesus down and failing to be the rock which Jesus wanted him to be.
It was at this time of despondency that Jesus comes to Peter and greets him whilst he is fishing. Peter might have expected that Jesus would choose somebody else, somebody less impulsive and more reliable. But Jesus doesn’t, he chooses Peter, with all of his failings and disappointments. You see Jesus was never actually let down by Peter. Jesus knew that Peter was asking too much of himself. Jesus knew that it was only if Peter relied upon and trusted him that he could ever succeed. He could never achieve what Jesus wanted of him in his own strength.
So here is Peter fishing all night and Jesus teaches him another lesson. Do as I say and you will catch the fish - and he does 153 of them. How many fish there are is probably irrelevant, but the fact that Peter only catches them when he follows the directions of Jesus is most certainly not. The point is that what matters is that we heed the voice of Christ. Past failure is not an indication of future performance in the Christian life, not unless we decide that to be the case.

So Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.
'Three times you have denied me Peter, three times will I affirm your love.'
The love of Peter was never in doubt by Jesus, but Jesus did understand the frailty of Peter. The frailty which brought about his denial and the frailty which no doubt prevented him from sleeping at nights as his words of betrayal echoed in his ears. So Jesus shows Peter that no record is kept of past wrongs, Jesus shows Peter that he trusts him, - yes, in spite of failure and there is important work that he wants to share with him.
There has been much speculation about the significance of the number of fish caught, and the different Greek words used when Peter and Jesus speak about love, what is of significance however is that Peter realises that Jesus forgives, that after all is why the crucifixion took place. Peter does nothing to earn the forgiveness of Jesus, it is just there and he needs to recognise it to enable him to heal the hurts and failures of the past and discover the new life and ministry which Jesus has for him.

The passage is about faithfulness and God’s trust and Jesus being there to help us pick up the pieces of our lives when everything is a mess. Peter let Jesus down, but even such a humbling experience did not preclude him from ministry. On the contrary it equipped him for it. Such a humbling experience would have established Peter far better for service in Christ's name. It is a simple case of gratitude, if we know our own lack of worth then we are not subject to illusions of self-worth and pride which inevitably causes us to think ourselves better than others. Those who are aware of their own sin and have felt God's forgiveness are inevitably the most tender, compassionate, and understanding of others who are bruised or weak. It is the self-righteous who are not suited to God's purpose. St. Isaac the Syrian taught,
"He who has seen himself as he is, and has seen his sin, is greater than the one who raises the dead"
When we are face up to and recognise our faults, then the opportunity comes for the spirit to change our practice of scorning, punishing and loathing weakness. St. Isaac went on,
"Purity of heart is love for those who fall".
This is a timely reminder to the church and for us when we think that purity is thinking our behaviour somewhat better in character than those around us. "Purity of heart is love for those who fall".
Peter is asked to love Jesus, so are we. That love is understood by Jesus, not in terms of a feeling, rather we display that love for Christ in how we love other people. This is what we are called to do. It is surely true that such a humbling experience of failure would have established Peter far better for service in Christ's name. So too those of us who are aware of our own sin and have felt God's forgiveness are inevitably the most tender, compassionate, and understanding of others who are bruised or weak. purpose. Do not allow personal fear and weakness, or past failure ever to hold you a prisoner to the past. Instead see it as a qualification, for you will never be ‘holier than thou.’ Christ uses Peter’s history of failure to equip him for the role of ministry and that ministry is to love. It is this command to love which must lie at the heart of the Christian life and without it there will be no Christian life. Charles Royden

 

Notes

"full of great fish, one hundred fifty-three" (v. 11b). Christians as early as Augustine have gone to great lengths trying to tease out the meaning of this number. They note that 153 is the sum of the numbers 1 through 17 (1+2+3...+17=153)––and that 17 is the sum of 7 and 10 (7+10=17)––and that 7 is the sum of 3 plus 4 (3+4=7). They then assign meanings to these various numbers: i.e., ten stands for the law (Ten Commandments); seven stands for grace or the sevenfold spirit of God (Revelation 1:4); three stands for the Trinity; four stands for the New Jerusalem, the city built foursquare.

Others resort to gematria, which assigns numerical values to letters of the Hebrew alphabet and attempts to find meaning in words where the letters add up to a particular value––in this case 153.

Jerome said that they caught one each of the 153 kinds of fish in the Sea of Galilee. If that is true, the symbolism would be that these fishermen––whom Jesus called to fish for people (Matthew 4:19)––are to fish for all kinds of people––the church is to exclude no repentant sinner. The Apostle Paul would later put it this way: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).



 

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