April 10, 2016
Text: Acts 9:1-20
Who Are You?
Read Revelations 5:11-14. While here on earth, we can only know in part- the fullness of who God is-His holiness and glory- his righteousness and power-but in the presence of God in heaven, there is a continuous, spontaneous, outpouring of praise and worship to God.
In the meantime, Jesus invites us to walk each day closer to our God and fall in love with Him more and more each day. Why are we here this morning? There are many good answers-to learn more about Jesus- to be strengthened and challenged, and built up. But the main reason we come is to simply come to Jesus-just as we are- to lay our burdens down- to repent of our wrong doings and receive his forgiveness in return. We come to learn of and receive His love-to walk closer and closer to Him each day. Pray.
As the disciples were trying to understand what had happened the last week or so, the memory of that Friday when Jesus hung on a cross hung over them like a bad dream while the reality of Easter morning hadn’t yet fully sunk in. They didn’t know what to do- and so they went fishing. Fishing was something they knew- something they could do without thinking- and yet, ironically, it gave them much time to think.
They fished all night- and yet caught nothing. Before they knew it, the morning light had broken through the darkness with a new day.
On the distant shore, they heard a man call out to them. “you have no fish have you?” Reluctantly they replied: “no”. “Try throwing your nets to the right side and you will find some.” Really? But they did- and immediately, their nets were filled with fish-overflowing- just like that- just as he had said.
When they came to shore, they found the man was cooking fish over a charcoal fire-and were invited to sit down and eat. Afraid to ask “who are you?”-they ate quietly- but they knew in their hearts that it was Jesus. They just hadn’t expected to see Jesus at that time and at that place.
In Acts, we read about an angry man- a man who was breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He was a man driven with a passion to persecute the followers of the Way as they were known as- followers of Jesus- and he hated them. As a devoted Pharisee, Saul had always considered Jesus to be only a man- a leader of people who was now dead. Saul thought that would be the end of it- but to his frustration, it hadn’t stopped His followers from telling others about Jesus- in fact, it they were even more emboldened to tell everyone that Jesus was no dead- but was risen from the dead and alive!
Saul was on his way to Damascus to seek out those followers and bring back to Jerusalem. But something happened on the way. He was struck down by a bright light-and a voice asking him- “why are you persecuting me?” Saul replied back- “who are you Lord?” “I am Jesus, who you persecute.” For all that time, Saul thought he knew who Jesus was- but now he asked: “who are you Lord?” When he least expected it, in a least expected place, He had met Jesus his lord and savior for the first time.
What do these two different stories have in common? On one hand there was the disciples, who had walked with Jesus more closely than anyone else and Saul, who was a persecutor of anyone professing to know Jesus? It is about a question we should all never stop asking and never stop seeking the answers to- and that is: “who are you Lord?”
We learn the answer to that question from others as we hear them talk of how God gave them strength and peace in a difficult time. We learn from our personal experiences as we remember similar times in our lives of how God has taught us about his love and grace. We learn the answer to that question in God’s word as we read about what God has to say about himself. It is not facts we seek alone- but facts about someone we are learning to know and love. It is from Jesus himself that we learn who he is.
We cannot predict when and where Jesus will teach us a truth about himself or when we will be challenged to trust him with everything. As a pastor, I would like to hope one of those times would be while listening to a sermon in church. We come to church expecting God to speak to us while hearing the lessons, confessing or faith together, praying together, and hearing the proclaimed word of God.
And although God certainly speaks to us in church, praise God, Jesus is not confined to four walls. Many times we learn who Jesus is on a deeper level when we least expect it-while experiencing life in the middle of out questions-in a hospital room, in a waiting room, even in the middle of the routines of everyday life.
I remember one year when Josh was in high school football. The coach and his wife were excited about the birth of their first child. Towards the end of the season- in the middle of all the excitement of a winning season, his wife had a miscarriage. It was devastating to say the least. Later that fall at the annual banquet, the coach got up- and with moist eyes said this: “I used to think football was life- but now I understand football is not life- but about life.” It is in those unexpected and difficult times that we learn to trust Jesus on a deeper level than we ever had before.
Saul was looking for meaning and purpose in life in a cause- to live for the law by persecuting the followers of the way. And it was while he was doing that- that Jesus called him- and he realized it was Jesus he was looking for all along- and while he was yet a sinner, God called this most unlikely man by our standards to speak the gospel of grace through faith in a powerful way to the world. Who would have thought- who are you Lord?
Billy Graham called God “the hound of heaven”. Always seeking us out, always calling us to know him better, to trust him and follow him- the most unlikely people by our standard- and even a sinner like me.
Back to the disciples eating breakfast with Jesus. Their encounter was not a nostalgic meeting to reminisce about the good old days-it was not about the past- but about the future and the rest of their lives. Jesus was there to teach them. Out of nowhere it seemed- Jesus asked Simon- “do you love me? Do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than what you do- or your personal dreams? Peter probably thought: “Why would you ask me such a question- of course I love you. You know I love you.” Then feed my lambs- Jesus told him.
A second time Jesus asked him- “do you love me? Peter answered- yes- you know that I love you-. then tend my sheep.
For a third time, Jesus asked him- Peter- do you love me? “You know I love you- you know everything. Feed my sheep. It is a question Jesus asks us this morning- do you love me? And if you do, does it make a difference in your life? – your priorities, your motivation for doing things, what you love more than anything? Then teach each other- care for each other, be my hands and feet and heart of compassion. In short- follow me.
Three years earlier, Peter heard that same invitation at a time when Peter knew nothing about Jesus and yet followed by faith- and now he was hearing Jesus say it again- now that he knew who Jesus is, -after all he had learned- he hears the invitation- or is it a command? “follow me.”
Do you love me? Follow me. In Jesus name, Amen.