Do you remember the heroes of your youth? Who doesn’t remember the original Superman, Kent Clark? Or the Lone Ranger and Tonto? In the 70’s the Star Wars characters were larger than life. We could name many. Today I understand Captain Marvel is all the rage. Between the comic books and the latest movie about Captain Marvel, the origins of her superpowers may have shifted, but Captain Marvel’s purpose is clear: to save humanity by any means.
In our Gospel reading this week, in which the resurrected Jesus appears, we see a hero who came to save humanity. We don’t need to go to the local movie theatre to recognize a hero when we see one. A hero is someone who operates with courage and does something out of the ordinary for the sake of others. Heroes consider the welfare of others before their own. Just like the young man in this latest shooting, who runs up and tackles the gunman, losing his own life, but saving many others. When I saw this on television, the scripture verse came to me, “No greater love has anyone than to lay down his or her life for someone else.”
And heroes know that the most important thing is not their fame but their deeds and their intentions. That’s what we see in the resurrected Jesus: a REAL hero, not one made up by writers of science fiction or writers of comic books. The one who died and then rose again is now showing his heroic self to his disciples, yet again.
Jesus has already shown himself to his disciples earlier, as you recall from last week’s gospel reading; now he shows up again to seven of them. These seven disciples have gone fishing, and they have been out all night trying to catch something so that they can earn their living. They are working the night shift in order to make ends meet—and despite their best efforts, they have caught nothing.
The disciples are working, but there is no evidence of their work. Often we feel as if we’ve worked hard and done everything that we can. We’ve pulled the night shift; we’ve put in our overtime. But there is no evidence of what we have done. We pour all our energy into a project, a relationship, a job, and still it seems as if we are no better off than we were when we first started.
But God sends a hero. Heroes, of course, rarely come in a red cape or a black panther suit; they don’t usually carry shields or swords or giant hammers. What they do is change lives for the better—sometimes with nothing but a word of advice or encouragement. Are we listening?
The disciples are working and coming up empty, and here comes a man. We readers know it is Jesus, but the disciples have no idea who it is. This man is on the shore while the disciples are still out on the water in their boat. He asks them, “Do you have any food?”
Their answer is no. They do not have food—neither the food they need to trade and sell for their survival as fishermen, nor food in the form of a simple meal they need for their own bodies. They have nothing, even though they’ve worked hard all night, and they are ready to call it a night and bring in the boat. But now Jesus, whom they still do not recognize, tells them to do something different. He says, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat.” That is, that is the right-hand side, not meaning necessarily the correct side of the boat.
In sailing terms, the disciples have been casting their net on the port side all night, and Jesus tells them to switch to the starboard. Seems like a simple change. But often all it takes is a simple
change to make a great difference in an outcome. And it takes Jesus to introduce something new into the disciples’ routine.
They change their routine; they try something different. And when they try something different, as suggested by the man they think is a stranger, the disciples increase their haul and their assets, in ways they do not yet comprehend. It’s when they do this that they receive the revelation that Jesus, their savior and hero, is in their midst. Only when they are open to something (and someone) new do they realize that Jesus is with them. He saves the day (and the night). He is the hero who rescues the disciples from the failed efforts of their routine.
What is it that we need to change? As individual Christians? As a member of a family? As a church family? As a faith community? What can we do differently that will make a big difference in our lives, in our church, and in our community? Are there people whom God sends to help us, but because we do not recognize them as God’s agents, or because we are so set in our ways, that we are not open to their being the heroes that just might be messengers from God sent to help us?
One of the things I find most interesting in this story is that this is not even the first time Jesus, the risen hero, has appeared to these disciples. In Chapter 20 the disciples were hiding in fear behind locked doors, and suddenly Jesus just appears in their midst. Just like that—now that’s superhero stuff. Are the disciples now so consumed with what they lack—the much needed fish that they still cannot see what they have? They have a risen savior, an all-powerful one, a God sent hero!
We’re a bit like them. We become so consumed with a problem or a lack, that we fail to see the opportunities and miracles that God sends our way. It’s like the man caught in a terrible flood. Alerts on the radio and television, and by megaphones tell people to leave their homes and seek refuge, because of a terrible storm that promises severe flooding. The man doesn’t leave, thinking, “God will save me.”
Well, the waters come, and the first floor of his house is flooded, so he moves to the second floor. A rescue team calls out to him to come out and get into their boat so he can be moved to safety. He says, “No, I’m waiting for God to save me.”
The flood rises to the second floor and he moves to the roof. A helicopter lowers a ladder to him and tells him to climb up to safety. He says, “No, God will save me.”
Finally the flood overtakes the man and his house and he drowns. When he gets to heaven he is angry with God for not saving him. God tells him, “I sent warnings, I sent a boat, I sent a helicopter.”
Friends, we have seen God’s awesome and heroic works in the past. Let us remember God’s ability to show up in every situation when we put our trust in God. May all of us be faithful to cast all our care on God, and believe that God is able to meet our needs and be with us in the storms of our lives.
The God that raised Jesus from death to new life is able to handle all of our personal, family, church, and community needs when we put our faith in God and trust in God’s promises, love and faithfulness, and when we stop fighting against the agents and messages that God sends to bless us and through us, others. Remember, if we love Jesus, he calls us to feed his sheep. Amen.
*Resource: “Living By The Word,” Lisa D. Jenkins, The Christian Century, April 24, 2019.