|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
April 22, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
Today is the Third Sunday of Easter, and the beginning of the third week of that wonderful season of the
year when not only our lessons, our vestments, our prayers, and our music proclaim the Resurrection
of Jesus Christ, but when we look outside – finally, after much delay – we find that the whole world
seems to be proclaiming the same thing: resurrection, return to life, rebirth! Such a beautiful time it is!
Actually, though, our lessons are about to change. It’s always struck me as rather odd that while the
Easter Season lasts 7 weeks, or so, our Gospel readings only stay with the resurrection, itself – with the
Resurrection appearances of our Lord – for a few Sundays.
Why we only spend three weeks on the appearances of our Lord among his friends, after his
Resurrection, I have never really understood, but I have my suspicions. I suspect it’s in part, at least,
because the Resurrection reports of the Bible are so confusing. With not a lot of agreement among
them, they are, themselves, a bit confused, and it’s probably just as well if we don’t go over all of them,
every year! If we read all of the Resurrection texts every year, I’m afraid we’d wind up really confused!
The women came to the tomb and found it empty; no, not empty – they found an angel inside; but, no,
not an angel: they met Jesus.
There were just the women there at the tomb; or, no, Peter went there, too!
When the women told the Apostles about the empty tomb the Apostles rejoiced; or no, they didn’t
believe them – they scoffed.
The Disciples waited for Jesus in Jerusalem. Or maybe not – maybe he went ahead to meet them in
Jesus first met his Disciples in the closed room; but, no, he walked with some of them on the road to
Emmaus and had supper with them…!
When we read all the Gospel accounts, we find there’s a lot of confusion among the stories and not a
whole lot of agreement. The variety of reports can seem an embarrassment to preachers, but it seems
to me they just serve as a reminder that the Gospels, themselves, were written down, long after the fact
– many decades, later – and that it can be difficult for the oral tradition to keep straight all of the non-
essential details of the stories it preserves – particularly the minor details of timing, of what came first,
or who, exactly, said what, and when!
Personally, I’ve always been convinced that Matthew had it about right in his Gospel, when the women
are told to deliver the message to the Apostles that Jesus had gone ahead of them to Galilee. And most
of the resurrection appearances actually make more sense if they happened in Galilee, rather than in
Jerusalem, which, of course, fits today’s gospel, and brings a different kid of sense to all these events.
The Apostles, you see, don’t seem, in this story from St. John, to be acting much like men who are
anxiously anticipating the next appearance of their resurrected teacher and Lord. They seem, rather,
like people who are at loose ends; people who have lost their direction, lost their hope, and have
decided to go home. To just go home! The story fits best with that thread of the Gospel confusion that
has the women relaying the Galilee message.
Imagine that the beginning of today’s Gospel actually takes place just a few days after the crucifixion of
Jesus. The women have been to the tomb, and they’ve come back and reported some mysterious
goings on – the tomb was open, and Jesus was missing. Someone was there and told them Jesus had
been raised! Could it have been an angel? Or was it Jesus? We’re not really sure.
But the Apostles, two of the Gospels tell us, didn’t believe the women: they scoffed.
So now there they sit, bereft of purpose, with their beloved leader dead; all their hopes that he was the
Messiah, dashed, along with their hopes of being party to the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, and
the conquest of the world! All those dreams of glory with the disputes over who would be top dog,
Dejected. Depressed. What are they going to do?
And Peter – ever the practical one, and ever the one to get it wrong! – comes up with the most practical
–and mistaken – solution to their quandary. “I don’t know what you all are doing,” he tells his friends,
“but I’m going fishing!”
“I’m going fishing.”
Now realize, please – he’s not saying let’s take some time off, a little vacation; he’s not saying, “Hey, it’s
trout season, let’s go catch us a few!” No, no! These men were fishermen, remember, when Jesus
called them. When they talk of going fishing, they’re talking of going back to the work they knew! Back
to the life they knew!
“It’s over,” Peter’s telling them; “it’s done. The dreams were just that – dreams. He’s dead, he’s gone. It’
s finished. We were fools. And there’s only one thing left for us, now – and that’s back to reality; back to
the life we had before we got swept up in these foolish dreams. You guys can do what you want. I’m
And that’s what they do. They leave Jerusalem, their hopes and thir dreams behind, and they go up to
the Galilee, to the land of their birth, and they go back to work – they go fishing!
And suddenly, there’s Jesus!
NOT the Jesus who called them to ministry; NOT the Jesus who healed the sick, turned water into wine,
taught on the hillsides, and tried to make them better men than they ever thought they could be. That
Jesus, yes, but so much more. So much more!
This is a Jesus who yes, sort of looks and sounds like the other Jesus – the “old” Jesus – but doesn’t,
really; who talks like him – but doesn’t, really!
This is a Jesus who comes to them in the midst of a locked room – and leaves them there; a Jesus who
says look at my body – but your finger in the nail holes in my hands; put your hand in the spear hole in
my side, and know that I am Jesus; a Jesus who eats fish with his friends; but then disappears before
their very eyes.
This is the RISEN Jesus, the perfected Jesus, the Glorified Jesus! The same Jesus, yes – and a very
One person that hasn’t changed, certainly, is Peter. In this morning’s Gospel, Peter is so typically Peter!
As usual, he just doesn’t get it; just doesn’t understand what’s going on; doesn’t “get” Jesus, or
anything he’s been talking about for all these months and years! Doesn’t even get what he’s seen with
his own eyes!
But THIS time, we can be a little kinder to Peter. This time we can understand! How Could he have
understood what Jesus was talking about? How Could he have expected what was happening.
“I go a’fishing”, is the way the King James Version puts Peter’s words, and I love that translation, here –
so simple, so direct; so like Peter: “I go a’ fishing.”
Of course, Peter doesn’t “go a’fishing,” doesn’t go back to his old life –at least not for long. Peter goes
out into the world; Peter serves the risen Lord; Peter becomes a fisher of men, and along with his
sometime friend and partner, Paul, turns the whole world upside down.
Peter didn’t “go a’ fishing,” for the rest of his life! How could he, knowing what he discovered that day –
that day when the risen Lord called out to him; that day when the risen Lord made himself known to
him? How could any person turn back to the ordinary? How could anyone – even thick-headed Peter –
simply walk away from the life Jesus called him to? How could he?
How could we?
Knowing the Truth of Christ Jesus; knowing that he lived on this earth, for us, taught for us, prayed for
us, lived for us, gave himself for us, to suffer for us, to die for us! And knowing that he rose, victorious
from the dead for us, how can we choose NOT to follow him; Not to turn our lives around; not to follow
him with all that is in us. How could we?
How could people just go on living their lives as if the Resurrected Jesus makes no difference; how
could their lives – their hopes, their fears, their goals, their ambitions, their strivings – Not be
Hearing Him call to us, as he called to his Apostles across the waters, calling us to follow him; calling us
to love his children and to serve them; calling us to walk in the ways he shows us, how could we say, “I
go a’fishing?” How?
In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.