April 11, 2021
God fill this sermon and us with your grace. Amen.
Impractical Jokers is a hidden camera reality TV show. 4 friends who dare each other to do crazy things. One of the guys, Joe Gatto is dared to find a non-existent fictitious guy named Larry. He runs around in desperation during the scene just frantically looking for Larry, screaming out that name each time he runs by like it’s a matter of life-or-death. You’ll need that visual later.
Speaking of Larry, there’s a film my wife and I enjoy called Parenthood from 1989. As you may have guessed from the title it is a family movie about the various stages of human development and unfolding psychology. The Buckman family is the main focus.
Frank Buckman is the father of four but we’re only going to focus on his sons for now. He has two sons Gil and Larry who are grown men. Gil got very sick as a child, so Frank distanced himself from the reality of possibly losing his son. This also distanced him from a close relationship with Gil. Larry is the youngest and gets a much larger and undeserved share of his father’s attention and love. Larry develops low self-control and becomes a compulsive liar and gambling addict.
Frank continually makes excuses and financial sacrifices for his no-good disobedient son. In one powerful scene Frank realizes his youngest son Larry is a lost cause and he then turns his focus to caring for Larry’s out-of-wedlock son named Cool. Cool as a noun denotes detachment. His son appears to be named as an afterthought or an adjective. Larry cares more about gambling and lies than being a good parent. Frank learns late in life that there is a fine line between over-parenting and under-parenting. There is also a clear Larry theme going on here.
The name Larry is from the name Lawrence. Lawrence originated from Lazarus which means “God helped.” Other more modern meanings are “the shining one” and “the bright crown.” This Larry stuff will come into play later.
Eleven chapters before our Gospel reading, Jesus said “I and The Father are One.” Time to get into today’s Gospel and let’s see what kind of Father Jesus is with His boys.
Jesus told His disciples to go to a mountain in Galilee and to wait for Him once He had risen. They’ve been visited by the risen Christ, so they know it’s time to do what they were told. Let’s see how His boys did with these simple instructions.
Peter decides to go fishing. Peter goes back to his old line of work. He goes back to fishing for a living and several of the other apostles decide to go along with him. WHAT??? Not one of them mentioned the previous instructions?
Ever give up on waiting for God? Waiting for His timing as opposed to ours? How many times do we decide to stick to our own plan instead of God’s? Who can relate to Peter? I sure can. Peter sure messes up a lot and he does it loudly.
He can’t seem to control his temperament, his impulsiveness or his mouth. I’ve been guilty of all three of those myself. How about you? Ever let your emotions get the better of you? Did something you regretted? Said something you wish you could take back? Are we all disobedient Larry’s?
Here we see several lost and confused apostles completely turned away from Jesus. They go back to what they know. A boatful of Larry’s.
They left from the shore at Capernaum in a small fishing boat. A good fisherman can catch a half ton of fish over the course of the 12-hour night when the fish are most active. The apostles had a rough night and caught nothing. Nada, zip, zero, ziltch. Not even a little sardine. The Larry’s gambled and lost. Did you ever have a time when the best laid plans didn’t go your way?
At sunrise, Jesus, the Risen Son, the Light of the World, calls out to them from the shore. I believe the correct translation to be, “Little boys, do you have anything to eat?” Of course, they answer, “No.” They don’t recognize His voice and are unable to see Him as the rising sun is at His back. Sometimes when we turn away, we can miss His signs for us. Jesus calls out to them again, “Cast your net on the right side and you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
What would we do? You just had a bad night. Your best efforts came up empty. Then some wise guy you don’t know decides to tell you how to do your job. How’s your patience? I would probably yell back to this wise-guy, “I did cast on the right side! I cast it left, right, front and back all over this lake for the last 12 hours! Where were you?” Many of us Larry’s turn our back on God and then lash out at Him! As if He wasn’t there the whole time with you desperately waiting for you to turn to Him for help.
But these are the apostles. Something stirs in them. It reminds them of another time when something similar happened. A life changing day for at least most of them. This morning they actually listen. These disobedient men suddenly obey. They cast the net! Grasp the beauty of that! They cast the net! They listen to Jesus!
What happens when we follow God’s word? Let’s see what happens when God is involved. They don’t hesitate and they cast the net and immediately it is filled with fish! It is filled as filled can be! They confess. They obey. Then abundance! His Grace! An abundance of His Grace! Remember, the name Larry comes from Lazarus which means, “God helped!” You go fishing with God as the Captain and, to quote the movie Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Then John tells Peter, “It is The Master!” Peter puts on his armor of God symbolism and leaps faithfully into the water and starts swimming to shore. The other 6 apostles follow in the little ship struggling with the net of fish.
Now, imagine this. Get your senses going here. Visualize this beautiful and amazing scene. A dazzling Spring-time sunrise on a beautiful hilly beach filled with dark rocks and flowing green grass. The light-colored sand. The calm, clear water. The soothing rhythm of the soft waves gently crashing on the shore. Migrating birds sweetly singing their morning songs. The fresh, crisp morning air with hints of summer running its warm fingers through it. Then the aroma of cooked fish and baking bread.
Wrap your head around that. What does the smell of a fresh breakfast do for you when you’ve had a rough night? I’m not much for fish but the smell of freshly baked bread can get me salivating pretty quickly. Once that bread starts to brown. Wow.
Then there’s God! God Himself in the form of Jesus. Sitting on a large stone next to the charcoal grille with His giant therapeutic smile of eternity. Imagine God’s smile. Do you even need anything else? Well, there’s more. He has a perfect miracle breakfast ready. Each serving perfect for the individual apostle about to receive it. A complete sensory overload of wonderful! A tsunami of perfection and glory!
Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed, Hallelujah! They were together for the Last Supper now we have the First Breakfast of their coming eternity. It is the most important meal!
He is the patient, loving and ever-teaching Father to His disobedient boys. The perfect balance of parenting. Hold onto your hats because it only gets better. Jesus then simply says, “Bring the fishes from your net.”
Peter steps up and drags the net onto the beach! WHAT??? Think about this for a second. 6 men were just struggling to drag this net in the water where it is lighter due to buoyancy. Peter just goes and drags it onto the beach by himself! More miracles are still happening here! The strength of His Grace at work!
Then the fish are counted. 153 large fish! There are many ideas given for this number from multiple sources. But I’m only going to share what I think the number means. But, first things first, these large fish in the Sea of Galilee are Biny Barbel Carp that are the length of your arm and weigh anywhere from 10 – 15 lbs. Peter just dragged a wet ton of fish onto the beach! Instead of Simon, Peter or “The Rock” maybe we should call him Samson! Two nights worth of fish in one net and the net didn’t break! Miracle after miracle after miracle! God’s overwhelming provision when we obey and follow His lead instead of our own plans!
At this point, none of them have dared to approach Jesus at His Holy hibachi. They’re busy being shocked and awed in the most perfect way! They’re deer trapped in the His Holy Headlights! Jesus and our yellow sun were overloading their little human eyes filling their little human brains just like the fish net.
Jesus excitedly calls out to them, “Come and have breakfast!” They know this is Jesus now. The poor, tired boys are still too stunned to move. So, Jesus gets up and brings fish and bread to them. Wow! If I were only a fraction of the Father God is!
This beautiful, intimate, personal and special attention given to His lost boys. Like the Father running to the prodigal son. Like the Good Shepherd chasing after the one lost lamb. God is frantically running after us, arms pinwheeling, legs pumping, screaming, “Larry!” He causes us to shine and give us our bright crowns. As Larry originates from Lazarus, we need to die to self in order to rise again in the Lord! God’s love is greater than the tiny fishnet of our hearts! We focus on what we can’t do instead of what He can do with us!
On shore it is revealed there were 153 large fish. I feel this is symbolism of us entering Heaven and standing before God. All the people whose lives we’ve helped point to Jesus revealed before our patient, loving and proud Father.
Imagine God’s giant shining refrigerator. Your smiling picture on it with all the gold stars for each soul you assisted in pointing to Him. Or all our plus ones for the Wedding Feast! Whatever works best for you. We need to stop chasing after our inner Larry’s and focus on all things JESUS and scripture. His Word. Let’s get our Gospel on and be fishers of men, women and children! Go get your Gospel on!