3rd Sunday of Easter – C LSB #’s 905, 485 tune 901, 917
Text – John 21:5-6
Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered Him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, & you will find some.” So they cast it, & now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
A GLASS HALF EMPTY OR A GLASS HALF FULL
Who of you has not heard the illustration about a glass with a liquid in it that is at the 50% level? Some people describe that glass as half empty. Those are the pessimists. Others see that glass as being half full. They are the optimists. So what does a practical person say, upon looking at the very same glass? “Are you going to drink that?”
As the Apostle John records this Gospel event, he doesn’t even admit to the glass being half empty. He puts it very bluntly: “They went out & got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” (John 21:3c ESV) Not even one little fish that was so tiny it had to be tossed back into the sea. Zero! They struck out, & were in the process of going home.
They had failed miserably, & St. John highlights that failure. Was he being a pessimist? Since God teaches that every Word in the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, is God being a pessimist? How about you, in your life of faith in Christ, are you also a pessimist? Is the glass mostly half-empty when you tell others the story of your life?
This will be kind of pointed, but haven’t you been there while a friend is describing something negative that happened & another person pops up with these words, “That’s the story of my life!” They aren’t talking about a glass that’s half-full, are they?
Relating to each other’s suffering is a good thing in many respects. It creates a sort of comradery that strengthens & encourages each other. Knowing that we’re not alone in our struggles is helpful in resisting the temptations to surrender or despair. But can the glass half-empty seriously be the story of any Christian’s life? We should be careful how “caught up” we get in that sort of viewpoint, because St. John also recorded these words of Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal & kill & destroy; I have come that they may have life, & have it to the full.” If we come at life from the glass is half-empty viewpoint, Satan may have already stolen our Savior’s promises from us.
Looking at the glass as half-empty can make for some hilarious jokes, which lighten the mood & relieve the tension. We can also cross that fine line from relieving tension to creating more of it through ignoring, or even denying, the blessings that our Father in heaven offers to you & to me each & every day of our lives.
Jesus was not lying, or even exaggerating, when He said, “I have come that they may have life, & have it to the full.” A persistent rejection of that Word brings the opposite of life, which is death. If you are looking at your life & honestly see it as only half-full, there’s a sense in which you are rejecting the Words & promises of Christ.
The basic premise of John’s Gospel is the promise of life given to us by the Son of God, who is our Lord & Savior. The promise 1st appears in 1:4, “In [the Son of God] was life, & the life was the light of men.” In chapter 14 is the famous, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, & the truth, & the life.’” (v. 6a ESV)
In chapter 20, St. John gives the very purpose for his Gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, & that by believing you may have life in His name.” (v. 30-31 ESV)
Most Christians get that following Jesus leads to life, yet we tend to corral that ‘life’ off into eternity. It’s a blessing we trust in seeing one day, but don’t consider that life to be real in the here & now. On an everyday basis, we don’t understand that life with our mind. We don’t see it with our eyes. We don’t feel it with our heart. So we tend to look at our circumstances as children of God in this world as half-empty, rather than half-full. The disciples of Jesus had the same problem after the initial excitement of their Lord’s resurrection wore off. They were happy He was alive, but they weren’t seeing any real changes in their circumstances.
They still feared for their lives. They didn’t feel powerful or invincible. Almost no one else was following Jesus’ teaching, & they had no jobs or income. So they try to go fishing, something they used to be good at, spend all night working, & catch not one single fish. It had to be disheartening & embarrassing.
Now, there’s some impetuous stranger on shore yelling out to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Anyone with a half a mind about fishing could tell by the way the boat was riding in the water their expedition had produced one more failure. Was the glass half-empty, or half full? You tell me!
So another way you can read verse 5 is that Jesus is rubbing in the fact that His disciples failed to catch a single fish. In today’s language we might say Jesus is throwing His disciples under the bus. It’s generally thought of as not a very nice thing to do. So why would Jesus do it, & why would St. John record that fact?
His Gospel is highlighting, himself included, the failure of the disciples to catch any fish. Since He’s God, it’s difficult to believe that Jesus is being a pessimist. Since He willingly died for us, it’s not likely He’d throw other people under the bus just to make Himself feel better.
People see the glass as half-empty because they are used to motives corrupted by sin & quickly jump to a conclusion. Jesus, & the people who follow Him, can’t be trusted to cover up their sin. I think that’s one reason so many people, Democrats & Republicans, are afraid of Donald Trump. If he’s elected, they can’t trust him to cover up their sin. He might even rat them out & expose their corruption. If the lifelong politicians & bureaucrats think their glass is half-empty now, just wait until all that happens. There will be failure exposed on a massive scale far beyond that of the Veterans Administration or the Internal Revenue Service. Our system is so corrupt because way too many people are no longer depending on Jesus for life.
That is the main point which the Gospel reading from John revolves around. When Jesus enters the scene, & His disciples heed His voice, we see these fisherman overwhelmed with God’s abundant supply. By the mere word of His voice, Jesus brings about transition & change in the lives of those who listen to, & obey, His Words.
Yes, there is no such thing as heaven on earth, but there is life, & that is life as God defines it, creates it & blesses it. As Jesus spent 40 days & nights fasting in the wilderness, Satan tempts Him with the premise that food is life. The devil suggests that Jesus turn stones into bread so He can eat, & have life.
Jesus’ godly reply is that man does not live by bread alone. Instead, man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. So as the disciples listen to the words of Jesus, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, & you will find some,” when they do it, “they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.”
The reason we so often see the glass as half-empty is that we evaluate our circumstances with very different criteria than our heavenly Father does. If you’ve ever noticed it, the Gospel of John adds something unique to the account of the feeding of the 5000. Matthew, Mark & Luke do not record it. The closing verse in John says,
“Perceiving then that they were about to come & take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” (John 6:15 ESV) In the minds of the people who were fed, the life Jesus gave them was merely physical. They did not at all grasp the spiritual dimensions of what Jesus had just done. He’d given them a taste of heaven, here on earth. When Jesus was transfigured, He gave Peter, James & John, a taste of heaven here on earth. When Jesus performed any of His miracles, people were seeing a glimpse of heaven, here on earth. For the most part, none of them get it, until the Day of Pentecost arrives.
Even after hearing today’s Gospel lesson, all of us will struggle to get it. The life Jesus promised to give us, is so far beyond what we can see, & hear & feel, that even when we have that life, we seldom know it. Our glass is full to overflowing, yet we don’t recognize the signs. We see only a glass half-empty & fail to be satisfied or thankful.
When St. Paul writes that we live by faith, not by sight, this Gospel lesson is one of the circumstances Paul is referring to. We already now have life to the full, but we rarely experience it in those terms here on earth. Jesus highlights the failure of the disciples to catch any fish at all, not to throw them under the bus, but for the purpose of highlighting how God does provide.
Whether it’s surgery, or cancer, a leaky roof, or a divorce custody arrangement for the children… How do you tell the stories of your life? For what purpose do you tell the stories of your life? Is it to gain sympathy, or to highlight Jesus & the work He does? Do you tell your stories to frighten people, or make them laugh, or to showcase the promise of life Jesus gives?
The Son of God never covers up our sins, as many politicians do. Jesus actually pays the penalty for them & then forgives us for our sins. He calls out the disciples on their failure to catch fish on their own, so they confess their need & notice all the more clearly that Jesus, with no effort at all, provided everything they needed to sustain them physically & spiritually.
The disciples fished all night & caught nothing. Then the Word of Jesus fills the nets! Heaven will be a celebration like that for all of eternity, forever & ever. Today, tomorrow, & the next day, whenever we lack anything, faith included, our Lord comes to us, supplies our need, & restores us to fellowship with Him. He points out our failures only so we can confess them, turn away from them, & turn back to Jesus. Whenever we struggle to confess our sins, it is always because we’re seeing the glass as half-empty. That is the thief at work, stealing, killing & destroying. The answer – turn to Jesus that you may have life, & have it to the full.
Are you going to drink that? Amen.
Long before the world is waking, morning mist on Galilee, from the shore, as dawn is breaking, Jesus calls across the sea; hails the boat of weary men, bids them cast their net again. So they cast, & all their heaving cannot haul their catch aboard; John in wonder turns, perceiving, cries aloud, “It is the Lord!” Peter waits for nothing more, plunges in to swim ashore. Charcoal embers brightly burning, bread & fish upon them laid: Jesus stands at day’s returning in His risen life arrayed; as of old His friends to greet, “Here is breakfast; come & eat.” Christ is risen! Grief & sighing, sins & sorrows, fall behind; fear & failure, doubt, denying, full & free forgiveness find. All the soul’s dark night is past, morning breaks in joy at last. Morning breaks, & Jesus meets us, feeds & comforts, pardons still; as His faithful friends He greets us, partners of His work & will. All our days, on ev'ry shore, Christ is ours for evermore! Amen. LSB 485:1-5
 John 10:10 NIV
 John 21:6 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet