Christ Above All
Robert C. Shannon
(c)opyright 1989, Robert C. Shannon.
Come and Dine

    On the last page of his Gospel, John paints for us one of the most enchanting pictures in the New Testament.  It is the morning after the resurrection.  The disciples of Jesus, Peter and his friends, had gone back to their old profession of fishing.  Early in the morning Jesus met them by the sea.
He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"

    "No," they answered.

    He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

    Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!"  As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord" he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.
                                                                                                                                            (John 21:5-7, NIV)

    Have you ever tried to swim with your clothes on?  The apostle Peter, out of his respect for the Lord, would not stand before him as he did before his fellows.  He put on his garments to meet Jesus.

    But the other disciples came in the little boat.  For they were not far from the land, but about 100 yards away, dragging the net full of fish.  So, when they got out upon the land they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it and bread.

Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught."

    Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore.  It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."
                                                                                                           (John 21:10-12a, NIV)

    We are impressed that the resurrected Lord would put aside for awhile the pressing business of the kingdom to fix breakfast for His disciples by the sea.  Some of us are in such a hurry we don't even eat breakfast at all.  The resurrected Christ not only had time to eat breakfast, but He had time to fix breakfast for the disciples.

    A long time ago somebody said to me, "I never read where God got in a hurry."  Dorothy Sayers wrote, "We cannot imagine Jesus hurrying.  We cannot imagine Paul not hurrying."  We are impressed here with the unhurried Christ.

    In only a few days He would say to the disciples, "Wait."  That must have been the most difficult command He ever gave them:  "Wait."  They were caught up in the enthusiasm of the resurrection.  They were anxious to go and preach the gospel to every creature.  Their hearts burned with the message.  He said to them, "Wait."

    Between the ascension of our Lord and the day of Pentecost when the church began, there were ten days.  During those ten days, the disciples had to wait and to pray.  The Lord gave them a ten-day vacation.

    Once a minister was criticized by a member of his church for taking a vacation.  The member said, "How can you take a vacation from the Lord's work?  Don't you know the Devil never takes a vacation?"

    The minister said, "Yes. That's what makes him so mean."

    The disciples got a ten day vacation.  So, we see the unhurried Christ.  We see the humble Christ who builds the fire and cleans the fish and cooks the breakfast.  Some ladies are married to fishermen.  Let me ask you, who cleans the fish?  Everybody likes to catch fish.  Everybody likes to eat fish.  Nobody likes to clean fish.  Jesus did it!

    We want to see not only Christ here, but those others gathered about the fire.  We want to see ourselves here.  Let us sit down on a stone or squat by the fire and see if we can get the feel of this situation.  Do you think it was a solemn occasion?  Do you think it was a joyous occasion?  Do you think they slapped each other on the back and laughed?  Or do you think they sat in reverent awe of the miracle that they had seen?

    What do you think they talked about that morning by the sea?  Do you think they talked about theology?  Do you think that they discussed some great doctrine and asked Jesus to explain the finer points of it?  Do you think they talked about evangelism and made their plans for telling others about the resurrection?  Do you think they decided who would go east and who would go west and how the job would be done?

    Perhaps they made small talk; the kind of small talk people make when there are weighty subjects on their minds, but they are not yet ready to discuss them.  Maybe they made small talk.  Maybe they talked about the weather and the fish.  Maybe they wondered if they had ever caught bigger or tasted better.

    Perhaps they said nothing at all.  Perhaps the meal was eaten in silence; an embarrassed silence or a reverent silence.  Perhaps the only sounds were the crackling of the fire and the slapping of the waves on the rocks.  We don't know, of course.  Your guess is as good as mine.  But it's good for us to speculate about it.

    We have only one little slice of conversation out of that event, and that was perhaps a private conversation between Jesus and Peter.

     Jesus said, "Do you love me?"

    Peter said, "You know I love you."

     Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

    Beyond that we do not know what conversation took place, if any.  But we do know this.  This was one of those rare occasions when Jesus was the host.  Often Jesus was the guest.  He was the guest of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus at Bethany.  He was the guest of Simon. He was the guest of Zacchaeus.  He was guest of many another.  Often He was the guest.  Seldom was He the host.

    I can think of one event before this one in which Jesus was the host.  It was that night in the upper room when they celebrated the Passover and He gave the Lord's supper to His disciples and to us.  I can think of one subsequent to this when Jesus was the host.  It happened here this morning just a few moments ago.  For when it was time for us to eat this bread and drink of this cup, Jesus said, "Come and dine."  He was here.  I know that He was here because He said that He would be here.  Jesus always keeps His promises.  He was not counted when the ushers counted the attendance.  He didn't fill out an attendance card and hand it in.  No one saw Him.  No door turned upon its hinges when He entered.  He passed through closed doors here as He did in an upper room in Jerusalem long ago.  But He was here.  And He gave us the invitation just as He gave it by the sea long ago "Come and dine."

    Suppose you had been alive in the time of our Lord.  Suppose that this morning He had awakened you from sleep and said, "Wake up! Wake up!  I'm going down to the sea to cook breakfast for the disciples and I want you to go with me."  Is there a person here who would have refused the invitation?  Is there a person here who would have said, "Oh, I'm so tired I think I would rather sleep in."  Why, we would have given anything or everything to have had that invitation long ago.  "Come and dine."

    Does this invitation mean less than that one?  Have you ever wanted to go someplace and couldn't because you didn't get an invitation?  Every one of us has had that experience at some point of life.  Maybe you were a child.  The kids in the neighborhood had a birthday party.  You wanted to go, but you weren't invited.  You remember the pain of it to this very day.  Perhaps it was something far more recent than that and more significant than that.  You wanted to go but you couldn't because you didn't get an invitation, and you still bear the scars of it.

    On the other hand, have you had the experience of extending an invitation to someone and having it spurned?  Can you not remember the pain of that, too?

    We're invited here from week to week.  That invitation to come and dine came only once.  This comes every week.  Does that make this mean less? I tell you, it makes it means more!

    There were only eleven men about the fire that day.  The invitation to this supper has been extended to hundreds of us here today and to millions around the world.  Does that make it mean less?  I tell you, it makes it mean more!

    Because the kiss of your child comes often, does it mean less?  Because the handclasp of a friend or the embrace of a mate comes often, does it mean less?  Because we have this opportunity week by week, does it mean less than that invitation so long ago?  It is Christ who invites us here to come and dine.

    I once heard a minister say, "As we begin to worship we want to invite God to be our honored guest."  Of course, there is a sense in which that is true.  There is also a sense in which the opposite is true.  God invites us to be His honored guests, just as He did long ago.

    Those eleven men who had their breakfast by the sea had all grown up in the same little region of Galilee.  Among the twelve only one, Judas, was not from Galilee.  By the time of this text, he was dead.  These were men who had known each other in their childhood and in their youth.

    On the other hand, we come from different parts of the country and perhaps from different parts of the world.  There was a time when we didn't know each other.  There was a time when we didn't love each other.  There was a time when we didn't care for each other.  Now we do know each other and we do love each other and we do care for each other.  Doesn't that make the Lord's supper richer for us than it was for them?  How marvelous is that invitation, "Come and dine."

    That first Lord's supper in the upper room was celebrated in the dim light of the moon.  This breakfast by the sea is in the half-light of dawn.  We have come here today in the full, broad sunlight of midday.  Does that diminish our worship?

    We who speak the English language are blessed because our word "sun" and our word "son" sound the same.  We come here in the bright sunlight of midday to talk about the spiritual "sonlight" of the Son of God and it enriches our worship.

    When the Lord's supper was first given, the cross was still in the future.  The blood of Jesus had not yet been shed.  His hands had not yet been pierced.  Now we look back to a cross that has been raised, blood that has been shed, and hands that have been pierced.  Our worship is all the richer for it.  What an opportunity we have when this table is spread and Jesus says, "Come and dine."

    It is at His invitation that we come.  We do not come to Communion at my invitation.  We do not come to Communion at the invitation of the church.  We come to Communion at His invitation.  But there is another invitation yet to be extended.  The Bible speaks of it in the book of Revelation.

Blessed and holy are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
    A wedding in Jesus' day was quite different from a wedding in our own day.  It began when all the friends of the groom went to his house.  They formed a parade.  Then all the friends of the bride went to her house.  They started a parade.  Somewhere in the city, the two parades met.  They went to the place where the wedding supper was held.  There the festivities began.

    The Bible says that someday the Lord is going to form a procession in Heaven with all His holy angels.  He's the bridegroom.  We re going to form a procession here on earth with all the saints.  We're the bride.  The two processions are going to meet in the air.  Then we'll all go to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

`I want to be there.  Not everybody likes to go to weddings.  That's one I don't want to miss.

    There have been some splendid weddings in the world. The most lavish wedding I've ever read about occurred in Innsbruck, Austria.  The daughter of the Empress of Austria and King Frederick I, who was to become the Holy Roman Emperor, were married.  The two most powerful royal families in Europe were united.  They created for the occasion a thing called "The Golden Roof."

I had read about it long before I got to go to Innsbruck, Austria, and I was really anxious to see it.  It was something of a disappointment.  I don't know what I expected to see, but I certainly expected to see a lot more than I saw.  The golden roof is not much more than a kind of awning that extends out over a balcony and I'm not even sure that it's real gold.  Even if it is real gold, they use that to pave the streets of Heaven.  It's not too impressive.  But it's the best the world has to offer.

    That wedding supper described in the book of Revelation is one I want to attend.

    I often sit down with couples to help plan their weddings.  It always amuses me that they assume everyone they have invited will attend.  They'll talk about how big the hall needs to be and how many people are going to be there.  They always assume that everyone they have invited will come.  I know better!

    But everyone who is invited to this wedding will come.  Jesus told a parable once about a man who gave a wedding feast.  He said that many of the people who were invited didn't come.  The host wanted the hall to be filled.  So, he sent his servants out into the street to gather up people and bring them in so the hall would be full.  That's not a parable of the future!  That's a parable of the present.

    Then Jesus gave a parable of the future. Perhaps it's the second act of the same parable.  He said there was a man who came in without a wedding garment.  It wasn't that he didn't have a wedding garment.  He purposely didn't put it on to show his contempt for the bride.  They threw him out.  That's a parable of the future.

    Two things are certain about the wedding supper of the Lamb.  One is that nobody is going to be there who didn't get an invitation.  The other is that nobody is going to be there who's not prepared to go.

    There's a little chorus that I've heard since childhood.  It always meant a lot to me.

Into my heart,
Into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
    I wonder if today we might just turn that little chorus upside down?  If we do, we'll have a more accurate picture of what it means to become a Christian.  Let's imagine that it is not us but Christ who sings it.
Into My heart,
Into My heart,
Come into My heart, says Jesus.
Come in today,
Come in to stay,
Come into My heart, says Jesus.

Sunset, Sunrise
Table of Contents
Here Comes the Bride

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