Acts 9:5 "He asked: Who are you, Lord?  The reply came: I am Jesus, whom your are persecuting ..."

John 21:15 Jesus said to Simon Peter: Simon, son of John, do you love me? He said to him: yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said to him: Feed my lambs"

The readings tell of two different meetings with Jesus; in both cases they are in one way or another, unexpected meetings in different sets of circumstances and those encountered had different relationships with Him. In one there has been a long and intimate association; in the other the relationship was, from one side at least, antagonistic and confrontational. But in each case the unfolding of the meeting and the outcome is similar: the Jesus does something to get the attention of his subject. Having got their attention, , he asks probing questions and, as a result of the answers they give, each of the two encountered, realises that he has a task, which he goes on to fulfil. In both cases, if the story hadn't unfolded as we read in the NT, then the church and the world would be in a different place.

The first encounter is on the road to Damascus; Saul is on his way to arrest followers of The Way, when he encounters a bright light that blinds him, Jesus speaks to him. Saul goes on into Damascus alone, meets someone who has also been given a task by God and the consequence is that Saul becomes Paul, the evangelist to the non-Jewish world.

These kinds of dramatic incident give rise to some of the best known stories of the Bible. The phrase to have a Damascus road (or more accurately a Damascene) conversion is occasionally use in popular idiom, even by non-Christians. And Christians certainly love these stories where Jesus turns around the life of someone who is hostile or indifferent to him. It demonstrates the power of the Lord. But although Jesus does something pretty dramatic to get his attention, after that he’s very patient though persistent in his questioning – why are you doing this to me? – before giving Saul the way out. Damascene conversions are will not be the experience of everyone. And beware of believing because of a miracle – one of the temptations in the wilderness that Jesus rejects. Yes, He can accomplish miracles but we must not hang all of our faith on them.

In the second incident the disciples meet with Jesus on the shores of Lake Galilee. They had last seen him in Jerusalem, in his appearances immediately after his resurrection. But Peter and the others had returned home to their former way of life – what else was there to do? They have apparently lost their focus, their raison d’être. It had been good whilst it lasted but they had to live somewhere and earn a living, so why not return to their previous lives? 

At first the disciples don’t recognise him. They see someone cooking fish on a fire on the shore – and this is first thing in the morning after a long night's fishing. Again, Jesus asks some questions “Have you caught much?” a simple question but … and guides them into a solution to a problem they had – not having caught any fish, he suggests they cast their nets elsewhere. Only they do they come to realise it is Him. How often do we labour at a task and get no results (membership here)? Are we casting our nets into the right bit of the lake? Do we need Jesus to prod us in the right direction?

So when they recognize him on the shore, so eager is Peter that he jumps into the water and swims to shore.

The others follow towing the net that is full of fish, after a night of their own efforts which saw nothing – lesson: we can only achieve the work of the Lord if we trust in him and not in our own skills and strength.

Jesus then asks Peter three times if he loves Him (refers back to the three-fold denial?). We would probably get really annoyed if a friend asked us the same thing three times, having seemed to ignore what we had already answered. When Peter repeatedly protests that he does love Him, Jesus tells him to feed His sheep/lambs.

This perhaps is Jesus passing on to his disciples the task of nurturing his church;

Its as though the disciples had come to the end of their apprenticeship, their period of initial training. You are now fully trained, over to you, it's time that you took on the task that I started

We who have been disciples of Christ for some time cannot remain as apprentices, as trainees, for the rest of our earthly lives. Jesus wants us to get out there and start winning souls; of feeding his lambs and caring for his sheep; those who hear the good news for the first time need nourishing, to be built up in their knowledge of Him and His love. It is not just a case of telling people about Jesus and then letting them get on with it. They need to know what they should be doing if they are to accept the Word and how they can become more like Jesus.

In both cases – Saul and Peter – Jesus identifies someone who was going to be really important in the building up of His church. See how he does it: He attracts their attention, asks them searching questions that points them in the right direction. But he does it in a different way for each because his relationship with Saul is not the same as it is with Peter and the other disciples. Well he's attracted our attention – we're hear. We should be hearing his challenge to us when we read and listen to the Bible and, dare I say it, the sermons we hear preached. 

We ought to identify with the disciples on the shore: the fact that we are in church this morning means that we already have a relationship with Jesus, so we are already receptive to the word of God, hence there's no need for a dramatic intervention. We should already be listening for His voice. We should not crave for miracles in order to believe – that is what the High Priest wanted to see when Jesus was on trial. Or how Jesus was tempted by the Devil when it was suggested he threw himself off the pinnacle of the Temple so that the angels could save him, and by that miracle demonstrate his Divinity.

But I think this also reminds us that being a Christian is not like being a member of a select club – you turn up, pay your dues and that's all that's required of you. When we do meet Jesus, whenever and in what ever form, we should expect him to give us work to do. He's not just a mate that we can hang around with, seeing Him a week-ends talking to him when we come to church. 

Doing what is expected of us is not enough: Paul's keeping of the Law – following the rules – had been spot-on, yet it would not do him any good. There was nothing wrong with his past – except there was no future in it.

Jesus always made it clear that there was and is work to be done; he said it in many of his parables,


“Then he said to his disciples: The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Mat 9:37)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations ... and teach them everything that I have taught you...” (Mat 28:19, 20)

And if we see ourselves as one of his disciples, this is not a voluntary task, take it or leave it. On the day of judgement we will be called to account of what we have done. Remember the parable of the talents. The master was mightily displeased with the last servant, who even though he only had little to offer, did not try to use even that. No matter how inadequate we think we are, that is not an excuse for doing nothing, for hiding our talent and just giving back to our Lord what he gave to us in the first place. 

And we say ourselves every year in the Methodist covenant prayer:

Christ has many services to be done: Some are easy, others are difficult. Some are suitable to our inclinations, others are contrary. And the power to do these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us

Peter and Paul were both given tasks to spread the Good News of God's love and redeeming grace. I imagine that neither of them previously imagined that they could accomplish that – in fact Saul's desire had been to stop that Good News form being broadcast. 

That task is still open and it is the most important one there is. It can be done in many ways but just coming to church on Sundays does not, of itself, do anything to further God's Kingdom. We come to church to praise God and be in touch with him and like-minded folk. But if we leave it there, we are failing Him

(He) sent them out into every town and place, telling them: The Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2)

Let us not neglect to be workers in those harvest fields.






















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