“Word for Today” – John 21 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

April 14, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


coda-1On Palm Sunday, Concordia presented its annual Passion Pageant.  As usual, it was spectacular, moving, and a terrific way to begin a time of reflection over the course of Holy Week.  One of the highlights of the pageant came at the very end.  Christ had risen from the dead and the choir was singing their final song, “Let All Heaven Rejoice.”  The music ended, the stage lights went down, and the crowd erupted in a standing ovation.  But just when everyone thought the pageant had ended…it hadn’t.  The music cued back up and the choir went into another round of “Let All Heaven Rejoice,” this time with the congregation clapping and boisterously singing along.

In musical parlance, the choir finished their presentation with a coda.  The word “coda” comes from the Latin cauda, meaning “tail.”  And this is a good way to understand a coda.  The music sounds like it has ended.  The last chord sounds like it has been struck.  The last note sounds like it has been sung.  But then follows the tail, usually to the delight of the audience.  The coda, it seems, is a wonderful way to heighten the dramatic effect of a presentation’s finale.

Many biblical scholars believe that our reading for today from John 21 serves as a kind of “coda” to John’s gospel.  John ends his previous chapter thusly:  “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31).  That sounds like the end, right?  After all, what more is there to tell?  Christ has risen (20:10-16).  Thomas has made his magnificent declaration of faith, calling Jesus “my Lord and my God” (verse 28).  What more can there be to tell than this?  The music should end.  The lights should go down.  And the audience should applaud.

Well, as it turns out, there’s a coda.  For John continues with another chapter:  “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias” (verse 1).  I especially love the disciples to whom Jesus appears:  “Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee” (verse 2).  Let’s see.  Simon Peter, the one who denied Jesus (cf. John 18:15-18, 25-27).  Thomas, the one who refused to believe in the resurrection unless he could empirically verify it (cf. John 20:24-28).  Nathanael, who was incredulous toward Jesus’ backwater pedigree (cf. John 1:45-46).  And the sons of Zebedee who demanded places of privilege in heaven (cf. Mark 10:35-37).  Not exactly an all-star lineup of disciples.

Peter’s mention in this list of renegade of disciples is especially notable since he is still reeling from his devastating denial of Jesus some days earlier.  And so is his encounter with Jesus.

After an early morning of fishing, Jesus invites his disciples to share some breakfast with him:  “When the disciples landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread” (verse 9).  And it is around these burning coals that Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (cf. verses 15-17) in order to reinstate Peter to discipleship after his dark denials.   Interestingly, John makes this note as to where Peter first denies Jesus:  “Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself” (John 18:18).  Where does Peter deny Jesus?  Around a charcoal fire.  Where does Jesus reinstate Peter to discipleship?  Around a charcoal fire.  And it is here that we begin to see the true significance of John’s coda.

With John’s words at the end of chapter 20, it seems as though his gospel has come to and end.  Everything has been resolved…except for Peter’s denial.  And perhaps we would not have even noticed be it not for John’s coda.  But Peter would have most certainly noticed.  For Peter would have been left without hope.  Peter would have been left forever marred, mired, and mitigated by his grave sin.  But then comes the coda.  And with the coda comes forgiveness and restoration.  And the applause can now begin.  For everything has been resolved.  And John’s gospel has truly ended.

There’s a promise in John’s coda, you know.  For perhaps you feel as though you’re living between chapters 20 and 21.  It seems as though everyone else’s worries, problems, and concerns have been taken care of.  Everyone else’s but yours.  And you wonder why the music has ended, the lights have gone down, and audience has erupted in applause at the amazing way in which God has done everything well while you’re left crouched in the shadows of your pain crying and lonely.  The promise of God is simply this:  God has a coda for you.  Chapter 21 is coming.  The play has not ended yet.  Like Peter, you too can and will receive healing and restoration.  So hold your applause.  The coda is yet to come.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 20 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Galatians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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