By Chaplain Mike
Each Sunday, we present devotional thoughts based upon the Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary.
Today is the third Sunday in Easter.
Today’s Gospel is John 21:1-19.
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, â€˜I am going fishing.â€™ They said to him, â€˜We will go with you.â€™ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, â€˜Children, you have no fish, have you?â€™ They answered him, â€˜No.â€™ He said to them, â€˜Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.â€™ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, â€˜It is the Lord!â€™ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, â€˜Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.â€™ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, â€˜Come and have breakfast.â€™ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, â€˜Who are you?â€™ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, â€˜Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?â€™ He said to him, â€˜Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.â€™ Jesus said to him, â€˜Feed my lambs.â€™ A second time he said to him, â€˜Simon son of John, do you love me?â€™ He said to him, â€˜Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.â€™ Jesus said to him, â€˜Tend my sheep.â€™ He said to him the third time, â€˜Simon son of John, do you love me?â€™ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, â€˜Do you love me?â€™ And he said to him, â€˜Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.â€™ Jesus said to him, â€˜Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.â€™ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, â€˜Follow me.â€™
Today’s Good News
As a hospice chaplain, I speak at many funeral services. Here in Indiana where I live, many of these services are for people who loved to go fishing. Inevitably, I come back to this passage as a source of comfort in those situations.
Usually, I just tell the story.
Peter and his friends were downcast after their friend and Lord Jesus died. Unclear about what to do next, Peter chose what came natural to himâ€”“I’m going fishing,” he said. Makes sense. Few things offer a bit of peace to an outdoorsman like time out on the water, listening to the waves beat against the side of the boat, deeply inhaling the fresh air and feeling the breeze in your face. Having some simple task upon which to focus like hauling in a few fish can be good medicine for the hurting, troubled soul.
How many times do we likewise seek comfort in such simple pleasures when life is hard to endure or understand?
However, this activity, designed for some respite from grief, ultimately turned to frustration for Peter and the disciples. These seasoned fishermen caught nothing! All night long! It must have been maddening.
Early in the morning, a dim figure could be seen standing in the mists on the shore. The men in the boat didn’t recognize him, but it was Jesus. He called out to them, advising them to let their nets down on the other side of the boat. At first they grumbled (what does this stranger know?), but then they gave it a try. Surprise! A net full of fish! So heavy they couldn’t pull it into the boat.
Peter had seen this beforeâ€”Jesus had worked a similar miracle earlier in his career. So the apostle knew immediately that it was his Savior, risen from the dead, who had worked this wonder too. Impetuous Peter slapped on a shirt, jumped into the water, and splashed his way to shore to see the Lord.
The others followed in the boat, with a haul of 153 fish. (That’s how you can tell a fish story, by the way. Who else but fishermen would remember exactly how many they caught, such an odd number!)
Jesus invited them to have breakfast with him, there on the beach, another pleasant activity campers and fisherman enjoy. There, in the cool of the morning, with the smell of the campfire and sizzle of frying fish in the pan, the risen Christ spoke to them. He comforted them. He is risen! He is with us!
Jesus talked especially to Peter, who at that point in his life, after some notable failures, needed a whole lot of comfort, forgiveness, restoration, rejuvenation. On that morning, Jesus tended his broken heart, gave him a bit of hope, a path to walk in the future, direction and consolation for his life.
And here we may find ourselves as well, toiling in darkness, awaiting the dawn of a new day. Can you put yourself in that boat, on that shore, with this Jesus?
Hope stands, though it may be but dimly-viewed on the shore. Hear his voice. Come to his simple feast of hope and comfort.
I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
(from Psalm 30, NLT)