By Chaplain Mike
We are marking the Great Fifty Days of Easter with a series of devotional thoughts on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Today we look at a unique narrative in John’s story of Jesus’ resurrection and appearances, from John 21:1-14 (CEV).
Jesus later appeared to his disciples along the shore of Lake Tiberias. Simon Peter, Thomas the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the brothers James and John, were there, together with two other disciples. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing!” The others said, “We will go with you.” They went out in their boat. But they didn’t catch a thing that night. Early the next morning Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize who he was. Jesus shouted, “Friends, have you caught anything?”
“No!” they answered.
So he told them, “Let your net down on the right side of your boat, and you will catch some fish.”
They did, and the net was so full of fish that they could not drag it up into the boat.
Jesus’ favorite disciple told Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon heard that it was the Lord, he put on the clothes that he had taken off while he was working. Then he jumped into the water. The boat was only about a hundred yards from shore. So the other disciples stayed in the boat and dragged in the net full of fish.
When the disciples got out of the boat, they saw some bread and a charcoal fire with fish on it. Jesus told his disciples, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” Simon Peter got back into the boat and dragged the net to shore. In it were one hundred fifty-three large fish, but still the net did not rip.
Jesus said, “Come and eat!” But none of the disciples dared ask who he was. They knew he was the Lord. Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave some of it to his disciples. He did the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from death.
John adds an epilogue to his Gospel that none of the others have. Today we look at part one of this story of Jesus’ appearance to Peter and the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
Once again, John characteristically focuses on an individual and his relationship to Christ. In this case, the spotlight falls on Peter. As in other narratives in this Gospel, however, the “beloved disciple” (John himself) is standing in the background and also plays a part in the story. We’ll talk about these encounters in our next study.
In today’s passage, there are other themes that prepare the way for Jesus’ individual meeting with Peter.
First, there is the theme of recognizing the Risen Lord. As in John’s other Easter stories, grasping the reality of Jesus’ living presence requires a process. The fact that Peter took up his fishing again may indicate a certain sense of aimlessness and lack of direction in those confusing days after Jesus’ death. Then there is the poignant picture of the Stranger on the shore, noticed but not known. Only through a sign that was both spectacular and familiar did Peter realize that Jesus was the One meeting them that day.
But the theme goes further. Don’t miss this interesting observation, made as Jesus spoke to themâ€””But none of the disciples dared ask who he was.” Even after seeing their Lord work a powerful sign, after hearing Peter give testimony to his identity, after making their way to the beach and seeing him face to face, they still doubted, they still felt hesitation and perhaps even fear.
That makes me feel better, somehow.
The second theme in this text is that of being fed by the Risen Lord. The scene on the beach evokes Jesus’ feeding miracles, which in John point to the believer’s fellowship with Christ in the eucharistic meal. As the disciples arrive on the beach, they find that Jesus has already prepared a meal for them, bread and fish on a charcoal fire. At his invitation, they join him. With his own hands, he feeds them.
Before discussing the conversation Jesus had that day with Peter, in this story we begin to get a picture of how the risen Lord meets with his people. In the midst of our doubts, limited vision and understanding, he speaks to us, works in our lives in ways that cause us to recognize him, invites us to his table, and feeds us.
He is alive. He is with us. This is how.
Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep me, I pray, from all things that may hurt me, that I, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Prayer appointed for the week from The Divine Hours)