The Holy Gospel according to John.
Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples
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, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” 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. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” 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, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 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, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” 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.
Jesus and Peter
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “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.” He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength & our redeemer (Psalm 19:14)
A few years ago during the week after Easter I asked a neighboring pastor how he was faring. He said, “I am dealing with the tedious consequences of procrastination. It’s time to get back to normal.” Things like bills and taxes had been put off during Lent, Holy Week, and Easter now needed tending to; it was time for life to return to normal.
In our Gospel lesson, Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” And he does. There are a couple of ways to look at this.
- One is to see him as deciding he needs a break, a bit of relaxation, a vacation. But I don’t think this is why Peter went fishing.
- I think Peter had had enough. Enough tension and stress and death and dying and dead people coming back to life; enough of all of it. He decides to get back to normal.
And normal for Peter and many of the others was…fishing. They were, after all, fishermen, professional fishermen; it was their life and their livelihood. There were bills to pay, mouths to feed, families to provide for. It was time to get back to the normal tedious consequences of procrastination, time to get on with life and forget this crazy Jesus stuff.
The trouble is, post-Easter, there is no getting back to normal, no way to go back to the way things were, not completely, not entirely. Some events change us forever. Because of the presence of the Risen Christ in the world, things can never be quite normal or completely tedious again.
We have all kinds of not returning to normal in our texts today.
Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]
Three Days of being removed from all that Saul knew. Three Days of being deprived of sensations he counted on. Three Days outside of time, outside of his customary sense of control. The Easter season theme is obvious, but in this passage, Saul is a person who dies to the life he knew and resurrects into a humility, a changed reality, and a shifted relationship with not only individuals but also institutions and systems.
We can focus on Paul’s history of oppression shifting to uplift and empower marginalized people. We remember this includes not only shifting interactions with followers of The Way, but also confronting powerful leaders who might have been colleagues and companions. Saul’s conversion required advocating against laws that targeted groups of socially unpopular people.
This passage also introduces us to Ananias, a disciple of The Way who shows not only compassion but remarkable bravery in supporting Saul. We meet members of the church in Damascus who accept the call to educate and care for Paul, likely knowing of his past while embodying grace.
Where were you when you couldn’t perceive clearly? Who did God send to help you? Is it someone you would have hurt during previous parts of your life?
Uncovering and confronting our own bias, building healing relationships, and practicing love of neighbor through the pursuit of systemic justice and harm mitigation is a journey that can change us and our world.
A slew of numbers with symbolism mostly lost to our current understanding (153 fish???). Another reinforcement of the number three as an echo of the Triduum of Holy Week and our later interpretation of the Triune God. Most familiar, the charmingly clueless disciples who fail to recognize Jesus in their struggle but instantly know him in bounty and miracle, though he was with them the entire time.
How are we called to serve this God we love?
- Do we first loudly proclaim God’s power and might?
- Do we announce God’s law to the world?
Perhaps in time and as part of good order, but in this passage, Jesus gives only one directive; feed the vulnerable ones that the Good Shepherd cares for. Jesus also uses a meal to bring his friends and family of faith together, modeling how we are called to feed others as we are fed.
Two other striking events are part of this passage; Jesus directing the apostles to change how they cast their net and Jesus’ alluding to his ascension and departure. Both episodes speak to what most advocates and faith leaders can identify with, the struggle we can often experience even when following God’s call. Not every cast net brings success and even paths with deep meaning can involve grief, loss, moments of helplessness, and embracing the unknown.
The struggles of faith-based advocacy connect with the primary theme of feeding. How are we sustaining ourselves, nurturing others, and caring for community as we travel together in faith?
So, Peter and his friends go fishing. Fishing at night was normal for commercial fisher folk. That’s the way you get fresh fish to market by sun up. And it was quite normal to have bad luck. Fishing is a bit of a gamble, sometimes you come up empty. There’s nothing all that special about someone having breakfast ready when those in the boat come to shore after a night of fishing. Outside of the fact that the someone is Jesus, a formerly dead person now risen from the tomb and meandering about the countryside in a resurrection body, there’s nothing odd or miraculous about this story at all.
It’s all pretty normal stuff, except for Jesus’ presence in the middle of it. Jesus’ presence says, “Guess what folks, from here on out, there is no possibility of returning to business as usual, no going back to normal.” As long as the risen Christ is in the world, there is no insignificant activity; there are no merely tedious details. Christ’s presence in the world transforms ordinarily tedious activity into extraordinary opportunities to serve God and humanity.
All too often, we miss God’s activity in the world because we’re looking for something spectacular; loud thunder, blazing lights, shows of supernatural power, like what Saul encountered on the road to Damascus. For example: a few days after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech several years ago, a chaplain was interviewed on MSNBC about how he counseled students and parents. The reporter asked,“How do you explain the will of God at a time like this?”
The chaplain said, “A chaplain’s job is not explanation but comfort and love and care. People in trauma aren’t in a place to deal with those larger questions, nor do they need to.”
This did not satisfy the interviewer. Three times he asked, “How do you explain to a parent how a good God lets a thing like this happen?” and three times the chaplain gave the same answer, “You don’t. You give comfort and care and love.” The reporter wanted something spectacular and the chaplain gave him the simple, yet true…It is in the love and care and quiet comfort provided by loving people that the activity of God is found.
In our Gospel lesson, after breakfast, Jesus begins a dialogue with Peter. He asks him,“Peter do you love me?” Not once, but three times. The number is not by accident. Jesus is rewinding the clock, turning back time. Remember; Peter denied Jesus three times on the night he was betrayed. Now Peter has three opportunities to affirm his love for Jesus, and he does. But notice also that every time Peter affirms his love for Jesus, Jesus then calls upon him to take care of his “sheep.” Twice Jesus says feed them, once he says tend them; in all of it he calls on Peter, and by extension, all of the disciples, and by further extension, all of us who call ourselves Christian, to take care of and love one another.
Now, think about it; feeding and tending sheep isn’t all that exciting or spectacular; it’s repetitive and boring and tedious and normal, and oh so necessary. It’s like washing dishes and cooking meals and doing laundry and mowing grass and cleaning house and changing diapers and paying bills and driving kids to school and going to work and drawing a check and sitting up all night when somebody’s sick; which is nowhere near as interesting as being in love and going on dates but is so much more like being married.
As is, the Christian life, lived out in the Body of Christ, the Church, empowered by the Risen Christ, is seldom exciting or spectacular.
It is much more often ordinary and mundane, a matter of living together under the leadership of the will of God and the way of Christ. The Gospel truth is this—the change worked in us and the world by the presence of the Risen Christ is greater than any evil that can befall upon us. And the call of the Gospel is the call to reach out to a world of hurting and mournful and scared people with simple acts of love and care and concern.
Do you love Jesus? Help out a child struggling in school.
Do you love Jesus? Go visit someone who lost a loved one and still grieves.
Do you love Jesus? Help feed the hungry.
Do you love Jesus? Help Habitat for Humanity build a house.
Do you love Jesus? Do you?
Do something simple and ordinary and kind today, knowing God is present in all that you do.