John 21:1-3, NIV
1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of
Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called
Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee,
and two other disciples were together. 3 "I'm going out to fish,"
Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So
they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught
nothing.


June 1, 2012
This last chapter seems to me to have been added later by another
writer. John ends his gospel at 20:31, summarizing once more his
great theme of believing Jesus to be sent from God and thereby
receiving eternal life. How many times throughout his work, did John
repeat these words. Most famously in John 3:16 -- For God so loved
the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes
in him shall not perish but have eternal life. It was love that sent
Jesus to earth, so that we may "see" him and believe.

Chapter 21 contains none of these words. But it does contain two
important stories found no where else in the Bible. It's a third
resurrection appearance. This time Jesus met his disciples, not in
Jerusalem but on the familiar sands of the Galilean Sea. They were
fishing; Jesus was on shore preparing breakfast.

There's a listing of the disciples who were present that day.
Interestingly, Nathanael is named as a disciple. We were introduced
to Nathanael near the end of chapter 1, and I believe he was the
disciple otherwise listed as Bartholomew. Of course Peter was there,
although in this episode he is known as Simon Peter. Also James and
John who were sons of Zebedee, Thomas/Didymus, and two others.

Once again, Peter is their leader. He began by saying he is going
fishing, and the others decided to join him. They were returning to
their old occupation--the way things were before they met Jesus, yet
sticking together in the relationships they formed while knowing
Jesus. Back to the days of daily work, selling fish so they could
provide for every day needs the way normal people did.

They fished at night, out on the water in boats, with nets. But that
night, there were no fish to catch. Very discouraging. Had they lost
their touch? It could have been 3 years since they fished with any
urgency.

Were they really thinking they would get back into the fishing
business now that Jesus was not longer among them? In real time,
that is probably where logic took them. From our perspective,
what a loss it would have been to the world had that been the
end of the gospel story.

 

                                               John 21:4-6, NIV
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the
disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to
them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered.
6 He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and
you will find some." When they did, they were unable to
haul the net in because of the large number of fish.


June 2, 2012
They fished all night and caught nothing. Did they need some cash?
Were they indebted to friends and neighbors who helped to tide
them over? Uncertainty is a difficult thing to deal with. Should they
wait and see if Jesus would show up again to point them in the right
direction. Tell them exactly what they should be doing. What did
faith mean to them at this crossroad? Were they getting worried
and stressed out? 

Then a stranger called to them from the shore. An amiable fellow
wanting to know how the fishing was, or maybe needing something
to eat. Upon hearing they had caught nothing, he told them to try
the other side of the boat, and he added with certainty they would
catch some if they followed his instructions.

Maybe they didn't recognize Jesus because it was daybreak, before
the sun was up. They were a distance from shore, and may have
been peering through a morning mist.

We don't know why the disciples obeyed this stranger. We don't
know why we do some things either. But when they did as he
suggested, to their delight they caught so many fish the net was
too heavy to pull into the boat!

Did a miracle take place here? How could it happen that they had
fished all night without success and suddenly they landed a catch
so huge they had difficulty bringing the net to shore? Miracles
could be like love--in the eye of the beholder. When I want to
believe God did a special favor for me, I call it a miracle. Life is
what I believe it to be.

But if Jesus granted these fishermen a favor, why did his favor
only go so far? Why did they have to labor with great effort to haul
the catch to the shore?

Not to take anything away from this resurrection appearance, but
in Luke 5:1-11, there's a description of how Jesus first attracted the
attention of Peter, James and John. In that account Luke's details
sound very similar, and because of their astonishment at all the fish
they had netted, the three of them left everything and followed Jesus.

 

                                                John 21:7-8, NIV
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the
Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he
wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off)
and jumped into the water.

8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of
fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.


June 3, 2012
The moment of recognition for John was behavior. This man on the
shore did the sort of thing Jesus would do. After fishing all night
and not catching anything, then following the instruction about
putting the nets on the other side of the boat and catching more
than they ever imagined, that's vintage Jesus.

Or we could say love is the first to recognize. The disciple John,
throughout this gospel, is not referred to by name but by the
phrase, the disciple Jesus loved. Being a loving and lovable disciple
was what distinguished John from the others. That's not to say
the others did not love Jesus or each other; it's just that John
did it better.

As soon as the fishermen know it is Jesus, Peter reacts first as he
usually does. Spontaneously, he grabs his outer garment and
jumps into the water. I interpret that as his desire to rush and be
the first to greet Jesus. We can look at this scene and wonder why
he would put his coat on before jumping into the water. But then
when emotions take over, logic evaporates. Or as the footnote
in my Bible says, a proper greeting is made when one is
properly clothed.

"Captain" Peter has deserted his ship, and the others are left
with the task of bringing in the huge haul.

 

                                                John 21:9-11, NIV
9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with
fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some
of the fish you have just caught." 11 Simon Peter climbed
aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish,
153, but even with so many the net was not torn.


June 4, 2012
By the time the remaining disciples brought their boat to shore,
Jesus had a fire going, with which he baked bread and grilled some
fish. "More fish--bring me some more." So Peter rushes to the boat
and with a great surge of adrenalin dragged the net ashore.

I get the impression the other disciples had learned in the past
three years to simply step aside whenever they saw the blaze in
Peter's eyes. So they let the big man through. If he wants to go first,
let him--make the blunders, test the waters, take the heat, learn
what doesn't work.

While Peter dried himself by the fire, someone counted the fish
worth keeping--153 large ones. Everyone was marveling that the
net had not broken. Another miracle?

It hardly seems likely that the disciples would stop to count the
fish when they could have been visiting with Jesus. Unless Jesus was
just as excited about their catch as they were and was helping with
the tally. A fisherman's delight counted with childlike glee.

Were they thinking numbers of fish, or dollars? I like to think in the
presence of Jesus money takes on an entirely different focus.

 

                                                 John 21:12-14, NIV
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the
disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the
Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did
the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus
appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.


June 5, 2012
Then they enjoyed a delicious breakfast. Oh the joys of good food
in great company. No one questioned if this was Jesus. They knew
it was. Which raises some questions for us. What did the
resurrection body of Jesus look like? What was different from his
human body? Why didn't the gospel writer tell us more about this
mystery? It would aid our thinking about what to expect in the
world to come. Questions like, "Will we know each other in heaven?"

Jesus passed out the bread and the fish. Was it like a holy
communion, a joyful feast, a well-deserved respite, or what?
Breakfast on the beach with Jesus. What was that like? What did
they talk about?

John's gospel does not include a parting "great commission." No
final words telling the disciples what he expected of them. Jesus
had already done all that before his trial and crucifixion.

This chapter seems to be mostly about Jesus and Peter.  Joy and
sorrow go hand in hand; when breakfast is over, the seriousness
begins.

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