Briefly Out of Hiding
The Gospel text this week is John 21: 1-19. This is the story of how most of the disciples finally come out of hiding to…go fishing. We should not judge them too harshly; I mean they do have to eat. Also, they do not have the advantage that we do to know how the story plays out. They are not sure of their next moves after the resurrection. All of this is so very human. That Jesus appears at this moment is an indication that he understands our human needs and continually meets us where we are.
Who Is That Man?
It is notable that the disciples at first do not recognize Jesus. This is one of a long string of non-recognition texts in the New Testament; Matthew 28:17, Luke 24:13-35, 36-43, and John 20: 14-16. The disciples, it seems, have consistent trouble recognizing Jesus in their world. Before judging, we should ask ourselves how much trouble we have in recognizing Jesus in our world.
Not surprisingly, a sign is what removes the blinders. Jesus instructs them to throw the net in again off the right side of the boat and lo and behold, they realize a bountiful catch. This is a parallel to the original call story we saw in Luke 5: 1-11, where Jesus does a similar thing, and they get a huge catch. Once they see this sign, they immediately recognize that it is Jesus. If we too keep our eyes open in this world, we will see many signs of Jesus at work and can similarly recognize him.
The Last Shore Lunch
After they all get to shore, they proceed to shore lunch. As my uncle used to say, shore lunch is the only real reason you go fishing in the first place. It is such a very human thing to do, connecting over food. It is also a parallel to the Last Supper, as Jesus has something important to accomplish here.
Jesus is doing two important things in the last portion of this passage (verses 15-19). He is first, making Peter whole again. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. This is to repair the 3 times that Peter denied Jesus to the authorities. Jesus does this in full view of the other disciples, to show them his forgiveness. In so doing Jesus forgives Peter his weakness, and by implication, our own.
Second, Jesus is passing on the mantle of leadership. In the process of forgiving Peter, Jesus gives hm instructions to feed and care for the flock. He even gives a foreshadowing of the death that Peter will suffer for his faith. He is clearly authorizing Peter for a life of servant leadership and sacrifice, and by implication us as well.
All of this is a good reminder that our past need not foreclose a future in faithful service to God. Even in Peter’s case, his weakness in denying Jesus saved his life then and laid the foundation for a much greater impact in growing the church. Likewise, whatever we may have done or failed to do can be used in future service to our Lord.
Consider what a dirtball Oskar Schindler was in stealing a business from its Jewish owners and working in service to the Nazi war machine. Yet, if he had not been such a dirtball, he would have been in no position to create Schindler’s List and save so many from death. It was precisely his sinful past that God turned into an absolute good when Schindler accepted the Grace of God. We too can take comfort in the fact that, like Peter, and so many others, every sinner has a future, and every saint has a past. Trust Jesus to make you whole as he did Peter, and you too can serve in any number of ways to spread the Good News.
Praise Be to God