Third Sunday of Easter: The Gospel Passage – Re-entering the story

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.” (John 21:1)

The writer of the gospel of John gives us a picture of Jesus “popping up” here and there, but not having a physical presence endures in space and time. Jesus, it would seem, has progressed beyond those human limitations. From perspective it is good and makes sense in that Jesus has left behind a physical human form; but he is less of a “Lord with us” and more of a Transcendent Divine. The disciples knew Jesus as friend and teacher who was with them and among them. This Jesus is different.

“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.” (Verses 2 – 3)

I get the sense, and maybe you too beloved reader, that the disciples were a little bit at a loss of what to do now, and what was expected of them. Simon Peter, being a practical sort, decides to occupy his time with something he knows – fishing.

“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.” (Verses 4 – 7)

If this is reminiscent of earlier encounters with Jesus (Peter being called to be a “fisher of men” and Peter jumping out of the boat to try to walk to Jesus on the water) it is probably no coincidence.

“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.” (Verses 8 – 11)

Something has changed, beloved reader. This Jesus (yes, this may be the beginning of the many aspect of the Divine) is more pragmatic, cooking and tending a fire. And ensuring that the disciples have resources and provisions.

“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.” (Verses 12 – 14)

If we were going to be mystical about this, it may go as follows. Just as there is the theology of a triune Divine, we have three aspects of Jesus that have been seen since his resurrection. I am not going to go as far as trying to discern which is which – it enough that there were two previous occasions, and this being the third and final(?) Might there have been a purpose for the previous two appearances? And if so, what needs to be accomplished yet in this third and final visit?

“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.” (Verses 15 – 17)

It had been suggested to me that Jesus asks this question of Peter three times in order to expunge the three times that Peter denied him. And to confirm to Peter that the Divine has a specific task for him. And if this was done in the hearing of the other disciples, perhaps it redeemed Peter in their eyes also. It is my contention, however, that Peter was not the only one to have this task placed on him. Anyone who loves the Lord God the Divine is charged with tending the Divine’s sheep. Vagueness intended!

“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.” (Verses 18 – 21)

Jesus has come once again to his disciples, to teach them a little more; and to draw them into the ongoing story of the Divine’s mission and purpose in the world. Selah!