“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. “ (John 21:1 – 3)
I have been thinking about and anticipating this passage since sometime back at Easter, or perhaps further back during Lent. I have been thinking about as the time when Peter was not quite sure what to do with himself. Jesus had arisen, and while it was good to have their friend and Teacher back, there were still some uncertainties. And Peter, not liking to be in the midst of uncertainty, tackled a task he knew something about – 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)
Simon Peter was ready – just not sure what to be ready for. He knew he was called; well, he was called by Jesus. But I suspect he knew there was something more than just following Jesus. As I said, I think time was dragging heavy on his hands. Hands that were used to working hard. Maybe like me, he felt there was something beyond what was his current reality. Something further along the path. But just not sure what that “something” was.
“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)
I can’t but see some metaphors here. Peter eager to place himself in service to his Lord, and as consequence “jumping” to conclusions and missing some steps. But when a task is set before, he digs in with diligence.
Also, that while we, as contemporary followers of Jesus, may feel the work is hard and beyond our strength and capacity – when we dig in, we are not torn asunder.
“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)
We see the signs before us, and we realize – finally – what we should have known before. For the disciples, who else but Jesus could make fish appear where there had been none before. Who else but Jesus would provide for our needs in a way that we did not expect. And who else but Jesus would make sure that finally we are shown what our call and calling is.
“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)
Biblical commentators make much of the fact that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him – to equalize and erase the three times that Peter denied him. Well enough. But look and notice, beloved reader, that Jesus provided the fire start and the bread to feed the disciples. That Jesus provided the fish in the intact net to feed his disciples beyond this meal, and maybe even to provide them with a catch of fish that would finance their first travels. And then Jesus asks Peter to do as Jesus did, to feed those who were in need. Not just food for the body but food for the soul and spirit. And then Jesus cautions him . . .
“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 – 19)
This “follow me” was not like when Jesus first called him. This was “follow in my foot steps “ and yield up your life so that you might serve as Jesus did. Ministering, healing, teaching, preaching, and eventually dying for one’s faith. Jesus says to all of us, follow me! May we see the path that Jesus has intended for us, and we my realize the purpose that the Divine has created us for! Shalom & Selah!