Breakfast on the Beach, John 21, 1-19, Rev. Anneke Oppewal. Tuesday, 11 August 2009! 1

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1 Breakfast on the Beach, John 21, 1-19, Rev. Anneke Oppewal. Tuesday, 11 August 2009! 1 John 21, Breakfast on the beach. 21:1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 21:2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 21:3 "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. 21:4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 21:5 He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. 21:6 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. 21:7 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. 21:8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 21:9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 21:10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." 21:11 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. 21:12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord.

2 Breakfast on the Beach, John 21, 1-19, Rev. Anneke Oppewal. Tuesday, 11 August 2009! 2 21:13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 21:14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 21:15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 21:16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 21:17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 21:18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 21:19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" New International Version Introduction Shortly after Easter we find Jesusʼ disciples back at the sea of Galilee. Much has happened in the last couple of weeks of their journey with Jesus. An emotional roller coaster of deep loss and spiritual peak experiences. The foundations of their very existence have been shaken by confusion and profound bewilderment. What will they do now? Where do they go after all that has happened? They must have felt incredibly put out and insecure, those disciples of Jesus, struggling to make sense and understand the meaning of what they had been through. And then tummies start to rumble and thoughts are forced back to their mundane, day to day needs. Grief makes hungry, emotions drain peopleʼs energy and deep spiritual experiences tend to leave one empty and disoriented. They need a meal, they need grounding. That I imagine is what has probably drawn them back to their boats, not so very long after the first news of the resurrection.

3 Breakfast on the Beach, John 21, 1-19, Rev. Anneke Oppewal. Tuesday, 11 August 2009! 3 Letʼs eat first. In the middle of all the excitement, insecurity, and emotional upheaval letʼs get to work, catch some fish, make some money, but most of all return to what is familiar and find their footing again. Isnʼt it often while washing the dishes after a funeral that we regain some of our balance, making tea and finding the biscuit tin that will bring us back to ourselves and will help make the grief, the pain and the overwhelming emotions bearable? So they return to their boats, their nets and the sea of Galilee: to their home, to what they know, to what is as familiar to them. They may not even have thought about it, maybe it was just an unconscious attempt at finding some normality, or perhaps they went back because thatʼs what people do when they are lost and bewildered. Back to the usual, back to what was before the whole avalanche of confusing experiences happened. The catch And then they donʼt catch anything. Nothing at all. Have they lost their skill? Do they no longer know how to fish? Have they been wandering around the country side following Jesus for too long? What has happened to their ability to come home with a good catch after a satisfying nights work? Of course this is all very symbolic. These fishermen are supposed to become fishers of men and here they are, floating around in their boat with empty nets, not even capable of pulling up a couple of small fish for breakfast. By dawn they will inevitably have been starting to feel depressed. And the text helps us to feel it with them: They caught nothing. Nothing at all... Is their heart perhaps not in it? Do they lack focus? Or have they really lost the hang of it? Suddenly they see a stranger standing on the shore. Who has been luckier than they have by the looks of it. Heʼs got a couple of fish roasting over a fire and has baked some bread as well. A hearty breakfast that would make anyones mouth water, and especially the disciplesʼ who have worked through the night and are empty with frustration. An ample meal contrasts their empty nets, bread and fish make their stomachs rumble even more. Not so long ago they discovered what can happen with a hand full of fish and couple of loaves of bread, and here they are again, hungry and longing for nourishment 1. Children, havenʼt you caught anything? Its a bit peculiar to address eleven burly fishermen in that way, and it is a first signal to the reader, and to those in the boat, that something our of the ordinary is going on: Cast your net to the right side of the boat, an you will find some... Itʼs always worth a try of course, and it is possible the man on the shore can see something they canʼt. As fishermen who have grown up on the shores of the sea of Galilee they know how sometimes, when someone is standing on the shore, looking from a different angle are sometimes able to see things someone on a boat, looking straight down, canʼt see. Like for instance a shoal of fish hiding underneath the boat. 1 See John 6 and the story of the feeding of the 5000

4 Breakfast on the Beach, John 21, 1-19, Rev. Anneke Oppewal. Tuesday, 11 August 2009! 4 And yes, suddenly their nets are full. They will count 153 fish later on, which is an extraordinary catch for an early morning. Time for breakfast! It is the Lord! It is the Lord! The eyes of the beloved disciple suddenly see before any of the others recognise the stranger on the shore. The voice, the posture, the smell of the meal, and the surprising catch open his eyes to who is waiting for them over there ready for them with a table laden with plenty of food for all. Peter, impulsive as always, canʼt wait until they have run the boat to shore and plunges into the water to get to the beach before anybody else does. Although... something odd happens first: he puts on some cloths first before he jumps in. And that of course is a bit strange if your intention is to go swimming. And even more so if you have been fishing in your undies all night and the others, as well as Jesus, must have been quite used to seeing him like that. (It is hard to imagine they would have been prudish around Jesus and that thatʼs why Peter puts some clothes on before swimming to shore). There could be another reason for this though: The last encounter of Jesus and Peter before the crucifixion in the gospel of John is when Jesus tells Peter he will betray him three times and Peter confidently states, three times over, that he would rather die than let this happen. We all know what has happened after that. Peter has not been able to keep his promise and within twenty four hours he heard the cock crow three times, just as Jesus predicted he would. A week later Peter has every reason to cover himself! He canʼt just plunge into the water and swim to shore where his Lord is waiting. Or even better, like he has done before, walk across. His confidence and his faith have sustained a significant blow since he last saw Jesus and we can all imagine how he must have felt about what happened. He was not the brave hero he imagined himself to be, on the contrary, he has fallen short and he (and we as readers) know this all too well. After they have brought the nets to shore with all the 153 fish in it, Jesus invites Peter, the beloved disciple and the others to breakfast. The 153 fish is something biblical scholars have puzzled over long and hard. Probably the most plausible explanation is that this number stands for all the nations of the then known world. It is however also possible that it is the number 12x12 (the tribes of Israel multiplied to encompass the whole world) plus 3x3 (the holy number for God double) or it may even be a slip of the pen for any other number looking attractive for one reason or another. More often than not the simplest reading is the best and perhaps it is therefore wisest to keep to the 153 signifying that after this all people, the whole world, will have to end up in the nets of the disciples. And this, under the direction of Jesus, is a first practice to prepare them for that task. Peter This is a painful question to put to someone who has just betrayed you three times over. Especially in the company of old friends, sharing a meal.

5 Breakfast on the Beach, John 21, 1-19, Rev. Anneke Oppewal. Tuesday, 11 August 2009! 5 Again, a very painful approach that doesnʼt make it any easier for Peter. No meaningless platitudes gradually paving the way to a cautious and tentative renewal of friendship this, but a full on, direct, confrontation. An approach that turns the world on its head. Peter, who needs forgiveness is asked for his love and commitment after he has completely failed his Lord first time round. Yes, Lord, I love you. Clear, straight down the line, not even trying to come up with excuses, Peter dedicates himself (again) to the Lord. This time with more self knowledge and understanding of what may be at stake and how he might react under duress. Feed my sheep. Three times Peter confesses his love for Jesus, one for every act of betrayal. Every confession than confirmed by a renewed commission. Peterʼs heart is healed: the wound is opened, the puss drawn out, it is cleaned and then dressed carefully. Peter is put back on his feet, forgiven and accepted as a disciple with responsibility for the future. The passage concludes with two simple words: Follow me. Conclusion In the early hours of the day, while the sun is rising 2 a moving encounter takes place on the beach. There is reconciliation, and resurrection, the future opening itself up: 153 fishes, nets full to bursting,food to share, and Jesus Christ, Son of God, supporting them from the shore and welcoming them to the table after the hard work is done. A profound sacramental tale where we find baptism 3 and eucharist 4 closely intertwined, where death is met with new life 5 and the future mission of the Church is laid down in a simple command: cast the net to the right side of the boat, haul the fish ashore and follow me. 2 Early morning and the rising sun are a symbol for the rising Christ from very early on in Christianity and it is highly probable its use here does not only refer to the time of day the disciples had gone fishing. 3 Peter throwing himself into the water and then confessing, receiving forgiveness and a commission is an image of baptism of which cleansing of sin, the receiving of forgiveness and new life and to be commissioned by the Holy Spirit has always been an important part. 4 Bread and fish, the sharing of a meal with the risen Christ, can be seen as references to the celebration of the Eucharist. See also John 6. 5 Not only do they meet the risen Christ, Peter is resurrected as disciple and receives new life, and the disciples as a group find new life as they rediscover their mission and call.

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