Our reading for Wednesday, May 1, 2019 is John 21:1-14.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. — NIV
Luke records a similar event in his gospel (chapter 5, verse 5); the difference being that Luke’s account comes at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and during the occasion of his calling Peter to follow him. John writes of this occasion taking place after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In both accounts the sons of Zebedee, James and John, were present so we would expect John to remember the incident whereas Luke was a second generation disciple and would only know of the incident second hand.
When the disciples followed Jesus’ instruction they hauled in a great number of fish and John, the author of this gospel, responded by recognizing it was the Lord who had instructed them. We must ask why it was he had this revelation. By implication we should correctly assume this was not the first experience he had of witnessing Jesus perform the miracle of the fishes. The occasion was a matter of spiritual déjà vu for John because he had experienced this miracle before. God will use previous spiritual experiences to reveal his continued presence with us.
John was more attentive to the implications of the present and relating them to the past, a trait of insight that would bless him and others, for as soon as he mentioned it Peter jumped into the water to get to Jesus. How many times could we benefit from reflecting on incidents of our spiritual past and relate them to the present in order that we might connect intimately with Jesus who is still present? Training ourselves to connect the dots of experience is an important skill to develop.
The intent of Jesus for each incident had the same message. From the earlier experience Jesus was calling Peter and the other men who would follow him to fulfill a greater purpose than making a living as fishermen. Though certainly there is no shame in being fishermen but becoming a fisher of people for the Kingdom of Christ is certainly a greater role to play in life. In the midst of the conflict and confusion of his crucifixion and resurrection the disciples had forgotten their greater purpose to which Jesus had previously called them to fulfill. Through this miraculous appearance Jesus was reminding them of their greater calling to spend their lives in making disciples.
Jesus then confirmed his presence by sharing the catch of fish with bread. These disciples had also witnessed this before when Jesus had fed the multitude on two separate occasions. This too was instruction on how they were to make disciples – by taking the meager resources they had to feed both physically and spiritually the multitudes they would encounter. They may doubt they had the stuff to make such a significant impact on the lives of others, but just as it was Jesus who performed both previous miracles he could and would do the same if they would simply respond to his call upon them and proclaim the good news of faith in Christ.
He will repeat that miracle in us and our churches if we would but radically trust and follow him. We create the perception of scarcity; it is Jesus who multiplies our capacity.
Blessings! Dr. Brian Homan