Breakfast of forgiveness

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There is one more appearance of the resurrected Christ recorded in detail in the last chapter of John’s gospel because John was present along with Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, James and two other disciples he doesn’t name.

It starts off with Peter announcing he’s going fishing. There’s certain to be more here than just, “I’ve got nothing else to do for a while; let’s do a little fishing.” On more than one occasion, Jesus has told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit, because they were going to have a job to do. We know now that job would include preaching the gospel and starting churches, but they wouldn’t have known anything about that at the time, and Peter being the impatient type, was most likely still smarting from his three denials of Christ. You can almost detect in his voice an attitude of, “I’m done with this discipleship business, besides, I’m not worthy to do anything for Jesus after what I’ve done. I’m going back to what I know best — what I was doing before all this started — I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going fishing!” and a bunch of them said “Hey, wait a minute, we’ll go too.” That’s pretty much the mood when this story begins.

So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

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.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] 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. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (John 21:3-9)

Good old Peter: impetuous, bullheaded — going full speed in either the right or the wrong direction. And Jesus, on the beach, intent on reversing the direction of this whole enterprise, invites them to breakfast, following which he asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He’s obviously referring to the pile of 153 fish they just caught by throwing the net on the other side of the boat. I mean, how ridiculous is that? How wide is the boat anyway? If there’s no fish on one side, there’s none on the other. Except that this is Jesus, and this whole scene is an exact copy of what happened when Jesus first called Peter. The Son of God is basically running a recommissioning service here.

Two more times Jesus will ask Peter if he loves Him and each time Peter will say yes, though it gets harder each time. Three times — one for each denial — and each time Jesus follows with “Feed my sheep.”

“Fishers of men,” Jesus had told them when he first called them to follow Him. “From now on you will be fishers of men.” Peter and the other disciples knew who His sheep were. Jesus is basically saying, Peter, we’re back in business. You’re working for me now. Remember I’m the one who named you Peter — Rock — and I am building my church around you. No more fishing for fish. We were done with the three years ago. I’ve already forgiven you. Now let’s get back to Jerusalem and wait. You’ll know what to do when it’s time.

And then He said the one thing He said when He first called him: “Follow me.” And the rest is history.

 

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5 Responses to Breakfast of forgiveness

  1. Mark Seguin says:

    Good catch! 🙂

  2. Peter Leenheer says:

    Good to read your insights. Have you considered that Jesus came to forgive Peter because Peter would have never forgiven himself. I know it would have been ………
    I also love Jesus sense of humor, he doesn’t identify himself by sight but by memory of a previous incident like this ie.all those fish. The better you get to know Jesus the more you will be aware of his presence.

  3. Sandie says:

    I have come to believe that when Peter disappeared into the night, weeping bitterly after his blatant denials of knowing Jesus – that a cleansing, a spiritual catharsis occurred over the course of the next few days. If he was still burdened by guilt, why would he be so eager to reach the empty tomb? Me…I”d be running the other way in order to escape Jesus’ knowing eyes. Again, when he recognized Jesus on the beach, he didn’t hesitate to jump in and swim immediately to shore – sure of his welcome. Me…I’d make a business of bringing the boat in, separating the catch, mending and storing the nets…anything to put off looking into those eyes that knew my very soul. I think Peter knew already that he was forgiven – Jesus’ three questions and subsequent charge to “feed my sheep” just put the seal on Peter’s restoration in front of the others. Just a different take…
    Blessings.

  4. Marc says:

    Hi, John,
    A wonderful lesson on Peter’s restoration. And there is more. There is wordplay in the Greek text. The first time, Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” (agape) Peter answers “I am your friend” (philia) The second time, “Do you love me?” (agape) and Peter again respons “I am your friend.” (philia) The third time, Jesus steps down to Peter’s level and asks “Are you my friend?” (philia) and Peter answers “You know I am your friend.” Then Jesus shows how his friendship will grow into true love by what He says:
    18 “Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.” John 21:18-19 CSB
    Tears are in my eyes as I read this.

  5. Peter Leenheer says:

    Sandie and Marc, I agree with what you say. We are told to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus knew Peter considered himself forgiven by Jesus and his neighbors, but we often forget to forgive ourselves. I know I did,while benefitting from two thirds of Christ’s fulfilled law. I think Jesus came to make sure Peter had three thirds not two. Judas betrayed Jesus and was forgiven, but he could not forgive himself.

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