Third Sunday in Easter, April 26

Reader: “Jesus appeared again to the disciples” 

Response: “beside the Sea of Galilee.”

Scripture: John 21:1-19

Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

“Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

“Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

Reader: “The word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Some thoughts:
In the whole of John’s gospel he has a clear purpose in writing which he states just prior to this passage, namely “so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” (Jn.20:31) There are similarities throughout the book to that end, many of which appear in this pericope. Peter figures prominently in this third encounter with the risen Lord. Peter also denied the Lord thrice. Of the seven disciples present, it is interesting to know who they were. There was Peter and we’ll say more about him below. There was Thomas, the “show me” disciple, who was again encountering the living Jesus in the flesh. There was Nathaniel, known for his high character though not one of the twelve, but one who had interacted with Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry and proclaimed him the Son of God. There were also James and John the brother fishermen and two other unnamed disciples. These men had left Jerusalem after the resurrection and had gone back home to Galilee and resumed their previous occupation, fishing. We mentioned a few days ago about John’s use of the “light/dark” motive in his gospel. Here it comes again. (Nicodemas came to Jesus at night 3:2; Judas leaving to betray 13:30; resurrection morning “while it was still dark” 20:1; the disciples cowering in the dark that first Sunday evening of the resurrection 20:19―insights from G.Borchert, New American Commentary, John Vol.11, p.326) The idea is that people move from spiritual darkness to recognizing the truth of the Savior. At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples didn’t recognize him. They were still “in the dark.” But when they followed the Lord’s suggestion and pulled in all the fish, then John, the writer of this gospel, told Peter, it is the Lord! Again we see John helping Peter. It was John who spoke to the high priest allowing Peter into the courtyard at Jesus’ trial. It was John who got to the empty tomb first and here, and here it is John who recognized Jesus first. And now we have another fellowship meal with Jesus resulting in Peter being restored. We’re familiar with the three denials and here, the three affirmations of love for the Savior. It is interesting that both occurred around a charcoal fire, the only two times a charcoal fire is mentioned. Charcoal is ashes and ashes are a sign of repentance. It would almost seem this restoration of Peter as a kind of “Ash Wednesday” coming to full circle. In the words of Psalm 36:9 “With Thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” Walk in the light this glorious day. 

The music today is the earliest recorded Christian hymn (text) outside of the Bible coming from the 3rd century. The music was composed for the Russian Orthodox Church by Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) Orthodox music is only vocal. No instruments used in worship, only the human voice. You may want to let the video continue to run after this piece!

Music: “Hail Gladdening Light”  Rachmaninoff Vespers Robert Shaw Festival Singers   sung in Russian, English translation

O Light gladsome of the holy glory of the Immortal Father,

the Heavenly, the Holy, the Blessed, O Jesus Christ,

having come upon the setting of the sun, having seen the light of the evening,

we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God.

Worthy it is at all times to praise Thee in joyful voices,

O Son of God, Giver of Life, for which the world glorifies Thee.

Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, you shine light into darkness. A Light which pierces gloom. A Light which fades shadows. A Light which penetrates ominous clouds. A Light which overcomes the black. A Light which melts phantoms. A Light which defeats  doubts, fears, hopelessness, confusion, stress, tension, anger. . . On this holy day, let the Light of my Savior shine forth in me that He may bring glory to the Father as he lives in and through me. May the dark places in my life be overcome by the Light of the World, even Jesus the Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.     ―Daniel Sharp