Third Sunday of Easter, May 1
Reader: “Jesus said, “feed my sheep.”
Response: “Jesus said, “follow me.”
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.”
You may have noticed that this resurrection appearance has several ties to earlier appearances and events in Jesus’ interaction with his disciples. Matthew records that at the resurrection Jesus told the women to have the disciples go to Galilee and he would meet them there. This pericope fulfills his words. You’ll recall that much of Jesus’ ministry with the disciples was in and around the region and the Sea of Galilee. I’m guessing these seven disciples picked up many of the connections between the pre-resurrection and post-resurrection encounters with Jesus. Let’s explore some of them.
The disciples returned to fishing again and this night caught nothing. The same thing happened three years earlier when Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, the author of this book, had a night of futile fishing. (Luke 5:1-10) In this instance it’s morning and there is a man standing on the beach who asks them if they’ve caught any fish. Upon hearing their answer, he tells them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat. You have to wonder, did that ring a bell in the minds of the disciples? Déjà vu?
I have a feeling John was the first to pick up what was going on with his comment,”It’s the Lord!” That’s all Peter needed to hear. He was in the water on his way to shore! In Peter’s encounter with the Lord years earlier in a similar situation, his words were, “Depart from me Lord, I’m a sinner.” Here, he makes his way to the Lord as fast as he can. He didn’t need to walk on the water this time to know it was the Lord! (Matthew 14:28-29)
Two times in the New Testament there is mention of a charcoal fire. One is here and the other is when Peter warmed himself in the dark of night by the charcoal fire where he denied he even knew the Lord. It is fitting that the restoration of Peter took place in the light of a new day by another charcoal fire. What had been a reminder of failure became a symbol of restoration.
Jesus’ breakfast consisted of fish and bread, perhaps a reminder to the disciples of the feeding of the 5,000 or even when Jesus asked the disciples for a piece of fish to eat the evening of his resurrection to prove he wasn’t a ghost. But by this point they all realized they were in the presence of the risen Christ.
As we consider Jesus’ interaction with Peter around the question of loving him, most Greek scholars treat the two different Greek words concerning “love” as synonyms. Too much can be made of the differing words when the main point is Jesus’ charge to Peter to take care of the flock. Peter, James, and John were the disciples in Jesus’ inner circle and Peter was the leader of the three. Following his tragic failure in front of all the disciples, (“Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”), Jesus restores him to leadership in front of James and John and four other disciples. One cannot miss the three-fold restoration mirroring the three-fold denial. Jesus brings Peter’s ministry full circle in foretelling him of his death bringing glory to God. In Jesus’ foreknowledge of Peter’s life, we also learn there will be no more denials of his Savior.
What are some things for us to glean? We are reminded that every part of our life is significant in God’s master plan. Past or even future failures are not final. Jesus is tender in granting forgiveness. He is in the life restoration business. No person or situation is ever hopeless. Meals with believing friends are an important part of living out faith. Jesus takes the initiative in dealing with his children. His children recognize him in their midst. Pray today for people you know who are on the other side of Peter’s situation―still distant from the Lord. (Luke 18:1-8 the persistent widow)
Music: “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah” Brits Hymn Sing
Prayer:O unapproachable Light, how can I fold these guilty hands before Thee: How can I pray to Thee with lips that have spoken false and churlish words? An unruly tongue; a fretful disposition: an unwillingness to bear the burdens of others: high professions joined to low attainments: fine words hiding shabby thoughts: a friendly face masking a cold heart: I thank Thee, O loving Father, that, holy and transcendent as thou art, Thou hast through all ages shown Thyself to be accessible to the prayers of erring mortals such as I; and especially I praise Thy name that in the gospel of Jesus Christ Thou hast opened up a new and living way into Thy presence, making Thy mercy free to all who have nothing else to plead. Let despair over my miserable sins give place to joy in Thine adorable goodness. So let me lie down tonight thinking, not of myself and my own affairs, but of others who need Thy help and of the work that I can do for their sakes in the vineyard of Thy world. Amen. ―John Baillie, from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.119