There is this beautiful moment towards the end of John’s biography of Jesus’ life that gives me pause. Nothing had gone they way the disciples had thought. They were not prepared for the execution of their Rabbi, nor the disappearance of his body and his subsequent physical resurrection. The closest followers of Jesus found themselves in hiding in the days following all the chaos of passion week. In john’s final narrative he recalls the third encounter the disciples have with this risen Jesus. What I find amazing is that even after they had witnessed something as incredible and hopeful as their risen Lord, it was not business as usual. John remembers them fishing. To find ourselves in this story is to remember what it’s like when we feel totally out of control. Just like these disciples I would be tempted to default to what is familiar. Fishing is what they know how to do. I can relate to how they must have been feeling. What does all this mean? Nothing has happened like they planned. Everything is in a dizzying tailspin. As the oldest, Peter seems to be leading the way. This unlikely leader knows more about failure than forward it seems. John records these disciples taking the advice of a stranger on the beach to try fishing on the other side of the boat. A full net leads them to recognize this their third encounter with Christ. After coming ashore they are greeted by a full breakfast. Sometimes between our failure and the future we find God on the shores of our lives making breakfast.
What I find even more endearing is that Jesus asks them to bring some of the fish they just caught. This reminds me that in God’s desire to redeem all things, we have a contribution to make. The disciples are proof of this. When God chose to enter our humanity and declare a new kingdom, one of the first things he does is recruit others to help him accomplish it.
This isn’t the first time Jesus breaks fish and bread to feed hungry people either. Two other times in the biographies of Jesus we read of a miraculous lunch. This encounter is no different. Jesus breaks the fish and bread and asks Peter to feed his hungry lambs. We recall that in the times before the miracle of reproduction happens in the baskets. In this moment the miracle happens in the heart.
Brian Walsh from www.empireremixed.com reminds of a final observation in this encounter. When Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Jesus uses a different word for love than what Peter responds with. You need to see the original language to grasp this significance. Basically Jesus uses a verb form of Agape, and Peter responds with the brotherly love-phileo. Jesus asked Peter if he will love him with all that he is, and Peter responds ‘Lord you know I am your friend’. Two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him using this verb. And Peter can only muster a ‘Lord you know I am your friend’ The final time Jesus asks, Peter is hurt. Maybe because three times is reminiscent of his denial before his crucifixion. I wonder if Peter is also upset because on the third time Jesus enters the friend zone. Jesus asks Peter the final time using the same word Peter uses to describe his love. Jesus asks ‘Peter, are we friends?’. Peter changes his tone and and ads what must have sounded like an emotional plea- ‘Lord you know all things, you know that I am your friend.’ Sometimes when we can’t make it to ‘Lord’, Jesus says lets start with ‘friend’ and take it from there. As I read this story it reminds me that Peter and the disciples are deeply flawed, and it gives me hope. It reminds me that they have come full circle. In a moment of Deja Vu, we find them stepping out of their boats just like three years earlier leaving a huge catch behind. And just like before jesus asks them to come and follow him. Follow me as friend, and let me become your Lord. Whether they recognized the irony of this moment or not they know that they have changed but this Jesus hasn’t. The journey ahead of them will be just as amazing as the one behind them.