1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
There are a lot of distractions in this text from John. But that’s kind of the way John is. There’s always a whole bunch of things going on at the same time. It’s easy to get sidetracked from the main point because there are so many fun little details that surely mean something.
Why was Peter naked? Why did he feel a need to put “on” clothes before jumping into the sea?
If Jesus was already cooking fish, why did he ask the disciples to bring some of theirs?
Is there some hidden meaning to exactly 153 fish they caught?
There’s a whole lot more. And, although they can be fun to play with, and sometimes even meaningful, the downside is that we can end up spending so much time on those details that we lose the main point the author is trying to make.
Which is that this chapter was added to tie up some loose ends, and in this text, particularly with Peter. Other than a quick look into the empty tomb, the last time we heard from Peter in this gospel was his denial of Jesus during Jesus’ trial.
Peter wasn’t a very good disciple, really. He never understands, never accepts things. He always messes things up and makes things worse. Plus, he not only denied knowing Jesus, he didn’t believe Jesus was raised, and he abandoned his discipleship.
So we get to wrap up some loose ends with Peter, since he was one of the leaders of this new, emerging church.
In this text, Peter went back to his old life, fishing, perhaps thinking he can be of no real use anymore. Even if Jesus is raised from the dead, Peter surely won’t be needed. So he abandons his discipleship.
Yet Jesus shows up. After Peter’s denial, disbelief, and abandonment, Jesus shows up on the seashore. Rather than reprimand Peter or demand he shape up, Jesus helps him with his fishing. “Put your nets out on the other side of the boat,” he yells.
And the catch of fish is amazing. More than that, Jesus fixes breakfast for them. And then he gives Peter this magnificent opportunity to understand that he’s forgiven. Jesus asks him to express his love three times, the same number of times he denied knowing Jesus. And he asks Peter to feed his sheep three times. Peter not only is forgiven, but has a new purpose with Jesus.
But that’s still not all. Jesus shares that Peter will die giving glory to God. And if it all isn’t clear yet, Jesus finishes with Peter by inviting him to follow him.
That seems like a lot of trouble for Jesus to go through, but that’s really the point. We may have given up on God, on Jesus, on the church. But Jesus won’t give up on us. We may think we’re too far gone to be redeemed. We may have lost hope that we can be of use, but Jesus shows up in our lives anyway.
It’s as if Jesus understands that we’re trying our best, and our best isn’t good enough. He understands that no matter how much effort we put into being faithful disciples, we just can’t seem to get it right. And that’s when Jesus shows up on our shore.
When we don’t understand, when we’re confronted with the realization that we aren’t such great disciples after all, that’s when Jesus calls out to us.
Jesus knows that we deny him when we hoard our possessions. He knows that when we make discipleship about us we turn our backs on him. And that’s when he meets us in a meal: fish cooked on a charcoal fire, bread and wine served in worship.
Jesus has seen us tear others down. He’s watched as we say unkind things about others. He’s fully aware that we put our own comfort and our own priorities ahead of his. And that’s when he gives us a chance to say we love him.
We’re no better than Peter, who denied, disbelieved, and abandoned Jesus. Yet Jesus shows up, loves us, forgives us, and invites us again to follow.
Who among us has ever realized we’re not the greatest disciples? Jesus is calling you.
Who among us has felt utterly helpless, lost, and doesn’t know where to go? Jesus is showing up for you.
Who among us has been afraid to even think about how we might be failing? Jesus is inviting you to eat a meal with him.
Who among us has yet to take our discipleship seriously? Jesus is asking you to follow him.
There’s the details of John’s gospel, but then there’s the main point. Jesus, the Christ, shows up for you, forgives you, eats with you, and invites you. Jesus comes to you, because he loves you. And you are worth it.