“After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples” – or Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples, or Jesus manifested himself again to the disciples. Jesus takes the initiative to make himself known once again. After the resurrection Jesus repeatedly manifested himself, repeatedly revealed himself, repeatedly made himself known. The good news of God in Christ is not something that is found or discovered through self discovery or human wisdom. It is not dependent upon our understanding or our reasoning ability or our insights or our wisdom. It is through the gracious revelation of God. Jesus, resurrected from the dead, Jesus full of life revealed the truth and reality that he is the way the truth the life to the disciples after his resurrection by manifesting himself to them. He revealed to them that he was alive! For disciples then and now that reality changes their world view. It changes their understanding of life. We do not deduce the truth of the gospel we experience the truth of the gospel through the gracious revelation of God. This is such an astounding and life changing reality that it took multiple encounters with Jesus after the resurrection to sink in. For us it takes intentional and regular turning to Jesus and seeking Jesus and looking at the witness about Jesus to get glimpses of his glory for the transforming power of His glory to change our lives.
Before their encounter with Jesus in today’s story they claimed there were two other times that Jesus had come to them and manifested himself, revealed himself alive to them. So what is their reaction to such astounding and life changing reality? Peter says – “I’m going fishing.” Jesus has died and risen from the dead, he comes to them to reveal that reality to them and then leaves again and in the in between times of Jesus coming to them while they are waiting Peter says that’s it I am going fishing. I am going to return to everyday life. I am going back to what I know. My family needs to eat. Spiritual and everyday life are not separate realities. They are not two different realities that you make a choice which should I engage in today or at this moment. Jesus does not call them away from everyday life Jesus comes to them, where they are and encourages them. He cooks them breakfast! He understands their needs. He understands your needs.
Peter says I am going fishing and the others say great idea we are going with you because we have no idea what else to do. It was not a very satisfying fishing trip. They did not catch anything. As they approach the shore there is Jesus waiting on the beach to greet them but they honestly report that they did not know that it was him. They did not recognize him. They report that this is the third time that Jesus has manifested himself alive to them yet it has not fully sunk in that this is a new reality. Jesus is alive. Jesus has a physical existence. He is like us but not like us. He is part of the physical world in which we live but he does not seem to be restricted to the physical world in which we live.
Jesus says to them – children. It is an endearing term. We are all children of God and Jesus is affirming that his resurrection affirms that reality. We are his children. We belong to him. “Children you have no fish have you” he knows that they have caught nothing. He knows our struggles and frustrations in life. Sometimes we expel a great deal of energy and have nothing to show for it. They have been fishing all night and they have nothing to show for it. He says to them throw the net to the right side of the boat. They probably lost count on how many times they cast their nets over the side of the boat, left or right side. (Port or Starboard for you purist). Albert Einstein, the brilliant rational and logical thinker has something to say about such a request. He says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Jesus’ command must have seemed insane to the seasoned fishermen. Einstein is right it is insane to do the same thing over and over and expect different results when we are operating strictly on our own. However, there is a difference between doing something on our own or doing something with Jesus. When Jesus is involved it is not insanity to do something we have tried before and expect different results. That is when they realized it was Jesus who was on the shore speaking to them. The witness of those who knew Jesus is not I was a mess and Jesus showed up and now I have it all together. The witness is I was a mess and I still am but I am a mess who belongs to Jesus. A mess Jesus is committed to working with and sorting out. Their witness is Jesus came to us, Jesus stuck with us, met us where we were in our confusion and disbelief and doubt and messiness and continues to be our everything.
The details in this story make it read like a story being recounted by eye witnesses. There are a series of little details that don’t actually add to the what we might consider the meaning of the story and in fact some of them seem to be confusing if you look for meaning in them. Peter, who has neatly put his clothes away so they won’t get wet while fishing puts them on and then jumps in the water. That is the action of someone who is excited but very confused. When they get to the shore they see a charcoal fire, which means the fire has been going for a while and there is already cooked fish and bread on the fire. That creates such a warm and welcoming and homey but in many ways natural image. If you were writing a story, making up a story, to say this person was all powerful, death could not hold him, he is in control of everything, he speaks and nature listens, adding oh and by the way he makes the best bread and BBQ fish seems a bit too everyday and ordinary. Jesus is a mysterious person. He does not fit into the little categories we use to help us make sense of life. To be open to Jesus we have to be prepared to embrace the mysterious person and let go of the idol of certainty. Jesus will disturb your life in ways you don’t expect and in ways that don’t make sense to you.
After they cast the net over the side of the boat it is so full of fish they marvel that it did not break. If you were making up a story where Jesus performs this great miracle of filling your net with an overwhelming supply of fish the story would not include concern that the net would break. If he is going to supply the fish of course he would make the net not break. But with Jesus there is this dance between the miraculous and everyday real life. What’s with the 153 fish? That is a pretty specific number. Is there some deep theological meaning to the 153. The passage is not so much about theology but about relationship with Jesus. It reads like a recount of an event not a story to support or build up theological understanding. Large quantities of ink and some very creative thinking have gone into trying to find some deep meaning in why there were 153 fish. It is not surprising that someone counted them. Either so they could be divided up among the fishermen in preparation for sale or because they were so dumbfounded by the size of the catch – can you believe it, it’s amazing the nets did not break; I wonder how many fish there are. Perhaps they just wanted an accurate “fish” story. Like a sport fisherman out catching individual fish who instead of saying I caught one that was this big and holds their hands up uses a tape measure and accurately says I caught one that was x inches long. They can say we caught 153 fish instead of guessing some huge number that no one would believe.
Jesus says come eat breakfast, and then he serves them breakfast. And like most men, after they eat, they are in a much better mood so Jesus begins to press a bit regarding their relationship to him. He says to Peter, the one who had denied he even knew Jesus three times the night of Jesus arrest, “do you love me more than these ones?” Peter do you love me more than you love anyone else? That is a question for all of them to consider. That is a question for all of us to consider. It is not an easy question to answer. We could like Peter answer quickly and say yes I love you. But Jesus presses it. He asks a second time. It’s an awkward question to be asked once but to have the person press on with it a second time makes it more serious. But then he presses in a third time asking him do you love me? Each time Peter answers positively and each time Jesus responds by saying if you do love me then your love is going to result in a changed life. Your love will result in you caring for others.
We need to constantly review and review and think about over and over again our relationship with Jesus. There is nothing in your life that your relationship with Jesus does not affect. It touches the very motivation for why we love. Do you love in order to get love or do you love because you are truly and infinitely loved. That is the witness of the disciples. Jesus, the word made flesh, was abandoned by and denied by them. Jesus the word made flesh, rose from the dead and came to them over and over again. Blessed them, loved them, cooked them breakfast, revealed to them that they were infinitely loved. Our self centeredness is the main problem when it comes to loving others. Do you love to get love or do you love because you are truly and infinitely loved? Come to Jesus and let him reveal the depth of His love for you. Let him ask you – Do you love me more than anything. Then go and love others as He loves you.