Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Come and Eat Breakfast (John 21:9-14)

9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. 14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

When the boat reached the shore, and the disciples got out, they were greeted by a somewhat surprising sight. They were the ones that had been fishing all night, catching nothing until Jesus miraculously helped them. And yet, here they see that Jesus has already caught a fish, and is cooking it over a charcoal fire.

As I mentioned before, there are only two times in the entire New Testament where a “charcoal fire” is mentioned, and both are in St. John’s Gospel. Other than in this verse, a charcoal fire is only mentioned in 18:18, where Peter’s denials of Jesus are narrated. This double mention of a very specific detail like the charcoal fire is St. John’s way of linking together Peter’s falling away from Christ with his restoration to Christ, which will occur after the meal that will be cooked over the charcoal fire. (I am indebted to Fr. Patrick Reardon for this insight).

Jesus commands the disciples to bring him some of the fish that they had just caught. After all, one fish would not be enough to feed seven hungry fishermen! So, Peter and the others drag the net to the land. As Fr. Farley states, “No doubt the other helped [Peter] (it was too big a load for one person), but Peter is singled out as the leader of the fishing expedition—and also because it was he whom Christ would soon recall to his task of fishing for men” (359). Note also that the number of fish (153) is specifically enumerated – another touch that only an eyewitness like St. John could provide.

Then, the fishermen enjoyed a hearty and satisfying meal in the presence with their master. And none of them dared ask him “Who are you?” They didn’t have to. For who else but Jesus could have worked such a great miracle? Moreover, it was Jesus’ trademark to reveal himself to them in the context of a meal. He had revealed deep truths to them during the meal the night before his crucifixion. He had become known to two other disciples (of the Seventy, not the Twelve), in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-31). For the disciples, Jesus was truly the Bread of Life, the one who feeds his people.

In summary, I see three principles for our Christian life that can be drawn from this text:

1. We can do nothing without God. Despite being professional fishermen who had fished in the Sea of Galilee all their lives, and despite laboring all night, Peter, James, John, and the others caught nothing. In Fr. Farley’s words, “[The disciples] had seen from their fruitless night of fishing that without Him, they could do nothing (compare 15:5).” And we too, can do nothing of spiritual significance without Christ.

2. Christ can do anything without us. Jesus didn’t need the disciples to provide him with fish. After all, he was the Creator of fish! Instead of causing the disciples to catch 153 fish and haul them in, he could have just created 153 (or any number!) on the spot and eaten to his heart’s content. He teaches them this by showing them that he already had a fish when they arrived. Jesus didn’t need the disciples to bring him fish, and he doesn’t need us to do his work in the world. So why did Jesus put the disciples through the whole trying experience? I think that it was to teach them that…

3. Christ wants to use us. Our Lord doesn’t need to use us. In fact, we are often very unreliable servants. But he chooses to use us anyway. He used the disciples to bring in the fish, and he would soon use them to fish for men, bringing them into the “net” of his kingdom. He has used men and women throughout the centuries to build his Church by bringing people to faith in him. And he wants to use us today to do the same. We can do nothing without Christ, but with him we “can do all things” (Phil. 4:13).

And the beauty of it all, is that when God uses us to accomplish his purposes, two things happen: He gets the glory, and we get the joy. And when we allow Christ to use us to build his kingdom, people will know that “it is the Lord!”


s-p said...

Good study. The Lord's Supper was the institution of "Communion with Christ", the Lord's Breakfast on the shore is the assurance of Reconciliation to Christ after we've sinned against His Supper.

charlene said...

Father James,
When I went back to school at 40 and fell in love with young people, I decided I would teach at the college level. I had a mentor that spent hour upon hour with me, teaching me not just Economics, but teaching me how to teach. I have always felt a great responsibility to give back to my studentsas generously as he gave to me, and to try to give those special ones what they need to succeed in the future. In reading this entry, I saw similarities. I have always felt that I would not be the caring and effective teacher I have become if my mentor had not been there for me. And I get the joy of seeing my students learn and grow. My God gives me his love, and puts the right people in my life to help me grow. God's love inspires me to be want to do good things for others. Without Him I could do nothing, but with
charleneHis love, I hope I can do something. At the same time, I realize that this is an awesome responsibility, trying to become the kind of person that will lead others to Christ. He gave His apostles a great responsibility to build His church, and we, as its members must do the same. It is my fervent prayer that through Christ's love and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we will all succeed.
Thank you Father, for giving me something so important to reflect on.