Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
Monday, January 26, 2009
It Is the Lord! (John 21:1-8)
1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”
They answered Him, “No.”
6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.
Several days had passed since Jesus appeared a second time to the disciples in their hiding place in Jerusalem. Jesus had commanded the disciples to meet him in Galilee (Matt. 28:10), and so they had obeyed. But after several days had passed, they no doubt became discouraged, feeling as if they were without direction or purpose. They had nothing to do, and they had to eat. So one day some of them, led by Peter [as usual], decide to go fishing. But despite working through the night (the best time to catch fish), they caught nothing. Had their three-year “sabbatical” from commercial fishing caused them to become a bit rusty, or was this lack of success providential?
Just when they were about to give up, they spot a stranger off in the distance, standing on the shore of the lake. Of course, the stranger was Jesus, but they did not recognize him. This lack of recognition was due to a combination of their fatigue, the effect of wind and water blowing in their eyes, the dim light, and the fact that Jesus’ resurrected body appeared slightly different that his regular body had. So as far as the disciples were concerned, this was just someone who had watched them fail to catch anything. And to make matters worse, he rubs it in by asking them if they had caught any fish, addressing them as paidia, which means something like “kids” or at best “boys.”
Now imagine their reaction when this stranger offers them advice on how to catch fish. It must have been more than a little irritating. After all, they were undoubtedly exhausted. Their eyes were tired. Their muscles ached. Their hands were worn raw by the ropes. And, most importantly, they were professionals at this fishing thing! Who was this stranger to offer them advice? “Cast the net on the right side of the boat?” They had already tried every side of the boat—multiple times!
And yet, something (they probably were not even aware what it was) about this stranger’s voice caused them to obey anyway. Perhaps their minds were drawn back to a previous similar experience, as Fr. Farley suggests: “This event had an eerily familiar feel to it, since it recalled the day Jesus had first called them to be his disciples. On that day too, they had fished all night and taken nothing, and on that day too Christ had bid them let down their nets for a catch (Luke 5:4-5).” And sure enough, when they obeyed, “Just like on that now far-off day, their nets had now enclosed an astonishing multitude of fish” (Farley, 358).
As soon as they caught the big haul of fish, John knows that the man on the shore is Jesus. He didn’t even have to see Jesus clearly with his eyes; he knew from the miracle alone. And true to form, as soon as Peter hears that the Lord has appeared to them again, he doesn’t even wait to confirm it himself. He jumps straight into the water, after first making himself “decent” by putting on his cloak (he had probably just been wearing his loincloth before), and swims for the shore. He is so eager to see Jesus that he totally forgets about the boat and the fish, leaving them for the other disciples to haul in.