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In the opening verse, John indicates that Jesus “showed himself.” Jesus determined to show himself here and not there. I wonder why he decided to show up at the beach on the morning seven disciples went fishing.

On the evening before, Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” Six others joined him, but alas, all night long they hauled in empty nets. Then, “just after daybreak,” Jesus stood on the beach. They are about 300 feet away and don’t recognize him. “Catch anything,” he yells toward them. “No,” is the echo. Do it reverse, throw your nets on the other side and you’ll get some. They do. They did. 153 fish to be exact.

John tells Peter, “It’s the Lord” and Peter jumps out of the boat and began half swimming and a half doing that weird waist-deep in water running motion we’ve all done before. He leaves the hauling to the others.

Jesus indeed knew where the fish were, for there over the charcoal was fish and bread. “Get some of your fish and have some breakfast.” Once again, Jesus serves them food.

After breakfast, Jesus speaks to Peter. Do you love me, Peter? Yes, you know I love you. Do you love me, Peter? Yes, you know I love you. For the third time, Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me.” Peter is hurt. “Lord, you know all things and you know I love you.” Right now, Peter, you fasten your own belt. I saw you do that before you jumped in the water, but one day someone is going to tie a belt around your hands and lead you to a place you don’t want to go. “Follow me.”

Upon reflecting on this passage, it struck me that the post-resurrection encounters of Jesus with the disciples have a different feel than the previous three years’ jaunt around the Judean countryside. There are no parables, no long teachings, and no healings. It feels common.

Matthew ends his gospel with Jesus telling the disciples to get going and to tell the whole world. Mark enigmatically ends with the entrance of the tomb rolled away. Luke ends his gospel with an interlude on the Emmaus Road only to have Jesus disappear from sight just when they realized who he was. John leaves us with breakfast on Resurrection beach.

There is something majestically modest about this passage, but it comes with a caveat: just let the passage be plain. We don’t have to bring symbolism to bear on the 153 fish. Just do a web search and stare in wonder. It’s 153 fish -a large number that even impressed professional disciple-fishermen. I once caught a modest smallmouth bass and though a great white shark was on the other end. 153 is a detail an eye-witness would know.

Also, I’m not persuaded by the rhetoric that suggests Peter and the other disciples were being disobedient by going fishing. It is said in the tone of, “they are going back to the way it was before they met Jesus.” Like they are backsliding. First, they needed to eat. Second, fishermen sell fish to provide for their families and also to fund the ministry in which they are engaged.

Neither is it necessary to arrange Jesus and Peter’s conversation in increasing degrees of love with agape being greater than Philo. This argument is not persuasive because it is misguided because agape and philo are used synonymously.

I grant what is miraculous here: cooking breakfast and eating with seven people who let you down greatly. These are the future leaders of the Church and they need resurrected reassurance and that’s what Jesus gives them during their stay on Resurrection Beach.

An aspect that I think maybe going on post-resurrection, is that the disciples are leaderless. As long as they’ve had one another they’ve also had Jesus. Now they were seeing Jesus less and less and they are in disarray. And, when Jesus says, “Go,” does he mean we go together or do we separate?

The ordinariness of the predicament is delightful. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? How am I going to handle doing what I know I need to do? How do I live with my past while pursuing a positive future?

This passage is about the resurrected Lord getting entangled with the ordinary lives of ordinary people. This gives me hope because I need Jesus to yell at me on occasion. “Do it reverse of what you’re doing now! You’ll get better results.”

Forgive instead of holding a grudge. Give instead of hoarding. Trust instead of withholding. Maintain hope instead of cynicism.

We want Jesus with fireworks, not Jesus with charcoal under his fingernails and the smell of smoke in his hair, but this is what we get: a Savior so strikingly familiar with what we get ourselves into.

The ordinary humanness of this passage is something deeply profound. There is all this chaos inside the disciples. They are disgraced, disordered, disorganized, and in disarray. No direction and no movement toward meaningful engagement with the world. Yet, it was on this same sea that the disciples were in a boat during a tempest in which they called out to the Lord for help and he arose and said, “Peace be still,” and the winds and waves obeyed. It was beside this same sea that Peter heard the words he will hear in a moment, “Follow me.”

They belong to Christ no matter what. The story has now come full circle and now it is there time to go make disciples like Jesus did.

I am moved by what is often termed Jesus’ restoration of Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus asks him three times if he, Peter, really loves Jesus. Perhaps this recognition is what hurts Peter. “You know, Jesus, that I philo/dearly love you.”

Now, for a turn. In Matthew 26, Peter boldly says, “I will follow you even if I have to die for you.” Then betrayal. In our passage, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, to which he replies, and then Jesus says, “You will die for me one day. Follow me.” Peter, this was just a warm-up. Steel yourself. It’s not over. It’s just begun because of grace. Follow me and one day you’ll enjoy Resurrection Beach too.

In this same gospel, John, chapter 15, Jesus tells the disciples, “No one has greater agape than this than to lay down their life for their philos.” Peter finds hope and restoration on Resurrection Beach. He will demonstrate that greater agape for his dearly loved One. Sometimes our fears and feelings can only be forged into daring faith by the suffering that comes from love’s own furnace.

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