Their last moments with their closest friend, Jesus, came unexpectedly while they were going about their business fishing. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the beloved disciple, and brothers James and John were out fishing in the aftermath of Jesus’s three day death and Sunday morning resurrection appearances. What a whirlwind, and now the guys are out fishing. With no luck, they prepare for the end of an uneventful fishing trip. But as the sun breaks through the sky, from the shore a voice calls, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” (NLT, 21:5). They respond to the stranger calling out, that disappointingly they have caught no fish. In reply the stranger calls back, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” (21:6). Desperate for another option, the men throw their net and to their surprise, the net is so full it’s a wonder the net didn’t break! (6, 11).
Miraculous, unexpected provision… “It is the Lord!” says the beloved disciple to Peter. This stranger calling out, it was their resurrected Lord and friend, appearing to them a third time after his resurrection. Peter throws on his clothes, jumps out of the boat, and swims excitedly to the Lord on the shore. The other disciples haul in the wondrously full, still in tact net; all to find breakfast prepared on the shore by their Lord.
This story is often told to emphasize how the disciples went back to their first love, fishing at sea, even after the Lord’s resurrection. The story is also often told to give context for Jesus’s three heart-probing questions to Peter beginning in verse 15. However, this week, in light of the earthly loss of dear people in our lives, the movements of scripture point to something bigger than context, or a lesson about hobbies. The story’s introduction is that “after this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way”(21:1). Jesus is in the business of revealing himself to his closest friends who have had a whirlwind of a week. Even in light of the resurrection, Jesus knows the hearts of his friends–they need Jesus to reveal himself.
Before the net became overflowing with fish after a catchless night, the disciples thought the man on the shore was a stranger. They didn’t know it was the Lord. However, in the moment of provision in a time of need, the beloved disciple sees. One of Jesus’ marking characteristics is that he reveals himself through provision. For the disciples the provision was a net full of fish, that didn’t even break. For us these past few weeks–which feels very much like a dark, catchless night– where are we our admitting needs? Are we willing to hear the call of the Lord in the middle of our sleepless nights? When it seems like nothing is helping us through difficult times, are we willing to cast our nets on the other side of our boats in obedience? Are we going to keep showing up? For the disciples we are not told why they listened to the call from the stranger on shore, but we know that when they followed the voice and saw the provision, their eyes opened and the knew it was their resurrected friend and Lord.
Instead of calling back, squinting to double check, or shrugging off his friend’s proclamation, Peter jumped into the water, clothes and all, and swam to shore. Peter abandoned his tasks to be with Jesus as fast as he could. In times of difficulty, when we slow down and pay attention to the Spirit, we recognize God’s presence and provision. We don’t call this provision a coincidence, or good luck, but we proclaim that this is the Lord showing up for us in a time of need. When the Lord shows up in your life, are you swimming as fast as you can to meet him? When you run to Jesus, he is there revealed as the Savior, Giver of abundance.
Breakfast is waiting on the shore for you. Even after a night of no sleep or productivity, when the abundance you have is from nothing you did, Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.” Jesus calls his disciples into communion with him. John adds that “none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord”(12). This time around the fire was a time of sweet communing together. When Jesus calls and we answer, we say yes to time enjoying his presence.
What happens in that fellowship with Jesus? How does Jesus desire to reveal himself after a season of growing tiredness, uncertainty, and grief? When we take the time to recognize and respond to Christ’s presence, we affirm the revelation of Jesus as the resurrected Son of God–this leads to deep, nourishing communion with Him. John concludes the story just how he began: “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead”(14). The call from the shore, the provision, the revelation, the swim, the breakfast prepared, the communing–all of this was to reveal the risen Savior as victor over death.
Friends, no matter where you find yourself today, you are living in the light of the resurrection. Keep leaning into the Lord, responding to His call from the shore, and take the time to share His presence with other brothers and sisters in Christ. As Eugene Peterson paraphrases the good news in Hebrews 10:19-25:
“So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into ‘the Holy Place.’ Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”
Be refreshed by the resurrection presence of the Lord who loves you dearly, hold him close because he is holding you. Grace and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Mary Katherine Wildeman, New City Stories Contributor