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Gone Fishing

the risen Lord

the risen Lord

The final chapter of John’s Gospel recounts the rehabilitation and the reinstatement of the Apostle Peter and supplies important information about the shape and nature of his subsequent ministry. It also concludes by emphasising Jesus’ teaching on the source and scope of Christian mission.

Peter, ever the initiator, says to the others, “I’m going fishing,” and they decide to tag along. Night was the favourable time to fish on Lake Galilee, but the trip proved fruitless. As they returned to shore in the dim early morning light a stranger hails them from the shore. It is the risen Lord but they are kept from recognizing him. His instruction to them was colloquial and would today be rendered something like; “Hey lads, you haven’t caught a thing have you? Try the right side of the boat, you’ll catch some there.” To their astonishment, they caught almost more than they could haul. Reminiscent of a previous miraculous catch (Luke 5:1-11), they come to the realization; “it is the Lord.”

Coming ashore they discover that a cooked breakfast awaits them. Graciously Jesus invites them to contribute from their catch. As they share in the meal with Jesus a holy wonder comes over them. As Bishop Lesslie Newbigin so beautifully articulated; ‘in awestruck silence they eat. They dare not ask, “who are you?” for the answer could only be “I AM.” So they eat what the Lord gives them and the sharing of the meal is the unveiling of his presence.’

There are at least two principles to be gained from this encounter with the Risen Lord; first, it illustrates the key to effective mission. When the disciples went out on their own initiative they caught nothing. When they followed Jesus’ directions they caught in abundance, for as Jesus said, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).

The second principle illustrates the scope of mission. The catch was as astonishing one, far beyond the disciple’s expectations. In our New Testament Canon, the chapter immediately following this one, has the Risen Lord articulating the scope of Christian mission as being ‘to the ends of the earth ’ (Acts 1:8). Indeed, two thousand years later we are living testimonies to the truth of these words, for few countries are further away from Jerusalem than Australia. Our God is a missionary God and he bids us all to join the throng in proclaiming, Christ is risen, he is risen indeed alleluia!  

John 21:1-19 (20-23)

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,* Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.3Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.5Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’6He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake.8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards* off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.10Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.12Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord.13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’16A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’17He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Jesus and the Beloved Disciple

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’22Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’23So the rumour spread in the community* that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’*        

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