Third Sunday of Easter

by Crossings

John 21:1-19
(Third Sunday of Easter)
analysis by Jim Squire

1After 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 sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred 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 had appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15When 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, “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.”


Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Minding our own business
This is such a down to earth story, and for that matter a familiar story, that we are risk taking it out of context. It looks innocent enough: the disciples out in the boat as usual, unable to catch anything; Jesus comes along and saves the day, and they follow him. The problem has to do with the timing of this incident within the Gospel’s account. Easter has come! Jesus has risen from the dead, winning the victory over sin (John 20:1-18). He has visited his disciples and breathed his Holy Spirit on them, commissioning them to go out into the world and forgive sins (John 20:19-31). Yet what do we find in this story? Not only is the good news of Easter being neglected for people who need it; the disciples themselves have returned to business as usual. Have our daily life routines changed any as a result of encountering the Easter Jesus? Or do we easily go back to our old ways, as if Jesus had no effect on us?

Step 2–Advanced Diagnosis: Not Recognizing Our Lord
If so, then for us it is no different than it is for Peter and the other disciples. If our daily life routines have not changed from our encounter with Him, then there has been no change in our heart either. Our heart is still hung up on whatever it was hung up on before Jesus touched our lives. We are content to blend into the scenery in any way we can–by going fishing, by continuing to run with the same crowd/plan/way of life as before. Is it any wonder that when Jesus shows up on our seashore to lend a hand, we do not recognize Him?

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Disclosed as failures
Perhaps the real rub is that we do not recognize our own Master because, for all intents and purposes, we do not belong to Him. Even worse, we find that we cannot make it on our own. Our nets are empty. One way or another, our life keeps getting more and more frustrating. The world is getting tougher and tougher and is demanding a lot more from us. Like the disciples standing there with empty nets, we find ourselves facing the world with nothing to show for ourselves. On our own it is plain to see that we are sinking fast. And we cannot turn to God for help because finally there is no peace between us and God. It is one thing to fail in the daily routine; but the ultimate (and deadly) consequence is that our failure is in relationship with God.


Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Jesus befriends us
Jesus is persistent. Three times He greets his disciples in the midst of their failed state of being and speaks the word of peace upon them. This is what Jesus majors in: bringing peace to those who have none. Jesus persists in being a friend to us, refilling our nets and our souls with his peace. This act of kindness does not just help them out of a jam. It really represents how deeply the peace of God is capable of reaching. Jesus is for those who have not only abandoned themselves as failures, but those who have even abandoned him as a failure on the cross. Jesus overcomes the critique of God that would otherwise leave people branded permanently as failures.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Recognizing our Lord
The disciples recognize (= have faith in, trust) Jesus and in so doing come to know him once again as Lord. They cannot wait to get to shore to be with him, and to share in his table fellowship even at the campfire. Our faithful recognition is in our perking up and exclaiming, “It is the Lord!” Our hearts are risen in our bold claiming of his Lordship, even as we are claimed in his Lordship. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times, Peter affirms his love. The persistent peace of Jesus will plummet to the depths of our being, and his Lordship will not rest until we are resting in him.

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Feeding peace to others
Three times, also, Jesus commands Peter, “Feed my sheep.” As we are fed and nourished on Jesus’ peace, so we now feed and nourish others–all others. The size of the catch of fish may be a symbol of the whole world. Such are the catholic dimensions of our mission, and our commission from our persistent, promising Lord. When we were on our own we were prone to failure. There is no failure now, however, in our peaceful connections. That’s a word to get out to people who long to be caught from the snares of their failure, and nourished by the joys of Easter’s (Jesus’) peace.


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