If someone were to come up to me on the street to do a survey on scripture and ask me: “What is your favorite Easter Gospel story?”
I would respond “John 21.1-19” – the post-resurrection breakfast on the beach. Why is this my favorite gospel story? There are three reasons which stand out for me as I reflect on this gospel this Easter season:
1. Christ meets us in our ordinary routines.
2. Even if we return to familiar patterns Christ meets us there and calls us to new life again and again.
3. The hospitality of Christ is an abundance that leads to mission.
In our ordinary living, Christ is here and present… There is no place that he can’t be, I believe that sometimes this can stun us. What do you mean Christ can meet me at the sink full of dishes, the lonely night on the couch, the walk through the park, or as I fold the laundry or mow the lawn? Well, if our Savior could meet Peter on the other side of the resurrection in his comfortable space of fishing, I think it is safe to say that he will meet us in our ordinary routines.
I have always been intrigued that Peter and this crew of disciples went fishing. Maybe to deal with the grief and shock, or maybe as a place to process the fact that Jesus had appeared to them alive at least two times before this. I know I have spaces that I like to be when I need to process and work through stuff; regular ordinary familiar spaces to me… Just like Peter on the fishing boat. So, in the ordinary, whether broken or healed, seeking or centered, Christ meets us there and invites us to life. It is here in this invite to come and have breakfast with Jesus, something so familiar, that Peter is invited into new life.
In this resurrection gospel – Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey guys, cooked you some fish after your long night of not catching any, come and get it whenever you get a chance.” No, rather, he invites, “Come and have breakfast”. They gather, they sit down, and they enjoy a meal. I can only imagine, stories shared, laughter echoing off the lake, questions surfacing, uncertainty trying not to be noticed. Jesus doesn’t freak out on them and say, “guys… really… you went fishing, after all, I have shown you, after my resurrection, you went fishing.” No, he meets them in that moment and then invites them to be aware of the familiar patterns, the ordinary of life, and pay attention to that he is transforming that with new life – with the abundance of God’s goodness, mercy, and deep love.
When Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, it’s not about punishment or mockery, it is about depth. The depth of how abundant Christ’s love truly is. It is about this abundance of mercy which Christ pours into his life and then sends him forth… Feed my lambs, feed my sheep. That invitation to Peter was not just for Peter, it is for all of us. What is the last thing Jesus says to Peter in this post-resurrection gospel? “Follow Me!” Those two words probably rang in Peter’s ears when he heard them at the breakfast on the beach, for they were the same two words in which Jesus first invited him to new life, some years earlier. “Follow Me!” Jesus was saying to him: “You followed me in preaching, teaching, and healing, you followed me to the cross, and even though you denied me, still I invite you to follow me in this new life, this transformed life that meets you in the ordinary and asks you to trust that the abundance of God does as Psalm 30 proclaims… “Raise me up.”
Consider how this moment impacted Peter and transformed his life, for as we hear in the Acts of the Apostles (5.28-41) how the apostles were witnesses to Christ and rejoiced in being able to claim the name of Jesus. That can only happen from a transformed heart that focuses on the “wisdom, honour, blessing and glory” (Revelation 5) that is Christ meeting them in the ordinary moments of life and transforming them so that they and we also can hear Christ say, “Come and follow me”
My dear friends, we are people of the resurrection. We have inherited new life and are called to live it out. Each new day we are invited to begin again, to encounter Christ and see where he is inviting us to dine with him and how he is calling us to break the fast, to be reminded that he dwells so close to us. Jesus was a great host, including everyone always and extending invitation to even those who choose not to embrace his message of life. There is strength, vulnerability and freedom in sharing a meal with each other. We are reminded of this each time we gather at the Eucharistic table and hopefully each time we gather at our own tables… Even if it is by ourselves. We are always invited to dine with our Risen Lord. The Eucharist is the steady invitation to join him again and again and be nourished for the new paths and new realities which are ours. Then the thrice-questioned Peter about his love awakens in us the depth of how intimately Jesus desires to be in our lives. He does not see us by our weakness or sinfulness rather he sees us created in love, made of divine light with the capacity to love and make known his love as we feed his sheep.
Peter and the disciples’ story intersect with my story and with yours, as our reality is transformed, our invitation to dine with the Bread of Life is real and our call to love is about life here and now not just on a beach by the Sea of Tiberias. There is a quote at the front door of my parent’s home. It is a German and Dutch proverb: “Hospitality is freedom and friendship for the guest.” Is this not the abundant hospitality of our triune God? That we are invited into this freedom and friendship each day as the beneficiaries of this hospitality is indeed a great gift in being people of the resurrection. It is the hospitality of Christ that says to us, “Come and dine and come and follow me.”
Photo credits: Paul Szewczyk and Clayton Holmes