John tells us that the story in our Gospel reading was “the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:14). We know that there were a number of such experiences after the initial ones on Easter Day. Writing only some twenty years after the Resurrection, St. Paul says:
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (I Corinthians 15:3-8)
How did Jesus reveal himself to them in these experiences? In what contexts did he appear? Well, to the Eleven once on a mountaintop, to two of them walking along the road to Emmaus, to some while they were in conversation, to Mary Magdalene in the garden, to Thomas in the upper room, and today – to Peter and the others – while they were fishing!
It’s always been striking to me that, with the possible exception of Thomas and the others in the upper room, it was not in “church” that he appeared to them. He appeared to them in the context of their everyday lives!
I’ve always loved the abrupt way, in this story, that Peter says, “I’m going fishing!” Enough of the confusion and grief and joy and challenge of these last days! I’m going to find some normality in all of this! I’m going to do what I’ve done all my life! I’m going to do something I know how to do! “I’m going fishing!”
But even here he cannot escape the presence of their Risen Lord! And does Jesus spend a lot of time shaming them for deserting him at the last, or upbraiding them for their lack of faith, or even theologizing about the Resurrection itself? Not in this story.
“Children, you have no fish, have you? Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some…Bring some of the fish you have caught…Come and have breakfast.”
For you see, those are the things our God cares about most. That we are his children…That each of us has needs…that he can take care of those needs…
All he asks of us, is that we share with others what we have received from him.
“Bring some of the fish you have caught.”
Come…let’s have breakfast!”