BY Rev. Heather Blais, Rector
What if tomorrow morning you woke up and walked into your kitchen to make a cup of coffee only to find that Jesus was sitting at your table with a delicious breakfast waiting for you. How might the simple act of having breakfast with Jesus change your life?
Much to the disciples surprise, they found themselves in this very situation in today's Gospel lesson. If you remember from last week, the disciples had met the resurrected Jesus as he walked through the locked doors of the house where they were hiding. He offered them a peaceful greeting, showed them his wounds, breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, and called them to spread the Good News of God’s abundant love. Last week’s story was meant to affirm the resurrected Jesus was truly God, and also to serve as the conclusion to John’s Gospel.
Yet someone in the early Church took the liberty to write an epilogue to John’s Gospel. And they did a good job. It has the same tone and style as the original author. The epilogue seems to have been written to address some unresolved issues for the early Church, such as:Whatever happened with Peter after he denied knowing Jesus three times on the day Jesus was put to death? And what of this lingering competition of who was the greatest disciple, Peter or John? Who was to lead the Church?
With regard to Peter, we know at the Last Supper, Peter assured Jesus he would never deny him. But in the wee hours of that next morning, he did just that. And he never got to reconcile with Jesus before his death on the cross. When Mary Magdalene discovered the rock guarding Jesus’ tomb had been rolled away, Peter knew that he had a second chance. He had the opportunity to reconcile with Jesus. Though it wasn’t until this epilogue was written that we see reconciliation take place.
While eating breakfast on the beach with some of the disciples, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Even though Peter felt hurt that Jesus asked the question three times, each time he answered,“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” But Jesus wasn’t trying to hurt Peter; and he wasn't trying to test him. Instead he was reinstating Peter back into the community by giving him three opportunities to affirm his love for Jesus. In this exchange Jesus also makes Peter the head of the early Church, by instructing him to feed and tend his flock of followers.
Some may have taken this as a sign that Peter was the greatest disciple, but Jesus quickly squashes that idea in the remaining verses that the lectionary left out of today's story. Peter nods his head towards John and asks, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus calmly tells Peter (and in essence, the early Church), don’t worry about it. The contemporary translation reads, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You—follow me.” In other words--there is no greatest, and stop worrying about it. Instead, just follow me and focus on what matters.
And as usual, Jesus is absolutely right. Because maybe the most important part of this story is not what happened to Peter, or which disciple is the greatest, or who is going to lead the Church. Maybe the most important part of this story is the reminder of the abundance that the resurrected Christ brings. The epilogue begins and ends with a reminder of God’s abundance.
When the epilogue begins we meet a weary Peter returning to the place he loves most, to do the thing he does best: fishing on the open sea. Like Peter, many of us return to the ocean again and again to find peace and wholeness, renewal and new life. Yet I imagine this time Peter got a whole lot more than he bargained for. At first they caught nothing, until around daybreak when Jesus stood on the beach and instructed them to cast their net to the right side of the boat.When they did, they caught 153 fish...Not 10. Not 20. Not 50. 153 fish. That is a whole lot of fish! Yet it was that ridiculous amount of fish that made John realize the man on the beach was Jesus. Peter dives in and swims to shore only to discover Jesus had a breakfast of fish and bread waiting for them. In their conservation over breakfast Jesus and Peter reconcile, and Peter is appointed to lead the early Church. I find it so telling, that the disciples didn’t recognize the man on the beach as Jesus until there was an obscenely abundant amount of fish in their net. In that abundance they recognized the resurrected Christ.
The epilogue ends with the same reminder of abundance. The very last verse says, “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” There are so many other things that Jesus did that the world could not contain a library with all those books. Which makes me wonder, what has Jesus done in your life? What abundance would Jesus remind you of if you sat down to have breakfast together?
I pray this week, as you have breakfast, you might expect to meet the risen Jesus at your table, and that he might remind you of the abundant ways God is present in your life. Amen.
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