Sunday, April 30, 2023

John 21 #T

Note: This is a work in progress; it may be amended and/or emended from time to time.

Here we have an episode involving seven of the disciples and the resurrected Christ. It is so chockablock with amazing things it has probably yet to be fully grasped by most followers of Christ. These men know at this point that Jesus has risen from the grave.  They know that He has told them they have a date to meet him at a certain place, but they do not know the time.  "Let's just sit around and wait until Jesus tells us what to do next."  This is definitely not what they were thinking.  "I'm going fishing," Peter says, and he headed to his boat. 

I have read some commentators who say that when Jesus called these people to follow Him, they dropped their tools of livelihood and did as bid, and now we see that with Jesus no longer among them they return to their old ways.  The implication that there is something amiss here is wrong.  Yes, Jesus left them temporarily to their own devices, but they know who He is, and they know He is alive. But rather than sit around waiting for marching orders, they take advantage of the time, they redeem the time, by engaging in useful activity. This, I think is what Christ expects of us, absent a mission assignment, that we engage in useful activity.

It's daybreak now.  The fishermen have toiled all night.  They spot someone standing near a low burning fire on the shore.  "Hey, fellas," the man hollers, "catch anything?"  "No," they reply.  "Then cast your nets on the other side of the boat. You'll catch something!" cheerily spoke the figure on the beach. "Why the heck not?" the men said to one another. "The hold is empty, and night is gone.  What do we have to lose?" so they shifted their nets and behold! the catch was so great they could not draw the net in, yet it did not hreak.  The disciples in the other boat came alongside and helped them drag the catch ashore.

John is the first to recognize Jesus. "It's the Master!" he exclaims. And what does Peter do? He grabbed his fisherman's cloak and put it on, belting it, for he had been working without his outerwear. naked, the scripture says, and I leave it to you to discern the meaning of that in this context.  At any rate, the man did not want to appear before the Master less than properly clothed. (Hint, hint.) Then he stepped into the water and rushed to shore to greet Jesus. Can you picutre this without recalling another instance in which Peter stepped out of a boat onto the water?

What a catch! And big fish, too!  153 great fish! Now that is interesting; they count the catch.  And why would they not?  They are businessmen.  Theologians and writers have puzzled over this and much has been written about the significance of the number 153, some of it quite convoluted. I lean to the position that they were doing that which was normal and logical in the plying of their vocation.

Now Jesus has this fine bed of coals, just right for broiling fish!  "Come and dine!" He says, if we read the King James, or any one of several others.  Many translations have Jesus saying, "Come, have some breakfast." I am not a scholar of the Greek, but I really wish I knew how John originally wrote this line.  As nearly as I can tell, much as I would like it to be the former, the oldest manuscripts seem to be better translated to the latter.  "Dine," to me, suggests a celebratory occasion, whereas an invitation to breakfast by a friend suggests a casual time of open fellowship.  Oh, perhaps the latter is the better; no need to rent a tuxedo here. At any rate, Jesus shares his fire and his bread, Peter, John, and the others share their catch, and for a time it seems a good time was had by all.

After they had eaten and wiped their hands, the conversation took a serious turn when Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" And it turned out that Jesus asked him thrice, to the point that Peter was offended. (How many times did Peter deny knowing Jesus on that fateful night of the Master's arrest?) The upshot of the interchange was that Jesus finally told Peter, "Feed my sheep." (Reinstatement and commission.) Then Jesus foretold Peter's cruel death as a follower of Christ. So, then Peter, jerking his thumb at John, said, "What about him?" and Jesus's rejoinder was basically, "Not your concern; his fate is in my hands."

And so it is with us.  It is our task to chasten, to encourage, to work alongside our fellow Christians, but how God determines He wishes to use them is none of our business.

Cf. Luke 5 in which a similar yet different fishing event is recounted, an episode in which Jesus commandeers Peter's ship and calls his first followers to discipleship.

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