For a little change of pace, we’ve taken a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus Reinstates Peter
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
(John 21:4-19 NIV)
It was hard to choose a Scripture passage for this one. There are many passages in the four Gospels where Jesus shared a meal with others. In Jesus’ day, hospitality and food were such a rich part of their culture.
After much prayer and several false starts on my part, I landed on this passage of Jesus fixing a shore breakfast for His disciples.
At this point, as John points out, Jesus had been crucified, had died, and was resurrected from the dead. This was the third time that Jesus had revealed His resurrected self to His disciples.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, John Chapter 20 tells us that the disciples had sequestered themselves into a house and had locked the door for fear of the Jewish leaders also coming after them. However, Jesus had commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for Him to give them further instructions.
In the beginning of John Chapter 21, Peter announces that he’s going fishing. For a guy that is used to being outside and able to go anywhere he wishes, a week inside a locked house likely made Peter feel like a caged animal yearning to break out.
Let’s step into the scene for a few moments. Peter had denied Jesus 3 times while Jesus was on trial. Then the rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words to him. Peter went out and wept bitterly after he realized what he had done.
Peter likely replayed his denial of Jesus over and over in his heart and mind. Peter felt he had failed the Lord, and was now a broken man. Even thought Jesus had appeared to the disciples twice since His resurrection, Peter and the other disciples were unsure of their calling and worth. Not knowing what else to do, Peter resorted to what he knew – back to his “happy place” – fishing.
After a fruitless night casting their nets, the early morning hours began with someone on shore inquiring about the catch. John realizes that it’s Jesus, and Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.
Jesus has fixed a shore breakfast for the disciples – some fish cooked over a fire, and some bread. The disciples had likely eaten this breakfast many times, but I can imagine this breakfast was particularly special.
After breakfast, Jesus spent some time talking to Peter. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times, the same number of times Peter had denied Jesus.
Jesus asked Peter the first time: “Do you love Me more than these?” By “these”, Jesus was referring to the boat, the nets, the fish, and Peter’s successful fishing career. Remember that Jesus had called Peter to follow Him in a very similar situation – and Peter had left everything behind to follow Jesus before. Now Jesus was re-issuing His original call to Peter.
Jesus asked Peter two more times, “Do you love me?” And Peter’s answer was yes both times. Notice Jesus’ commands to Peter after Peter affirmed his love and friendship to Jesus:
“Take care of my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”
Once again, by example, Jesus had given Peter and the other disciples a taste of a life lived for Him – caring for others, feeding them, loving them unconditionally through good times and bad.
Decades later, as Peter penned a letter to the churches in Asia Minor, reminding them to remain steadfast in the Lord, I can imagine Peter recalling the shore breakfast with Jesus that morning, being restored and re-commissioned, and the new calling and purpose that gave to his life. I can imagine that Peter then wrote verse 3:
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
(1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV)
That shore breakfast with Jesus still tasted so good after all those years ago:
- physically, to a bone-weary fisherman who had been up all night
- emotionally, to a man who had denied even knowing Jesus, and was forgiven
- spiritually, to a broken man who thought he had destroyed his testimony and ministry, and was now restored and one of the leaders of the new movement
As the ancient psalmist wrote:
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
(Psalm 34:8 NIV)
May we do the same today.