This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21.24-25 | ESV
And that disciple is me, your narrator, the one who solemnly swears to the truth of all this, the one who painstakingly recorded every word of this testimony. And yet there’s so much more that could have been added to it! All the other many, many things that Jesus did!
Where to begin?
Where to end!?
I’ve barely even scratched it! And were I to undertake the recording of it all, well, I don’t suppose there are enough trees on the planet to provide the pulp to make the paper for the pages nor the world itself a big enough library to contain all the books that would have to be written… John 21.24-25 | MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
I often encounter the supposition that we must have a correct grasp of the nature of Christ in order “to be saved” (by which we usually mean “enter our heavenly rewards later on”).
That supposition makes me smile on two levels (at least).
First, Jesus was constantly telling those he encountered “ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.” And yes, that’s foreign to us – oh so foreign! Said in this case to a woman who only knew that this was no ordinary man, and that all she had to do was touch the edge of his garment. “Your faith has saved you/ made you whole.” No understanding or grasp of Trinitarian delineations or of hypostatic union – she just grabbed the hem of his garment was healed without Jesus’ conscious engagement – power just “went out” from him, and he was left trying to figure out where.
Jesus is bigger, his reach longer than our understanding/misunderstanding and grasp of who he is. Which is a good thing, because the world can’t contain the books that would have to be written to “cover” just the three decades of his life on this planet.
We’re not even talking about his eternal nature and state!
No book can contain that, no mind can grasp it!
Which is the second reason I smile at the assumption we have to understand Jesus correctly in order for him to impact and touch us. He is the Cosmic Christ, the Eternal Word that holds all things together – including these brain cells that are trying to sort him out.
It’s more important that we allow him to sort us –
which is exactly what he has been doing on these shores of the Gospel of John.
Which “signpost” from your journey through the Gospel of John has most impacted you? Why?
Lord, thank you for encountering me on these shores of John’s Gospel. Give me the courage and heart now to follow you – to take the boat of my life out into the deep and to lower my nets on the right side of the boat for a catch – and let me be caught too! Through your abundant mercies.
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21.22-23 | ESV
Jesus doesn’t stop or look back as he answers: “If I want him to hang around here until whenever I show again, how is that any of your concern? Your business is following me.”
And so the word spread, mouth to mouth, generation to generation, that this disciple would never die. But that’s not what Jesus said at all. He didn’t say, “He will never die.” What he said was, “If I want him to hang around until whenever I show again, how is that any of your business?” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Your turn now.
Reread the entire text for this week. Actually, do more than that. Sit with the entire Gospel of John. You don’t have to reread the whole thing. Just sit with it open before you, soaking in the memories of your journey through it these past months.
This is the point.
It all comes down to this here and now: “You follow me.”
Now sit with it in silence.
Open your imagination.
What is he asking you to do with all of this?
How is he calling you to follow him right now, on this shore, at this moment.
And then let him lead you in your response to his voice.
“You follow me.” What does this look like for you in this season of your life?
Lord, free me to be about your business, and not that of others – or even merely my own! Free me to follow you in ways I have only dreamed of heretofore. Through your unceasing mercies.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” John 21.20-21 | ESV
The Rock turns his head and sees that perennially favored disciple of Jesus following along too – you know, the one who leaned back on Jesus at that final meal together and whispered those words, “Lord, who is your betrayer?” Yes, the Rock sees him, and so he inquires – perhaps with a bit of a complaining tone (or was it concern?): “Lord, what about him?” MAV
I believe this is the first time in this Jesus encounter that Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and he looks at his brother. I think it made Jesus smile, too.
“What about him?”
Ah, that consumes us through so much of our lives! So hard to let go. Comparisons, critiques, carping. What about his sin? What about her flaws? So I have to endure this, and what about him, then? Even when we don’t grow up with siblings, we never quite live without a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of sibling rivalry. It’s the human condition.
And it usually masquerades as righteous care or genuine concern.
Oh how we are compelled to be our brother’s keeper in all the worst ways! And generally it’s a search for our own significance which we hope to find in our comparisons with others – comparisons that typically lead to a diminishing of them so there can be an embellishing of ourselves.
Maybe none of this was at work in Peter, maybe it was just curiosity.
Maybe it was concern over John’s fate.
But I know me. I tend towards the other, and I at least like to imagine I’m not the only one (ha! comparison! again!).
Oh for the grace to look at each other for the right reasons, free of envy and self-centered, self-pitying comparisons; to look at one another on his cue because of shared connection through his ever expanding heart that embraces the heart and fortunes of us all.
Is there someone whose status you’ve perhaps been a bit too obsessed with lately? What’s the key to quitting the comparison game we all so easily start playing?
Lord, forgive me for looking over my shoulder at my brother, my sister, for all the wrong reasons. Let me lose myself in your gaze so that I might truly find myself seeing others as they are, when your eyes lead me there. And let my gaze be as healing as yours. Through Christ.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21.18-19 | ESV
Then Jesus adds, “You can COUNT on this: When you were young and in control, you dressed how and when you wanted and went where you wanted. But when you get old and grey, the day is coming when they will come for you, your hands will be stretched out, and you’ll wear something you’d rather not, and they’ll take you to a place you’d rather not.” (Nudge, nudge, hint, hint – Jesus painting a picture of shameful crucifixion as his ultimate path of a God-honoring death that the Rock couldn’t miss – because feeding his flock will have its cost). And then Jesus says, motioning with his head, “Follow me.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
“I’m ready to go to prison – I’m ready to go to my death for you!”
That’s what Peter said.
That’s what they all said.
Except perhaps John, content to lean on the heart of his friend. Perhaps.
I’ve done hundreds of wedding ceremonies over three decades plus of ministry. Hundreds. Hundreds of vows, of mutual “I do’s,” of exchanged rings and “repeat after me” moments. I’m increasingly struck by the fact as I perform these ceremonies that I could just as well be saying “Blah blah blah blah” not because I don’t believe them or because bride and groom aren’t sincere, but because they have no idea what they are really saying “yes” to when they say “I do.”. “In sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” No idea. How could they? Typically it’s a young couple filled with love and enough bravado to take on each other as they take on the world with an endless track of “Don’t Stop Believing” repeating in their minds.
Which is as it should be.
But those vows will be become real one day in raw depths they could not have imagined – and then they will know. Oh yes, there is a cost here, isn’t there?
The cross of Christ was also the crucible of Cephas. It suddenly became very real. He saw himself, and it broke him. Seeing himself again now through a Savior’s penetrating and healing gaze, he sees the path before him in refreshed light. This path leads not to an altar of success or an elevated platform of esteem. Prison and death did you say? Oh yes, this is coming for you. And you won’t want it, but it will come, still.
He is the Master, yes?
We could learn a thing or two from him as we make our own sales pitch for Christ, if we would. God has a plan for your life! Oh yes. You will be stretched out, and you won’t want to go.
So come on then. What are you waiting for? This way…
In what ways has your commitment to follow Christ become “real”? What cost have you had to pay so far? What prepares us to pay the price we must in our pursuit of the God-Life?
Oh Lord, what quaking feet and quivering lips when I am confronted with the harsh realities of where life leads, where my calling and walk with you leads. Give me the grace to find the joy in it and in you, that even as my arms are stretched out in postures I would never assume, I will feel your pleasure, even there. Through Christ.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21.15-17 | ESV
While they were wiping their mouths following this wondrous breakfast, Jesus turns and says to “I’m the Rock and I’m Listening” (that would be Simon Peter): “Simon John-son, are you truly committed to me – more than all the rest?” The Rock wasted no time looking around at the others – looking at Jesus he says, but without the former bravado, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m with you heart and soul.” Leaning towards him, Jesus intones, “Then feed my wee lambs (odd words for a fisherman!).”
Before Peter can turn away, Jesus challenges him again: “Simon John-son, are you truly committed to me?” The Rock hasn’t looked away and he repeats, “Yes, Lord, you know that I’m with you heart and soul!” Jesus repeats, “Then care for my flock.”
Peter turns away only to be challenged a third time: “Simon John-son, are you truly with me heart and soul?” Rooster echoes, only in reverse. The Rock cracks right down the middle at the verbatim third challenge: “Are you truly with me heart and soul?” and he weeps back, “Lord, you know everything and you know me – you know that I’m with you heart and soul!” Jesus says to him, hands on shoulders, “Then feed my flock.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Peter hears rooster echoes on the beach after breakfast – and I hear echoes of Joseph with his brothers for some reason. Joseph put the brothers who betrayed him, sold him, abandoned him through a bit of a ringer when they met again. He was clearly trying to see what was in their hearts – and one can’t help but wonder how much he was enjoying the whole testing process.
This encounter with the Rock, the friend who had denied him three times in the darkest hour of his life, the friend he had locked eyes with as he did it, both of them then hearing that rooster crow, this encounter is something of a testing process too. And I suspect Jesus also enjoyed it – though I would guess for different reasons.
This wasn’t so much a test so Jesus could see what was there (pretty sure he already knew that), but one for Peter’s eyes. We would probably have glossed over this. That was then, this is now. No harm, no foul. We would have been nice. Or we would have never trusted such a friend again and wouldn’t be caught dead (again!) eating breakfast with him.
But Jesus didn’t leave it or him alone.
Jesus meets us on the shore of our most bitter memories and gives us not a piece of his mind, but a piece of bread, and then gently teases out of us what we most need to process and see. And his timing is impeccable.
He’s the Master, yes?
We could learn a few things, if we would.
Notice Jesus doesn’t have this conversation the first time Jesus pops into the room, or the second. It has perhaps been two weeks since the hue of everything has changed because of resurrection. But it hasn’t changed for Peter. The shadows of his soul must be drawn into the light – and this is his moment.
Peter could have been grappling with his guilt through the years, trying to cope and process through counseling – which is often what we have to do – and who knows, maybe he still did! But oh the timing and the touch of the Master in resetting the broken bone, in healing the cracked Rock through persevering presence and timely word.
How has Jesus met you on the shores of your own bitter memories? Or is he, perhaps, with broiled fish and baked bread, waiting for you to show?
Lord, a gentle word can break a bone – or heal it! Let me trust your words for me on the shores of my own darkened memories, and let me receive them like the warm bread you would place into my hands there. Through your mercies.
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21.12-14 | ESV
Then Jesus says to them, “Dig in boys, breakfast is served.” Awkward silence prevailed, not one of the disciples daring to come right out and ask, “So, just who are you again?” They all knew who he was, they knew it was the Lord right there with them again. So Jesus just steps right up, takes the warmed bread and gives it to them, and then does the same with the fish, a serving for each.
This was the third time his dancing presence had popped up among these disciples since he’d been raised from the dead. MAV
Your turn now.
Reread the entire text for this week. Then sit with it in your own awkward silence.
Open your imagination.
Put yourself there on that beach.
We have a detailed accounting of what transpired with Peter here, but no doubt Jesus had some significant moments with each of them as they ate and laughed. Let yourself be the unnamed disciple with them. And now he’s serving you a communion of bread and fish.
What does he say to you as he serves you?
What words of warning, of reassuring, recommissioning grace,
of encouraging, provoking love does he speak to you?
And then let him lead you in your response to his voice.
Where in your life could you use another breaking in of the “dancing presence of God”?
What are the chances the dance is already underway – you just haven’t realized it yet?
Lord, I can be so incredibly slow to see your dancing presence right in front of my face! Let me see beyond the everyday loaves and fish before me to the communion you offer with me through them, your heart with my heart, your life with my life. Awaken my soul today, O God. Through Christ.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. John 21.9-11 | ESV
No sooner had they stepped foot on land than what do they see? A charcoal fire well under way (another déjà vu moment for the Rock from the dreaded priestly courtyard with its echoing rooster crow) with fish on the fire – and loaves of bread (déjà vu all over again – to the tune of 5,000!). Then Jesus tells them: “Now let’s add some of what you just caught to what I already have going here!” The fishermen had, of course, left their record catch flapping in the water, so Peter waded back in and hauled the net up on the beach (talk about adrenalin rush!). The net was filled with HUGE fish – all told, one-hundred-fifty-three of them! And the net hadn’t so much as snapped a single thread. MAV (Mike’s Authorized Version)
Give God credit: he knows how to set a table.
Repeated déjà vu moments on the shore: A charcoal fire around which we last saw Peter warming himself in that high priestly courtyard on that dreadful night filled with fearful denials; loaves and fishes harkening back to that anchoring miracle of all miracles in the feeding of the five thousand – not to mention last supper overtones as the last supper meets the first breakfast. But he’s not content to merely tag these signal events from their recent and more distant past.
He invites them to add to it, to bring what they have just caught to the table. The wise Preacher might have said, “Whatever God does endures forever and nothing can be added to it,” but the truth is he invites us to do just that. “And greater works than these will ye do.” Yes, bring from what you have caught, and add it to what I have prepared for you.
And look at Peter go!
It took two boats and at least six other guys to get the net to shore, but, as John paints the scene, Peter hauls it the rest of the way in by himself. And then they count. Leftovers matter, and every fish counts.
All 153 of them.
And what endless speculation we engage in over that number! Back to Augustine and beyond the debate has raged. Why 153? What is the significance of 153? At least, to my knowledge, no one has died over the issue! Perhaps there is some deep significance – there are always layers, it seems. But then, sometimes a dogfight near a cheese factory is just a dogfight near a cheese factory.
Maybe it’s nothing more than the fact that this was their biggest catch – and their last catch.
And they never forgot it.
Their last catch, added to the first breakfast of a new life.
I think I would remember that number too.
When most recently have you found yourself in your own divinely arranged, marvelous déjà vu moment? What happened?
Lord, thank you for managing to turn the sights, sounds and smells of my worst memories into the renewing aroma of a new day’s breakfast that redefines and reshapes all I have known and been into pure, life-giving grace. Yes, God. Do that again. And show me how to share the meal today. Through Christ.