This morning we have a gospel passage (JN 21:1-14) replete with symbols that hark back to earlier stories of Jesus. In the beginning of the chapter seven of the disciples are at the Sea of Tiberias when Peter announces, “I am going fishing.” It’s as if they have returned to their original profession from whence Jesus called them. They fish all night with no success until at dawn Jesus calls to them from the shore and asks if they’ve caught anything. Their negative reply causes him to suggest casting the nets to the other side of the boat. In doing so, they catch 153 large fish. The inference here is that of themselves they can do nothing. Having experienced the power of Christ in their lives, they can no longer do things in the traditional way. When they listen to him success follows, reminding us of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.
When “the disciple that Jesus loved” recognized Jesus and exclaimed “It is the Lord!” Peter jumped into the water to get to him as quickly as he could, leaving the others to bring in the boat. The gospel writer is obviously calling attention to the earlier event where Peter’s enthusiasm caused him to jump into the lake in the middle of a storm to walk on the water to Jesus. In addition to his rescue from drowning by Jesus on that occasion, his great love mixed with deep regret for his betrayal during the events of the trial and crucifixion motivate him in this case to get to Jesus as fast as possible. Peter is a good model for us when we act too quickly and fail to live up to our potential, because it never stopped Jesus from loving him or treating him as a well-loved friend.
I often refer to my favorite part of this reading as “breakfast on the beach” which, for me, is a wonderful example of the servant love of Jesus for his friends. He just cooked the fish for them, took bread (as he had at the Last Supper) and passed around both. They sat around the fire and ate breakfast together, happy to be with him once again. It feels like an “intermezzo” in a tumultuous and very emotionally and physically active period of their lives. It reminds me of the Abraham Heschel quote that “just to be is a blessing…” Perhaps today is a good day to sit quietly, picture that scene, join the disciples and listen to what Christ has to say.