Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish 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, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
We come to the final post-resurrection appearance of Jesus that is recorded in the Gospel of John. Much has happened. Jesus was crucified and died. The disciples scattered. Then, Jesus appears, alive! The disciples are apprehensively joyful, perhaps even hopeful. But now they are wandering by the Sea of Tiberias waiting. They are on the other side of the resurrection and it is a very uncertain place to be.
Peter makes the decision to go fishing. I can imagine a tone in his words, “I am going fishing”, that is a response to the confusion and frustration with the way events were unfolding after the resurrection of Jesus. He is not alone, as several of the disciples choose to accompany him, “We will go with you.” When we are disoriented and confused, when life is difficult to understand and we are afraid, it is part of our nature to seek out what is safe, familiar, and comfortable. The disciples are tempted to go back to where they were; tempted to go back to who they were; tempted to go back to what they were. They wanted things to get back to some sense of normal. Despite the fact that the disciples have seen the resurrected Jesus several times now, they seem to be retreating into the past.
So they went out and got into the boat, but after a whole night they caught nothing. Then everything changes! They hear a voice, calling out to them, they hear an invitation, and in an instant they realize they can never go back. They may have been looking for fish, but Jesus breaks into this moment and they re-connect with him. Jesus breaks into their lives again, and in the same way Jesus comes to us where we are, speaks to us and reveals himself to us; yes, even in surprising ways. Often in our lives we are much like the disciples who do not quickly recognize the risen Jesus as he stands close by. But in love we can encourage each other to open our eyes to the nearness of Christ in the simplicity of our days. May we use this Eastertide to look for Jesus as he breaks into the unexpected moments of our lives.
Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give us grace so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)