Easter 3C – John 21

In this final chapter to John’s Gospel – probably written later than the rest of the Gospel – John provides a magnificent summary of the Christian life. He starts with the disciples returning to Galilee and with Peter in the lead, they head back to their old way of life and go fishing. Without the blessing and presence of the Lord, they are fruitless and catch nothing. But then the new day dawns and now the risen Son is on the beach and invites them to cast out their nets for a catch. When they catch such a huge haul that it is difficult even for the seven of them to pull in the nets, this is enough for the beloved disciple to recognise who it is on the shore: ‘It is the Lord.’

Peter at this then takes action. Strangely we are told that he is on the boat in the nuddy. Why this is the case is unclear. It probably is not the custom of Jewish folk to be naked around each other – usually in scripture nakedness is a sign of sin and shame, but perhaps he has been around enough Greeks or Romans – who did have the custom of working and playing sport naked – that he finds it easier to work unencumbered. Whatever the reason, when we find someone who is naked throwing on clothes (to jump into the water!) we should be reminded – especially in John’s Gospel where the creation story is never far from view – of Adam’s shame after he sinned when he covered his nakedness. So Peter – perhaps reminded by the charcoal fire that is burning on the shore – is reminded of the time some days before when he had denied Jesus while standing next to another charcoal fire (Jn 18:18).

So Peter swims ashore, while the others bring the boat and the fish. On the shore they find Jesus cooking breakfast – bread and fish. So although he doesn’t need to fish that they have just caught, he invites Peter to bring the contents of the net to him. Whereas it took all the strength of the disciples to haul the net onto the boat – now in the strength of the presence of Jesus Peter is able to bring the net all by himself.

Finally, Jesus begins to question Peter. ‘Do you love me more than these?’ – which could refer to boat and the nets (his old way of life), or his love for the other disciples and friends, or their love for Jesus. As each question is asked and each reply is given, Jesus slowly restores Peter and commissions him to his role as apostle and shepherd – ‘feed my sheep/lambs.’ Then he calls him to ‘follow me.’

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Recorded at Sacred Heart, 9.30am (11’58”)