Some more thoughts on John 21

Damn, I meant to say such and such....

John 21 is a Postscript - what happens when you think you have finished what you wanted to say, and then thought of something else!

Postscript – picking out the “call” of Peter in Chapter 1 and emphasising Peter’s importance throughout the Gospel.

“Magic Pool” John's gospel has been described as "a magic pool in which children can paddle and elephants swim!"

Disciple don’t know what to do so they go back to their first profession – fishing.

In John's account of the breakfast on the shore, reminiscent of the feeding of the 5000 which took place at the same place, Jesus asks his final question, the most important one of all. Calling Peter by name, he asks, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" not once, but three times. He asks it of Peter, who had protested at the Last Supper, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Of Peter, who had cowered in the courtyard denying everything. Of Peter, whose treachery was more wounding than that of Judas because Peter--like most of us--embodied that unholy muddle of love and betrayal.

This kind of love, whether it is called philos or agapē, involves an inherent expectation of "doing." Love is as love does. This is love as courage, love as risk, love as not wavering, regardless of what we are called to do. Christ calls Peter and us, as individuals and as communities of faith, to follow him even where we would not otherwise go, even where we might not want to go. The times in which we live are no time for "we have never done it that way before," no time for returning to what we are used to. These times, more than ever, are times that call for the best love of God, friends, neighbors, and enemies that we can muster. Or, better yet, these times cry out for the love to which God calls us and that God will bring to life within us for the sake of others.

I think that this image presents the struggle for our congregations -- acting on our own initiatives or responding to Jesus' word. The actions of fishing throughout the night and throwing out the nets early in the morning at the stranger's command from the shore, were very similar. When is bringing people into the church our own work and when is it fulfilling Jesus' command? How do we know the difference?

Another point I've suggested from this text is that the 153 large fish didn't just jump into the boat or swim to the shore. The miraculous catch of fish took a lot of work by the disciples -- and it seems that it required a "group effort" to haul the great catch into the boat and then onto the shore. No one disciple could have done it alone. As congregations, we can't expect to just advertise in the yellow pages and local papers, open our doors tell God, "Fill it up." The miraculous catch took a lot of work from a lot of people.

In John, Jesus appeared to Mary at the tomb, the disciples without Thomas in the locked room, the disciples with Thomas in the locked room, and here at the shore. This is the fourth appearance of Jesus after rising from death. It is likely that the appearance to Mary is omitted in the counting scheme.

© Bob Birtles 2010