The Third Sunday of Easter
The Rev. George Pejakovich
John 21:1-19

THIS GOSPEL PASSAGE IS OFTEN REFERRED TO AS AN ADDITION TO THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, MAINLY BECAUSE THE READING OF LAST WEEK SEEMS TO CLOSE THE GOSPEL. THE PROBLEMS WITH CONSIDERING THIS SECTION AS AN ADDITION ARE THAT ALL THE EARLIEST TEXTS INCLUDE IT, IT IS WRITTEN BY THE SAME GOSPEL WRITER, AND IT CLEARLY HAS LINKS TO PREVIOUS PORTIONS OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. RATHER THAN AN AFTERTHOUGHT, IT IS A POWERFUL WIDENING OF THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE GOSPEL IN THE LIVES OF THE DISCIPLES AND OUR OWN.

JESUS HAD APPEARED TO THE DISCIPLES TWICE BEFORE, ON THE EVENING OF THE DAY OF RESURRECTION, AND A WEEK LATER WHEN THOMAS TURNED FROM DOUBT TO BELIEF. THIS EVENT OCCURRED SOME TIME LATER, AND HOW LONG LATER WE CANNOT SAY WITH CERTAINTY, BUT IT WAS LONG ENOUGH FOR THE DISCIPLES TO REMEMBER THAT THEY WERE TOLD TO RETURN TO GALILEE, AND FOR THEM TO TRAVEL THERE. I WOULD GUESS IT WAS ABOUT TWO WEEKS OR MORE; AND, SO, THEY SAT DOWN BESIDE THE SEA OF GALILEE, OR LAKE TIBERIUS, AND WAITED FOR JESUS.

IN THEIR PAST TWO MEETINGS WITH JESUS, PETER DID NOT GET TO TALK TO HIM ALONE, NOR DID JESUS ADDRESS HIM DIRECTLY. ONE CAN IMAGINE HOW PETER’S GUILT OVER DENYING HIS LORD ATE AT HIM. WANTING TO SEE JESUS AGAIN, YET AFRAID OF THAT MEETING, THE WAITING WORE ON PETER. FINALLY, IMPETUOUS AS EVER, PETER SAID, “I AM GOING FISHING.” YOU CAN ALMOST HEAR THE IMPATIENCE AND FRUSTRATION IN HIS VOICE; HE HAD TO GET UP AND JUST DO SOMETHING OTHER THAN WAIT. THE OTHERS, TO RELIEVE THEIR OWN STRESS, WENT WITH HIM. SO, THESE EXPERT FISHERMEN FISHED ALL NIGHT AND CAUGHT NOTHING.

WITH THE DAWN, JESUS WAS THERE ON THE SHORE, BUT THEY WERE KEPT FROM RECOGNIZING HIM. IT WAS ONLY AFTER HE TOLD THEM TO FISH ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BOAT, AND THE NET WAS OVERFLOWING WITH FISH, THAT JOHN CALLED OUT, “IT IS THE LORD!” THE REASON JOHN SUDDENLY RECOGNIZED JESUS WAS BECAUSE JESUS HAD JUST REENACTED HIS FIRST CALL OF PETER. THIS PROBABLY HIT PETER LIKE A HAMMER BETWEEN THE EYES, WHICH CAUSED HIM TO JUMP OUT OF THE BOAT AND SWIM TO THE ONE WHO HAD CALLED HIM BEFORE, AND WHOM HE HAD FAILED.

ONCE ON THE SHORE, PETER AND THE REST FOUND THAT JESUS HAD MADE BREAKFAST FOR THEM. JESUS HAD HOSTED THE LAST SUPPER IN THE EVENING OF THE END OF THE OLD AGE, AND NOW HE HOSTS THE FIRST BREAKFAST AT THE DAWNING OF THE NEW AGE. THEN, AFTER SUPPER, HE HAD INSTITUTED THE SACRAMENT OF THE BREAD AND WINE, NOW, AFTER BREAKFAST, HE INSTITUTES THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION. AS PETER’S DENIAL OF JESUS WAS PUBLIC, SO MUST HIS REAFFIRMATION OF FAITH IN HIS LORD BE PUBLIC. JESUS NO LONGER CALLS HIM BY HIS NICKNAME, “THE ROCK,” BUT BY HIS COMPLETE AND PERSONAL NAME, SIMON BAR JONAH, AND ASKS HIM THREE TIMES, “DO YOU LOVE ME?”

AT THE LAST SUPPER, JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES THAT HE NO LONGER CALLED THEM SERVANTS, BUT FRIENDS; SO WHEN JESUS ASKED, “DO YOU LOVE ME,” USING THE WORD AGAPE – UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, PETER RESPONDED WITH PHILEO – THE LOVE BETWEEN FRIENDS OR BROTHERS. PETER HELD ON TO THE REMEMBRANCE OF THAT TIME BEFORE HIS DENIAL, BEFORE HIS DISGRACE, AND PROCLAIMED HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS. “DO YOU LOVE ME?” “YES LORD,” PETER REPLIED, “YOU KNOW THAT I AM YOUR FRIEND.” THEN, JESUS SAID, “FEED MY LAMBS.” AGAIN JESUS ASKS, “SIMON BAR JONAH, DO YOU LOVE ME?” AGAIN PETER REPLIES, “YES LORD; YOU KNOW THAT I AM YOUR FRIEND.” THEN, JESUS SAID, “TEND MY SHEEP.” A THIRD TIME JESUS ASKED HIM, JUST AS PETER DENIED HIM THREE TIMES, BUT NOW WITH A DIFFERENCE; “SIMON BAR JONAH, ARE YOU MY FRIEND?” WHAT PAIN OF GRIEF AND GUILT PETER MUST HAVE FELT AS HE REMEMBERED HIS DENIALS AND EXPOSED HIS HEART AND SOUL TO HIS LORD; “LORD, YOU KNOW EVERYTHING; YOU KNOW THAT I AM YOUR FRIEND.” THEN, JESUS SAID, “FEED MY SHEEP.”

THE PROBLEM I HAVE WITH THAT BELOVED OLD HYMN, “WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS,” IS THAT IT IS ALL ABOUT WHAT JESUS DOES FOR US, AND NOT A WORD ABOUT WHAT WE, AS THE FRIENDS OF JESUS, ARE TO DO FOR HIM. OUR MISSION, AS THE FRIENDS OF JESUS, IS TO FEED AND TEND HIS SHEEP. THE SHEEP OF JESUS, WHO IS THE LORD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, ARE ALL THE PEOPLE OF THIS WORLD. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A FRIEND OF JESUS; TO FEED AND TEND HIS SHEEP, BOTH SPIRITUALLY AND PHYSICALLY. TO BE RECONCILED TO GOD, AS PETER NOW WAS, MEANS NOT ONLY TO LOVE THE LORD, BUT TO DO THE WORK OF THE RISEN CHRIST IN RECONCILING THE WORLD TO GOD.

REMEMBER THAT WHEN THE DISCIPLES WENT FISHING FOR THEIR OWN SELVES THEY CAUGHT NOTHING, BUT WHEN DIRECTED BY JESUS THEIR NET WAS FILLED WITH 153 FISH. WHILE THIS MAY JUST BE THE EXACT NUMBER OF FISH THEY CAUGHT, THE SYMBOLIC NATURE OF JOHN’S GOSPEL INDICATES SOMETHING MORE. SAINT JEROME ASSERTED THAT THERE WERE 153 KINDS OF FISH IN THE SEA OF GALILEE, SO THE NUMBER SYMBOLIZED ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. THE WORK OF THE FISHERS OF PEOPLE, THE FRIENDS OF JESUS, IS NOW DIRECTED OUTWARD, BEYOND THE JEWISH NATION, TO THE ENTIRE WORLD.

WE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN RECONCILED TO GOD THROUGH THE BLOOD OF JESUS. IN OUR BAPTISM, WE HAVE DIED WITH HIM TO BE RISEN IN THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY, NO LONGER AS SERVANTS AND DISCIPLES, BUT AS HIS FRIENDS. MARKED WITH THE CROSS OF CHRIST ON OUR FOREHEADS, AND NOURISHED BY THE BODY AND BLOOD OF OUR RISEN SAVIOR, WE HAVE BEEN SAVED AND CALLED TO TEND THE SHEEP OF ALMIGHTY GOD. THIS IS OUR MISSION, OUR HIGH CALLING, NOT TO WORK ANY LONGER FOR OUR SELVES, BUT TO DO THE WORK OF OUR LORD FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD: TO PREACH AND TEACH THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM, TO FEED THE HUNGRY, CLOTHED THE NAKED, VISIT THOSE IN PRISON, COMFORT THE AFFLICTED, AND BE CHRIST FOR THE WORLD.

IN THIS EASTERTIDE, LET US ALL REDEDICATE OUR SELVES TO OUR CALLING SO THAT WHEN WE SAY “YES LORD; YOU KNOW THAT I AM YOUR FRIEND,” HE WILL SEE BY OUR ACTIONS THAT WE ARE INDEED. AMEN

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