by Rev. Antony W. Ball
Most Christians know the story, which John tells in the last chapter of his Gospel, about Jesus inviting seven of His disciples to have breakfast with Him on a beach by the Sea of Tiberias. It was happening some time after the resurrection – they’d seen the risen Jesus a couple of times, and perhaps they were ready to get back to ‘normal life’, although their lives could obviously never again be quite as they were before they’d spent two years living with Jesus. Peter suggested they should spend a night fishing – most of them were fishermen, after all – but they caught nothing all night.
Morning came, and there stood Jesus on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
He called out to them ‘Friends, have you caught anything?’ They answered ‘No.’
He said, ‘Shoot the net to starboard, and you will make a catch.’
They did so, and found they could not haul the net aboard, there were so many fish in it.
This ‘stranger’ seemed to know more about fishing than the professional fishermen. One of the disciples (we think John himself) realised who it was and said to Peter ‘It is the Lord!’ so Peter, always impulsive, dived in and swam ashore leaving the others to cope with the nets. Jesus said “Bring some of your catch” and invited them all to “Come and have breakfast”. After breakfast, Jesus had an in-depth, personal conversation with Peter, giving him three chances to re-affirm his commitment, in order to ‘balance out’ Peter’s previous three-fold denial that he was one of Jesus’ disciples.
There are so many lessons for us, even just in that simple story…
- We may not always recognize Jesus’ presence with us unless/until someone draws our attention to it.
- Jesus invites us to join Him. We are free to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, and free to change our minds.
- Jesus expects us to contribute to our relationship with Him – He will let us know how.
- Our relationship with Him will be a personal, individual one – unlike anyone else’s.
Although the disciples had lived with Jesus for two years or so before His crucifixion, they had to build a different relationship with Him after His resurrection – instead of going around with them, He would just ‘turn up’ from time to time until His ascension. Once He had ascended, they would no longer ‘see’ Him, but they would continue to sense His presence in another, different way…
While the day of Pentecost was running its course they were all together in one place,
when suddenly there came from the sky a noise like that of a strong driving wind,
which filled the whole house where they were sitting.
And there appeared to them tongues like flames of fire, dispersed among them and resting on each one. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other tongues,
as the Spirit gave them power of utterance.
Acts ii 1 – 4 (NEB)
More about that next month…