We continue reading accounts of the resurrection as we move through the Sundays of Easter. This Sunday brings us to the third account in John’s Gospel. It takes place along the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee).
Once again, this account begins in the darkness of the night. The apostles were gathered near the Sea of Galilee. Peter announced that he was going to fish. The rest of the apostles joined him, bringing their torches. They rowed out about a hundred yards and began casting their nets. They spent the entire night fishing but caught nothing.
As dawn began to break, a voice called out to them from the shore asking if they caught any fish. They answered, no. The man then instructed them to throw their nets over the right side of the boat. They listened to his suggestion. Often enough, while casting their nets, fisherman would have someone on the shore looking over the clear water to spot the movement of a school of fish. It’s very difficult for a fisherman to look into the water for fish while casting his net, hence, the need for a spotter.
To their joyful surprise they hauled in a catch. Later when they brought the net to shore they counted one hundred and fifty-three large fish! John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who
looked into the tomb and “saw and believed,” shouted out that he recognized the man. It was Jesus! Peter, impetuous as ever, jumped into the water and swam to shore. There was a strange scene awaiting him.
Jesus had built a charcoal fire and was cooking a fish. Along with the fish he had bread waiting for them. No one said anything. They knew that it was Jesus speaking to them, but they were in shock. “Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.”
This description of Jesus feeding his apostles is a Eucharistic image. The language is very similar to Saint Paul’s account of the Last Supper. “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also the cup…’” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24) As we search for the deeper meaning of this account it’s important to keep a connection between what takes place during this “breakfast” and the Eucharist.
Let’s look over John’s entire account. It began with Peter symbolically attempting his ministry to be “fishers of men.” However, he began his work in the darkness of the night and so his attempt was fruitless. With the coming of the early morn
ing light he heeded the call of Jesus to cast his net on the right side of the boat. The catch was incredible, one hundred and fiftythree large fish! The reference to the number of fish is symbolic. John often used numerological references, here 1+5+3 = 9. Nine is a numerological symbol of the divine. John was telling us that this catch, taking place in the early morning light, wasn’t the work of man it was God’s work.
John continued delving into the meaning of the event. At this early morning gathering of the children of light, more wonderful things took place. Peter, commissioned to be the rock and foundation, needed healing and forgiveness before he could assume his ministry. Three times he denied any knowledge of Jesus. So, three times Jesus asked him: “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answered, “You know I love you.” Jesus’ answers forgive him, heal him, and anoint him for his ministry. “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep! Follow me!”
This Sunday’s resurrection account once again, leads us to reflect on the Eucharist we’re celebrating. In this sacred gathering of the children of the light the risen Lord reveals himself. He feeds us and offers himself to us as the bread of life. When he feeds us, he heals us and forgives our sins. He anoints us so that we can assume the ministry he began.
The Sundays of Easter are a very special time. Each resurrection account is an invitation for us to open our hearts to the risen Lord. These are weeks of healing and anointing. These are the weeks we look into the empty tomb, when we see more clearly, when we believe more profoundly. These are the weeks when we’re invited, like Peter, to become fishers of men.