This Sunday morning we look at Breakfast with Jesus - when a meal of fish and bread becomes a grand moment of redemption.
It is hard to paint a pretty picture of the apostle Peter in the Holy Week context. At the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday when Jesus washed his feet we hear him missing the moment and babbling on. Then, in the hours to follow, we witness the one who was closest to Jesus, the unquestioned leader among the disciples, turn and deny him, not once, but three times. When Mary Magdalene head to the tomb on that incredible morning, we find Peter quaking in his boots, trembling in fear, hiding in the Upper Room. It is hard to believe that this is the Peter who Jesus promises will be the rock on which he builds his church. But, Jesus is in the redemption business. At shore side breakfast along the edge of the Sea of Galilee Jesus makes a way for Peter to find his place again, and in the process paints what I think is one of the most powerful pictures of personal restoration in the Bible.
After trauma of the crucifixion, and the drama of the resurrection, they finally found themselves back at home – back among the familiar. Jesus had told them to meet him in Galilee. I bet their hearts leaped with joy. Finally an assignment from Jesus that was easy. They hit the road and headed home. “Home;” simply saying this word stirs the emotions and can trigger a flood to memories. For some it might be playing a game on the front yard, for others a smell of something special cooking in the kitchen, or maybe it was a smile of affirmation you would find that would fill your heart with joy. I can imagine that this is the kind of feeling Peter had when they found themselves back home, back among their boats, back among the fishing nets, back to their old stomping ground.
Early in our service you heard our focal passage from more formal translations. So, allow me to claim the New Living Translation to frame our conversation. Later Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there — Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples. 3 Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing." "We'll come, too," they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. Jesus had told them to meet him in Galilee, where they story together had begun. The disciples went ahead of Jesus, but the appeal to go back to their old ways familiar ways were simply too tempting. The old ways, the old places, are so familiar, so comfortable, it seems Peter gives into them. Jesus had called him out of the boats to be follow, but now, as he stands along the water’s edge he forgets what he was called to be, called to do, who he was called to serve. Peter sees a boat, probably one belonging to his family clan. He sees the waves breaking, perhaps even some fish jumping, and he decided enough is enough, he’s going fishing. They others join in. This was not recreational fishing; it was a commercial exercise with a payoff at the end. It’s been a long time since they had had a moment like this. No crowds, no Pharisees, no Sadducees, no Roman soldiers, just the water and the boats. They were back to their boats, they were back to their nets, they were back at home, and they were still lousy fishermen. But, like has happened so many times to them before – and to us before – Jesus shows up and everything changes.
4 At dawn the disciples saw Jesus standing on the beach, but they couldn't see who he was. 5 He called out, "Friends, have you caught any fish?" "No," they replied. 6 Then he said, "Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you'll get plenty of fish!" So they did, and they couldn't draw in the net because there were so many fish in it. The voice of Jesus penetrates the air. Their ordinary day of fishing becomes extraordinary. Failure becomes success – the empty nets are filled! Does this sound familiar? It should. It is a mirror image of the story we find in Luke 5:1-11. It is this story when Jesus steps into the disciples’ lives and turned them upside down. It was in this first fishing story when Jesus beckons them to follow, and promises to make them “fishers of men.” This memory of this moment is not lost on the disciples. It was Peter who had led them back to fishing and now led them headlong, back to Jesus.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and swam ashore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only out about three hundred feet. 9 When they got there, they saw that a charcoal fire was burning and fish were frying over it, and there was bread. 10 "Bring some of the fish you've just caught," Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn't torn. 12 "Now come and have some breakfast!" Jesus said. And no one dared ask him if he really was the Lord because they were sure of it. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. The last meal they had shared with Jesus was in the Upper Room in the hours before the chaos in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was the moment he told them of the betrayer and transforms the Passover Feast into the Lord’s Supper. The tenor of this meal is different. It seems more relaxed. Jesus beckons them to breakfast of fresh cooked fish and bread. But, here is Jesus, serving them again. Shane Stanford, a Methodist author and minister offers a powerful picture of this moment. He says; “Jesus must have enjoyed the setting as well. By re-creating the scene from their first days in ministry together, he knew the significance of the moment would not be lost on the disciples. Before, they were called to leave everything and follow him; now they were being called to lay down not only their vocations and worldly pursuits but eventually their lives. The meal they shared was not just breakfast, it was sacrament.” The breakfast alone would have been remarkable, but Jesus was not through. He brought another agenda to the breakfast table. He had a bit of unfinished business he need to attend to with Peter. Jesus had an act of redemption up his sleeve.
15 After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," Peter replied, "you know I love you." "Then feed my lambs," Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: "Simon son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know I love you." "Then take care of my sheep," Jesus said. 17 Once more he asked him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you." Jesus said, "Then feed my sheep. 18 The truth is, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will direct you and take you where you don't want to go." 19 Jesus said this to let him know what kind of death he would die to glorify God. Then Jesus told him, "Follow me." Jesus asks Peter three difficult questions – seeking the affirmation of Peter’s love and commitment. The first ….do you love me more than these – is he referring to the fish and the symbols of Peter’s life before he followed Jesus? Is he referring to the other disciples – Peter’s friends and colleagues? Or maybe Jesus is pointing at the boats and Peter’s old way of life? In the end it could have been either or both because what he wanted to hear from Peter was that he love him more than anything or anyone else. With the second question and Peter’s affirmation – he changes his language. It change in language reminds us of Jesus’ earlier commission for Peter to be the foundation on which he was to build the church. But Jesus was about do to something that would have stilled the air. He looks at Peter – and for a third time asks the question. The third question must have pieced Peter’s heart…Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was upset that he asked for the third time. Redemption is not easy. It makes us face ourselves and God honestly and deal with the issue that fractured our relationship with God and others. Why was Peter upset when he asked the third time? I think it was because he was deeply embarrassed. It surely reminded him of his denials in the courtyard. Peter’s heart must have cried out, “He knew! Jesus Knew!!!!!” But instead of judgment Jesus brings restoration. The threefold denial in the courtyard is replaced by a threefold affirmation and commission on the seaside. Jesus call for Peter was the same as that which launched their journey together “Follow me.” This time Peter understands the price.
Max Lucado offers; “For one of the few times in his life, Peter is silent. What words would suffice? The moment was too holy for words. God is offering breakfast to the friend who betrayed him. And Peter is once again finding grace in Galilee. Now it’s just you and God. You and God both know what you did. And neither of you are proud of it. What did you do? You might consider doing what Peter did. Stand in God’s presence. Stand in his sight and wait. Sometimes that’s all a soul can do. Too repentant to speak, but too hopeful to leave – we just stand. Stand amazed. He has come back. He invites you to try again. This time with him.”
Revelation 3:20 in The New Living Translation reads; “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Where Peter’s moment was at the water’s edge water, Jesus is just ready to claim a meal of redemption with us. Redemption for the times we were called to follow and fell away. Redemption for the times we blew it, when we messed up, when we wounded another with our words or deeds. Redemption for the times when we chose our old way of life over life in Christ. Redemption that makes a way for us to find forgiveness and restores our relationship with Jesus.
I think the reason I love this story so much is that I relate better to the stumbling and bumbling Peter than I do the self confident Paul. I like Peter, I am deeply thankful for a Jesus that redeems when I fail and who restores me when I stumble. I am deeply thankful for the Jesus that stands on the water’s edge when I have lost my way to redirect me, to reassure me, to remind me of the first moment he called out to me. How about you? I think I smell the fish frying. Are you ready for a breakfast with Jesus? Are you ready for a redemptive moment with God?