Why not go fishing? Why not spend some time in the quiet to bring you back to where it all started? Why not be around friends trying to figure out…what now? Why not enjoy time away from the commotion of it all? It is better without the crowds and the accusations and the whirlwind of events that have taken place. It is a chance to breathe, rest and reset. It is a chance to simply be.
They had been through so much in such a short period of time. Exhaustion, frustration, embarrassment, fear, grief, excitement and confusion had to be wrapped together so tight that it was just better to get away for a while. Everyone processes it differently. Everyone finds their own way through the maze of grief. It is a journey that they were trying to grasp. Fishing made complete sense.
I can imagine that the series of events probably played on a continuous loop in their minds, over and over again. What he has taught them, what he had said, how they had fled, how they were so afraid, what they felt and what if they had done things differently? What if they had been braver? What if they had stayed? What if they had prayed harder instead of sleeping? What if they had been more faithful instead of jumping ship at the first sign of trouble? What must it have been like for Jesus to suffer without the disciples? What had caused them to react like they did? What was missing? Just fish. Put it behind you for a moment and spend time on the water…and fish. All night fishing, even if you don’t catch anything, is better than the fear of being locked behind doors. It is way better than trying to explain what was going on. It was the only answer they knew.
And then they see someone on the beach. He is cooking, that would be obvious from a distance. The smoke rising from the fire would have been a signal of welcome. He calls for them to catch fish and oh do they! They catch more than they can hold. John proclaims, Peter swims and the catch just keeps coming. They catch until they reach the beach. They catch and now they are there, on the sand with him.
Jesus met them where they were. He invited them. He welcomed them. It was an invitation to come and see – see the scars, enjoy the meal, feel the joy in the presence of the Lord. The invitation didn’t come with conditions. It didn’t come with a list of rules or a way to behave. It didn’t come with attire or manners or anything else. It was a meal that he had prepared. There was no scorning, no remediation, no making them feel belittled…it was a simple message of come as you are…I’m here to meet you. He brought the bread and fish to serve them. He prepared a meal for them to experience the fellowship around the fire. He was there to meet them. He was there to show them they were loved. He called them children because that’s what they are…God’s children. They were loved and belonged. They were welcomed. He simply gave the invitation with no strings attached. And they came, sat down and ate.
This powerful story reminds me that Jesus meets us where we are and transports us to where we need to be…sometimes through a simple meal.
We don’t get excluded because we didn’t get it…because we have strayed…because we are not good enough. We get invited. The invitation is to come and experience new life and new triumphs. Jesus knew about their loss, knew they were unsuccessful, knew they were dismayed, and knew they would be hungry. He understood because he knew them.
Here’s the thing…He knows us, too. He doesn’t expect us to be someone else. He just expects us to follow. He will take care of the rest. He feeds, he nurtures, he revives…he gives life because he is life. Come and enjoy the meal. Sit and listen. Come as you are.
Lots of people have been told they do not belong. They have been made to feel as though there would be not seat at the table for them, no invitation because of what they have done or said or thought or who they had become. They have been made to feel that you can come when you get your life straight or you get clean or you give up your bad habits or you stop sinning or you dress right or talk right or believe right. Maybe that’s where you find yourself.
But hear this: the disciples had betrayed and ran and hid and were fearful. They had missed it and had been unfaithful and were so off course. And Jesus met them where they were and invited them to the meal. He didn’t tell them to confess before they got there. He didn’t ask them to get their life straight or figure out where they had gone wrong. He didn’t ask them to sit down and write out their misgivings. They knew who they were and they understood what they had done. He didn’t need to berate them. He simply needed to be with them, welcome them, love them and show them that they were loved just the way they were. All the rest would take care of itself, for now, just sit at the meal and relax. He didn’t come to belittle, he came to renew.
So I hear Jesus inviting us just the way we are. I hear him welcoming us because he loves us so very much. He knows where we have been. He knows what we have done. He knows how we have missed it. And yet, he calls us his children and invites us to sit, listen, learn, and follow. No accusations, no judgment, no beating down, no embarrassment…just a welcome. Welcome. Come, eat, follow. It really is that loving, because that’s who Jesus is.
John 21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.