Summary: A sermon exploring the risen presence of Christ in the Church today.
Sermon for 3 Easter Yr C 25/04/2004
Based on Rev 5:11-14 & Jn 21:9-14
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Breakfast is—for a lot of health-conscious people—the most important meal of the day. If we miss out on breakfast, our whole day is thrown out of balance. Whenever a person is having a bad morning, feeling out of sorts or lacking energy; people often say: “He or she must have forgot to eat their porridge this morning.” Breakfast provides us with the proper nutrients to help us start our day out right. It energizes us so that we are prepared to face the day.
In today’s gospel, the disciples start their day out right and are energized not only by their breakfast of fish and bread—but also by the provider and preparer of these, the risen Christ. The Fourth Evangelist always writes in such a way as to give us a surface or obvious message and a deeper, often symbolic message. On the surface, this story tells us that Jesus is really alive again—he is not a ghost or a vision or a hallucination. He has a real live body and he eats real food. On the deeper, symbolic level, this story tells us that the meal Jesus prepared and ate with his disciples was special and holy. It symbolized the sacrament of Holy Communion.
In early Christian art, bread and fish became a symbol for Holy Communion. Also, in the catacombs, the fish became a symbol of Christianity. The Greek letters for the word fish became a code word, which meant: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour. Indeed, this symbol is rather popular in our contemporary age too; people frequently display it on the vehicles. Down through the ages, biblical interpreters have had something of “a field day” with the catch of 153 fish. The most sensible interpretation to me is Jerome’s—he simply said that they represent all of the different species of fish in the Sea of Galilee. Therefore, they might be symbolized as the mission given to the Church; to go into the whole world to fish for people of every nation; welcoming all of them into the family of God.
Of course, for John bread was also a very important symbol. In chapter six of this same gospel, after Jesus fed the five-thousand—also with fish and bread—he referred to himself as the bread of life who came down from heaven. He also promised that: “…the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Jesus makes the very important connection between himself and the world by referring to himself as bread. It is interesting that in most, if not all, countries around the world people usually eat one kind of bread or another as a staple food. Bread in many parts of the world literally is the physical food of life. When Jesus said he was the bread of life and when he gave bread to the crowds, to his disciples the night before he died, and again to his disciples on the beach—it was as if he said: “Whenever and wherever people eat bread, I shall be present among them; I shall feed them with the gift of life. This is possible because my resurrection power and presence is at work in the whole universe!”