Summary: Have you ever had the feeling that someone was about to deliver some bad news? What must have the disciples thought when Jesus showed up to eat breakfast with them? They again saw the heart of their Good Shepherd.
Do you ever have the feeling that someone is about to deliver some bad news to you? Your teenager comes and tells you how great of a parent you are, and you can’t help but wonder, “What did you do? What do you need? How much is this going to cost me?” Your boss calls you into the office, begins telling you how much they appreciate all your hard work and you can’t help but wonder, “I bet I’m going to have to work another weekend.” When someone is suddenly, exceptionally nice to you, you might wonder, “What’s going on here? Did something happen? Is something about to happen?” I can’t help but wonder if Jesus’ disciples may have felt that way in the account that we heard about in John 21 as Jesus ate breakfast with them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The gospel-writer John has briefly told us about two appearances Jesus made to his disciples after his resurrection and now he adds a third. John tells us, “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee” (John 21:1). While the first two appearances of Jesus took place in the city of Jerusalem, we are now taken to the Sea of Galilee, nearly 80 miles to the north of Jerusalem.
The Sea of Galilee was familiar territory for Jesus’ disciples. Not only was this the hometown of many of them, but this was the place where it all began for Jesus’ disciples three years earlier, here on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. You might remember how Jesus had called Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave behind their former occupations as Galilean fishermen, and to become his full-time disciples. In many ways, that day must have seemed like a lifetime ago as Jesus’ disciples considered all that had taken place during those three years. What do we now find seven of Jesus’ disciples doing? They went back to the one thing they knew well, something they were familiar with – fishing.
They spent the entire night fishing and had caught nothing. As the sun began to rise, they heard a man calling from the shore, “You catch anything?” “Nothing!” respond the fishermen. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some,” (John 21:6) the man says. You can only imagine the disciples looking at one another, maybe thinking, “This seems a little strange. Does he really think that we haven’t tired the left AND right sides of the boat?” But then concluding, “What do we have to lose?” They cast the net on the RIGHT side of the boat and when they begin to pull it up, it’s heavy – really heavy. What in the world? It’s FILLED with fish! Lots of fish. John still remembers the exact number, 153 large fish. And that’s when it hits John. He looks more closely at the man who called to them from the shore and he immediately recognizes him. John announces, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). In typical Simon Peter fashion, he grabs his outer garment and hurls himself into water, leaving his fellow disciples behind to deal with the fish. He just needed to get to shore as soon as possible, to see Jesus.
When Peter and the other disciples arrive at the beach, they not only find Jesus, but we’re told, “They saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread” (John 21:9). There is a full meal for these hungry fishermen. Jesus invites them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught… Come and have breakfast” (John 21:10,12). So the disciples sat down and began to eat with Jesus. They couldn’t help themselves from staring. John says, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (John 21:12). They knew it was Jesus, but it was still hard to believe that they were sitting there eating breakfast with a man who had been dead. What do you think the conversation during that meal was like? Maybe just stunned silence, Jesus’ disciples afraid to say much of anything. Or maybe it was the attempt of awkward small talk, “Nice morning. Looks like it’s good to be another hot one today.” The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus and his disciples talked about during breakfast, but you can only imagine that those disciples must have wondered what this was all about.
Why did Jesus make them breakfast? Why did Jesus give them this miraculous catch of fish? Was Jesus preparing them for some bad news he was about to deliver? Maybe something like, “Guys, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and after seeing the way you acted at my arrest, and Peter, the whole denial thing, and the way you’ve repeatedly doubted me, I’ve decided to take my discipleship in a different direction. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to let you all go. Hopefully this catch of fish will help to carry you over until you find other employment.” Was that what this breakfast on the beach was all about?