Summary: Year C Third Sunday of Easter--April 29th, 2001. John 21: 1-19

Year C Third Sunday of Easter--April 29th, 2001. John 21: 1-19

Title: “Love-Love-Love.”

Jesus appears to his disciples. At his word they catch a huge amount of fish. They share a meal that Jesus prepared. Then Jesus commissions Peter as pastor of his Church and prophesies his martyrdom.

Although the Gospel seems to have ended with chapter twenty, especially verses thirty and thirty-one. Chapter twenty-one, has been appended and gives more resurrection appearances, now in Galilee, and yet another conclusion in verses twenty four and twenty five. There are two scenes here. The first one is about fish, catching them as a symbol for missionary success.

The second scene is about sheep, leading them as a symbol of Peter being not only a missionary apostle fisherman, but a model for pastoral care shepherd.

In verses one to fourteen, the Miraculous Catch of Fish reveals Peter the Fisher of Men.

In verse one, Jesus revealed himself again: This is the third appearance to his disciples according to John. It takes place in Galilee. The disciples have apparently returned to their former occupation of fishing. Jesus appears to them in the course of their daily work.

In verse three, that night they caught nothing; night was considered the best time for fishing and the fish would be fresh for the market in the morning. Night is also a symbol for spiritual distress and need.

In verse four, 4 Jesus was standing; Jesus simply materializes suddenly as he does in several of the post-resurrectional narratives.

Disciples did not realize that it was Jesus: On one level, the physical, they do not recognize Jesus because his glorified body has changed his outward appearance to some degree. On another level, the spiritual, Jesus can only be truly seen with the eyes of faith. Gradual recognition of Jesus is an important theme in John.

In verse five, children; this word, like “kids” in our language, implies the master-disciple, teacher-student relationship.

In verse six, they cast the net; the success of the fisherman on level one, that is, the earthly and physical, there is the catch of fish and on level two, missionary success is entirely dependent on their obedience to Jesus’ word.

In verse seven, it is the Lord; as in chapter twenty verses one to ten, the Beloved Disciple is the first to recognize Jesus because of his love for him. Peter, on the other hand, literally “jumps in the lake” to hasten to shore. There he will learn the lesson of love from Jesus himself.

In verse nine, fish and bread; as the story goes Jesus already had some fish on the fire before the disciples could bring the freshly caught ones. This meal is a quasi-Eucharist. Jesus takes the initiative because he is the giver of spiritual food, which is Himself. Fish was a frequent symbol of the Eucharist along with bread, of course.

In verses eleven to thirteen, 153 large fish; the catch of fish symbolizes the mission of the Church. The un-torn net symbolizes the unity of the Church and the 153 represents totality. It is not possible to trace the exact meaning to which the number 153 refers, perhaps it was well known to the disciples, but we are not told.

In verse thirteen, “Come, have breakfast.” The breakfast is an act of communion with the Lord who is known by faith. It also sets the precedent for celebrating the Eucharist outside the supper context, even early in the morning.

In verse fourteen, this is now the third time, the reference is to chapter twenty verses nineteen and twenty six.

In verses fifteen to seventeen, Peter the Shepherd.

In chapter ten, Jesus was the one good shepherd. Now, he transfers that function to Peter. The scene has been prepared for by the theme of feeding in verses one to fourteen. Jesus puts three questions to Peter, corresponding to his triple denial. He had claimed he had sacrificial love for Jesus. He had not. In the Greek there are two different words for “love” being used. In the first question Jesus asks Peter if he has agape, sacrificial love, “laying down one’s life for the sheep” love. Peter honestly answers that he has philia, affectionate, human, friendship love. In the second question Jesus drops “more than these,” a boastful claim Peter made at the Last Supper. Any agape at all will do. It need not be more than others. Peter admits again the human and limited quality of his love. The third question “distresses” Peter because Jesus changes verbs and asks him if he has philia love for him. Peter says that Jesus really knows him, “knows everything,” and that he certainly has that kind of love. Having broken through Peter’s conceit and gotten him to admit the true quality of his love, Jesus gives him pastoral authority of the Good Shepherd. Peter did not need to start out perfect. He would get there, but his honesty about his motivations would be enough for Jesus. It would open the way for grace to empower Peter to one day die a martyr’s death, lay down his life in agape love. Agape love was the distinguishing characteristic of the Beloved, Greek agapetos, Disciple throughout his life with Jesus. Peter would end up that way, but begin with only philia love.

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Ivy Gauvin

commented on Apr 17, 2007

Dr. Morrissey, Thank you for posting this message. I am preaching this Sun. while our pastor's away. Being a Lutheran church, we follow the Revised Common Lectionary. This has been helpful in my preparation. Many thanks and God bless.

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