Friday, April 17, 2009

None Of Them Dared Ask Who He Was; They Knew It Was The Lord.

Jesus appeared to the disciples once again at the Sea of Tiberias. Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus (the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, and two other disciples were there. Peter said, "I'm going out fishing." The others said, "We'll come too."

They stayed out all night long, but they didn't catch anything. When they returned, at daybreak, Jesus was standing on the shore, but they didn't recognize him. He called out, "Boys, have you caught anything worth eating?" They answered, "No!" He said, "Cast the net on the starboard side, and you'll find something." So they did, and the net filled so quickly with such a great number of fish, that they weren't able to pull it into the boat.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "Look, it's the Lord!" When Peter heard that, he tucked in his tunic, jumped into the water, and swam for shore. The others came in the boat, dragging the net filled with fish. When they climbed out of the boat, they saw a charcoal fire with fish and bread on it.

Jesus said, "Bring some of that fish you just caught." Peter went and dragged the net ashore. There were one hundred and fifty three fish in the net, but the net was not torn. Jesus said, "Come, have some breakfast." None of the disciples dared to ask who it was, knowing it was the Lord. Jesus took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

This was the third time Jesus revealed himself to his discples after being raised from the dead.
John 21:1-14

Simon Peter is clearly a central figure in this episode from John's gospel . Hearing that Jesus was on the shore, he jumped into the water with his clothes on, and swam to him, whilst the other disciples stayed in the boat. When he got to the shore, Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you've just caught. Peter didn't just pick up a few of the fish, but dragged the net filled with 153 fish to the shore all by himself.

Once upon a time, a student asked me, "Why 153 fish? Why not 150, a more even number?" I didn't know the answer then, but I learned recently: The philosopher-scientists of those times, posited that there were one hundred fifty three varieties of fish in the Sea of Galilee. So, John in the gospel used that number to illustrate the perfection of the relationship between God and nature represented by the Resurrection of Jesus. It's as good a speculation as any.

The other question often raised about this gospel is this: "Did the disciples recognize Jesus, or didn't they?" Another theological conundrum. The answer is Both. In their eyes, ruled by their brains, they failed to recognized the risen Lord. But in their heart of hearts, ruled by their soul, they "just knew" it was the risen Lord, although they could not yet put their faith into words. That gift of tongues would not come till Pentecost.

Saint Gregory the Great, in a sermon on this passage of John's gospel, puts it thusly:

Since our Redeemer had already passed beyond his perishable body, after his resurrection he stood on the shore as if he were speaking to his disciples by his actions, of the mystery of the resurrection: "I am not appearing to you on the sea, because I am not with you in waves of confusion." It is for the same reason that in another place, he says, "These are the words I spoke to you when I was still with you." It is not that he wasn't with them when he appeared to them in bodily form; he said that he wasn't present with them because in his immortal body, he was apart from their mortal bodies.

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