C Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Easter 19
Jn. 21: 1-19
Since the day the disciples found the tomb empty, we have seen their lack of understanding and how they tried to make sense of his rising, his appearances and what the future will be for them. He spoke of it when he was with them, he gave them glimpses as he did when he was transfigured but the scriptures do not hold back when they tell us they did not know how to respond to the His death and resurrection. We do see moments of excitement as we see in the disciples on the road to Emmaus. After their encounter they are willing to give witness as Jesus opened the scriptures to help them understand. This should give us a clue as to the importance of the scriptures in our own journey to holiness.
But back to the disciples and their struggles with the resurrection. We saw Thomas adamantly declare he will not believe until he has more than the testimony of his brothers. He wanted proof by something more than even he believed is possible. That same kind of encounter with Jesus was the very reason Mary Magdala became a disciple and she had another encounter with Jesus the morning of his rising. Jesus appeared multiple times to the disciples and they still could not figure out how they should respond? Jesus did more than just appear to them, he “…did other signs in the presence of the disciples that are not recorded” but those that are recorded were given to us so we might believe with certainty (Jn. 20:30).
In many ways with all our knowledge of Jesus, with all our years of tradition, the witness in the writings of the early church fathers and all we have been taught we like the disciples do not know how to respond to the resurrection. This story today of Peter and the other disciples encountering Jesus is given to us not as a history lesson but as a lesson in discipleship. There are key lessons for us to move from doing mundane things like Peter was that day, so he did not have to deal with responding to the resurrection.
This encounter today as they fished all night was a repeat of their first encounter with Jesus as they fished all night without catching one fish. That day Jesus told them to cast their net on the other side and they reluctantly obeyed him. How did Peter respond, he said “depart from me for I am a sinful man (Lk.5:8)? We know he also left his boat and followed Jesus and had moments of great revelation and moments of complete ignorance about the things he witnessed as a disciple. What is the meaning of Jesus repeating the scenario as he appears to them at the Sea of Tiberius, remember this encounter is to teach us something about moving from just being a follower of Jesus to a bold witness of God’s love and mercy?
Three years earlier Peter responded by acknowledging his sinfulness and still he followed Jesus. For three years he listened, watched, questioned and responded to the words and challenge of Jesus. After Jesus died and rose, we discover those experiences were not enough to make him act on his belief in Jesus “as the Messiah.” What was lacking in the disciples keeping them from understanding God’s promise to restore all of us by removing the barrier so sin which separates us from our destiny as heirs to the kingdom?
The first step in our journey to understand the resurrection is to declare Jesus as Lord and Messiah as Peter did before he dove into the water. We will then understand how our sinfulness is not a barrier because Jesus removed that barrier by his death. His resurrection is a call to embrace that forgiveness and to follow Him. We also like Peter have had our moments of weakness and failed to trust or believe enough. We learn from this gospel how we must make a decision to go to Him in order to understand. We can encounter Jesus in his words and actions given to us in the scriptures.
Step two is to realize no matter how much we study, learn, read, observe we will be lacking in our response until we allow God to change our hearts. Prior to going fishing, Jesus appeared to the disciples and breathes the Holy Spirit on them. This breathing connects them and us with the very people God created us to be when he breathed life into Adam. All we need to understand the power flowing from the resurrection is supplied to us by God through the action of the Holy Spirit working in us.
All our learning, all our faith formation, every sacrament, every time we have been faithful in worship prepares us for that same kind of encounter Peter and the other disciples had that day when Peter declares “…it is the Lord” and like Peter strip ourselves of all that has kept us away from him and we rush to embrace him. That comes to us by revelation, by an encounter with Jesus touching our hearts not our minds. The catalyst for that happening is to realize we need something more than just being in the presence of Jesus.
Peter and the disciples were with Jesus for every minute of those three years and all of them were unable to make sense of the resurrection and unable to see how to move forward. Jesus set them on the journey to understanding that day when he breathed the Spirit into their hearts. He helped them move one step closer and this day on the shore of Lake Tiberius he helped them take another step. He demonstrates the forgiveness God promised us is total and complete and requires nothing more of us than we respond to it by drawing closer to Jesus.
No matter how much we deny him, fail to follow him, fail to understand our call, fail to do his will, fail to stand up and profess our belief, nothing will keep us from the love of God. The forgiveness of our sins and the fact God would remember them no more was part of a larger promise of God made to us through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:34). He also promises us He will change our hearts by pouring the Holy Spirit into us so we would always live by the law of love (Ez. 36:26) complying with God’s will. This story of Peter recognizing and responding to Jesus is our story and we like him are called to respond.
There is more to come for we are to wait in the city until we are clothed with power form on high and then all will become clear. Go to whatever place you need to pray and wait for your Pentecost moment for the resurrection is not complete without the final piece of God’s plan to restore is poured into your heart and mine.