Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.
Y’all Better Recognize
We are still in the territory of post-resurrection appearances to the disciples today. It’s interesting that John, just like Luke, reports that the resurrected Jesus is not immediately recognizable to the disciples. (And this time they have already seen him twice!) They “get” who he is only after he directs them to cast their nets on the other side and they catch a boatload of fish (see what I did there?). Even then he is different enough that “they realized” it was him, but they also wanted to ask to make sure. In both this story and the Emmaus road story from two days ago, there is what Pope Benedict calls a “dialectic of recognition and non-recognition.” They know in their hearts it is Jesus, even though his physical appearance is changed.
On the literal level, this tells us something about the nature of the resurrected body. Matthew, Luke, and John all recount stories of Jesus eating and the disciples seeing that he has “flesh and bones.” Jesus remains embodied in resurrection. We will remain embodied in resurrection. We will not be spirits or angels or “ghosts.” We will have physical bodies.That should help us value and appreciate our bodies now. We are not going to escape them some day. Sure, they will be transformed, perfected, but apparently always capable of eating a little fish.
On the figurative level, this “dialectic” means we might not always recognize that Jesus is speaking to us right away. We may have to pay attention to the way he’s speaking to us in order to realize it’s him. Or maybe, we will need a trusted disciple like John, to nudge us and say, “It’s the Lord.”
The Love of a Parent
And what exactly is the way Jesus speaks to them? There is so much tenderness and affection in this passage. He calls them “children.” The Greek word is the word for a small child, it can even refer to an infant, but is very rarely used to refer to an adult son or daughter. It is clearly a term of endearment here. “Hey, my little guys…” And notice that he doesn’t ask them if they caught anything to take to market. He asks if they’ve caught anything to eat. Like a parent, he’s concerned his children get a good breakfast. He even says to them later, “Come, have breakfast,” as he offers them the fish and bread he’s cooked.
You may be able to relate to that feeling of fishing all night long, to the point of exhaustion, and coming up empty-handed. Whether it’s work or parenting or some difficult relationship. That sense of pouring yourself out till you are empty and having nothing to show for it. I, for one, am prone to despair in those moments, or even anger. But these are precisely the moments we need to hear the Lord’s voice. Listen in those moments, listen with the faith that Jesus wants to feed you, that he cares about your needs, that he wants to be present to you. His voice may not come in a way that you expect or can immediately recognize, but it will come.