John 21:1-19

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An Activity

Print out this PDF onto cream or white card and cut out the pieces SheepFish

Jesus changed Peter from being a fisherman to being a shepherd. Start by arranging your four pieces as a fish, then rearrange the pieces into a sheep.  In the same way, Jesus re-arranges us so that, with him, we can end up doing things we had never imagined.

sheepfish1sheepfish2sheepfish3

A Reflection

We’ve had the resurrection, the upper room and Thomas doing his famous ‘doubting’ bit. The disciples are gradually understanding that Jesus is alive, but they are not sure what that means for real, everyday life. There is no more preaching and teaching, so they can’t follow Jesus and be his disciples any more, but neither are they sure they can launch out without him. The disciples are feeling a bit like spare arms – not sure what they are for and a little bit in the way.

So Peter seeks the comfort of familiar routine. “I’m going out to fish,” he says, and the rest agree. It’s easy to do, to slip back into the comfortable, the known. After all, fish need catching, don’t they?

Yes, Jesus has risen, like he said he would. That’s great. But now what? What difference does it make?

Just after our passage comes one of the sweetest events in the gospels. Peter wades ashore and finds Jesus barbecuing fish on the beach for breakfast. Jesus tends to Peter’s physical hunger, and then fills his spiritual emptiness too. “Simon son of John, do you love me? … You know that I love you … Feed my lambs … Take care of my sheep … Feed my sheep.” Fisherman turned shepherd.

Jesus does this with us, too. He knows where our hurts are, our inner cuts and bruises, which are far more damaging to our well-being than physical infirmities. Jesus is being the one spoken of in Ps 103:3, he “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” But this healing and forgiveness is not merely so that we can sit there being healthy and forgiven. Jesus did not feed Peter’s body and soul to have him be a fisher of fish. Resurrection is supposed to make a difference.

Having comforted the afflicted it was time for Jesus to afflict the comfortable. He shook Peter out of his familiar routine and we never hear of him fishing again. But what is he doing? For what else is this ill-educated fisherman qualified?

The next time we meet him is over the page, just 15 verses into Acts. The loud-mouthed, act-before-thinking former fisherman is leading the believers, a group of about 120. And then in chapter 2, Peter addresses the huge crowds at Pentecost with such eloquence and inspiration that “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” No sign of his trademark foot-in-mouth disease here.

As we walk beyond the excited joy of Easter morning, we can fall into the trap of ‘He is Risen indeed – Hallelujah, but so what?’ What difference does it actually make? What difference in the office, on the school run, in class, on the streets?

A useful phrase I have seen in the news recently is ‘life-changing injuries’. It is used to describe hurts which, while not endangering life, will ensure that it is never the same again. In a similar way, coming to Jesus inflicts ‘life-changing healing’ on us. Life should not be the same as it has been. Knowing our Lord should mean we are not be able to go back to fishing as if nothing had happened.

I’m not suggesting that we all suddenly throw off the trappings of modern life and go and live as hermits in the desert, but we should expect knowing Jesus to afflict our comfort.

Your Turn

What is your comfortable place? Is Jesus stirring you to step beyond it?

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Thank you that you see beyond the limitations of our everyday, familiar lives.
You heal us and send us out to new adventures.
Help us to say with Peter, “You know everything Lord, you know that I love you,”
and then to step out boldly where you are leading.

Amen

Bible Text

John 21:1-8 New International Version – UK

Afterwards Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.

He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment round him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred metres.

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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