After the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus is betrayed, denied, and abandoned by his disciples. He is put on trial, crucified, and raised back to life by the power of God. By the time we arrive at John 21, Jesus has already revealed himself to Mary Magdalene in the garden and to a group of disciples in a locked room.
Today’s story takes place at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus first called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him. Jesus finds the disciples frustrated. Despite their best efforts, they have not caught any fish during a night-long fishing trip. After Jesus tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, they have a net full of 153 fish! Jesus then “sets the table” and serves them breakfast on the beach. Perhaps this meal of bread and fish reminds them of the feeding of the 5,000. In the breaking of bread, perhaps they think of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me.”
After breakfast, Jesus talks with Peter. At the time of Jesus’ trial, Peter will deny knowing Jesus three times. While Jesus does not bring this up, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times: “Peter, do you love me?” Each time Peter affirms that he loves Jesus, and Jesus tells him, “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” In other words, he states, “If you love me as you say you do, take good care of the ones I care about.”
Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the image of a vine and branches to teach the disciples about abiding in him. Essentially, he says, “Remain in me and value what I value, see the world the way I see it, and take up the work that I set before you.”
As he does so many times before his death and resurrection, Jesus connects with people by showing up, setting the table, and serving a meal. In this way, Jesus provides a model for us.
Do we love Jesus? Then let’s reach out and welcome everyone to God’s table. Let’s make sure that the abundance God provides is accessible to all people. Let’s make things right when we hurt others. Let’s remember Jesus in the breaking of bread and the washing of feet. Let’s love wholeheartedly.
This Bible study comes from Shine: Living in God’s Light, published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. The writers are Seth Crissman and Christina Hershey.