Stations of the Resurrection No.9

Through Eastertide we will be posting Stations of the Resurrection like this one to encourage meditation on the risen life of Christ, with short reflections written or compiled by members of the Community.

Breakfast on the Beach

John 21:1-14

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Reflection

Jesus is alive. The disciples know that. They have seen him several times. But Jesus is not around in the way he was before. They can no longer go and find him and ask him about that parable, or sit with him while he speaks to the crowds and find their hearts and minds being opened up to the things of God. So what are they to do? This extraordinary thing has happened – Jesus is raised from the dead, but now what?

We can have moments of vivid spiritual insight. Perhaps a familiar Bible passage strikes us suddenly in a completely new way. Maybe our heart is “strangely warmed” at a church gathering – as happened for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Whatever it is, it can be very real and yet we do not know what to DO with it. How is this extraordinary experience supposed to impact my life?

Peter and the others decide to do what they know how to do. They go fishing. For us it will be whatever work, family life, or commitments that we have. Jesus interacted with people in first century Palestine in the midst of their everyday lives and the risen Christ has all the same characteristics of the earthly Jesus.

The disciples experience huge disappointment. They catch no fish. All night. They perhaps would have been downcast, frustrated, sad. It could easily have led to disillusionment. They could easily have started to doubt the validity of their earlier sightings of the risen Lord. What are we going to do? We can’t even catch fish any more!

It is common experience to “crash” from any sort of “high”, including a religious one. The temptations are either to dismiss the experienced “high” as imagined, overrated, a passing enthusiasm; or to try to hold on to the experience and preserve it for ever. Neither is helpful of healthy.

Take the second. Imagine beautiful butterfly lands on your hand (imagine something else if you are phobic about butterflies!). If you try to hold on to it, grab it, keep it, you will crush it. You just have to let the moment last as long as it will and hold onto the joy and wonder it brings, not hold on to the butterfly itself.

With the first temptation – dismissal – well, that is rather like throwing a gift back at the person who gave it. Ungrateful, rude and the only person who really loses out is you! There are moments of God’s extraordinary revelation and grace in all our lives. Sometimes we are paying enough attention to notice and receive them. Again, hold on to the gifts they leave within you – joy, peace, insight…and more. Then keep the memory of them alive, just as the disciples kept alive the memory of the breakfast on the beach and Jesus’ gift of a huge catch of fish. When I was confirmed, the bishop told the candidates to “Remember today when it all seems very real” and to hold onto the fact of that belief at that very real moment, because, he went on to say, there would be days when it did not seem so real, when doubts abounded and the stuff of life crowded in. That would be when we needed to hold on to the certainty that there had been, a definite time when we knew it all to be very real indeed – and to hold on to the fact that this “knowing” was authentic and genuine. This would sustain us, he said. He has been right more times than I care to recount!

When the risen Lord encounters us in our everyday lives, we are not asked to live on some exalted spiritual plain, or to fossilize that moment. We are asked to go on with our everyday, ordinary lives, holding the certainty that the risen Lord has touched, healed, guided, and living in the light of that. It puts everything on a different footing.

A poem by Ann Lewin

Prayer is like watching for the
Kingfisher.
All you can do is
Be where he is likely to appear, and
Wait.
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and
Expectancy.
No visible sign, only the
Knowledge that he’s been there
And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But when you’ve almost stopped
Expecting it, a flash of brightness
Gives encouragement.