Third Sunday of Easter, Year C.

Jn 21: 1 – 19

Be with us, Lord Jesus. Be our companion on our way. In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope, so that, in union with one another, we may recognise you in the Scriptures and in the breaking of Bread.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples.” Jn 20: 30

It is with these words that John’s Gospel originally ended. Sometime later another member of John’s community added what is now Chapter 21. The author integrates the same spirit and links with the themes of the rest of the Gospel. He seems to have felt free to do this in the light of John’s ending. There were some things that Jesus did that he thought should be included in this Epilogue.

It is possible that a number of different stories could have been woven together. Keep this in mind as you read the text.

1-8  The miraculous catch of fish.
9 – 14  Breakfast with Jesus; another resurrection experience
15 – 17  Jesus welcomes Peter back into friendship
18 – 19  Peter’s destiny

One more piece of advice before you read the text.

“A lot of the details are symbolic. It is not easy to say what actually did happen. What the evangelist really wants us to know for certain is that the apostles experienced the presence of the Risen Christ, but he is also, at the same time, giving a catechetical lesson to the Christians of his time.”1  Try to identify the details that are symbolic.

* * * * * *

Did you count the number of disciples  present? There were seven. Seven is the symbol of perfection, of wholeness, so Peter and the other disciples represent all the disciples of Jesus. However there are two who are not named. One is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” v7.  The other is, you, the reader.

Many of the Jesus’ appearances took place on a Sunday. In Luke’s Gospel all the appearances including the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus and the Ascension take place on Easter Sunday. However this fishing incident occurs on a working day. The evangelist wanted Christians to know that the Risen Christ is experienced in our daily lives. Our relationship with Christ is not confined to Sunday worship.

We find this same story in Luke’s Gospel (Lk 5: 1 – 11). Both writers are conveying a similar message. The sea, for the people of Israel, was a symbol of all the forces hostile to man. We are all to be “fishers of men”. It is our task to draw people out of situations that restrict their freedom to love and to live happy, fulfilling lives.

In Luke’s version the nets break. (Lk 5: 6) This suggests that there were so many fish that we will never catch them all without Jesus help. John tells us that the nets did not break.  He is giving us the assurance that all will be saved. He goes on to say that there were 153. There are many explanations of this number. According to the teachers of the time, there existed 153 species of living creatures. Everybody will be saved.

* * * * * *

We are inclined to think that the early Christians came to belief in the Risen Christ   instantly.  As we read the resurrection stories we realise that it was a step by step journey.

The story begins with, “After this Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples.” (v 1) One would imagine that after three appearances they would have got the message that Jesus had risen, apparently not.” The disciples did not realise that it was Jesus” on the shore.  The first person to recognise him was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. (v 7a)   Peter had to be told  “It is the Lord”. (7b) Only then did he recognise Jesus. Only after being invited to breakfast did everyone else come to believe in the Risen Christ, or did they.  ‘None of them dared to ask him, “Who are you?”’ (v 12)

The story closes with, “This was the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.” (My counting and John’s do not agree.)

* * * * * *

15 – 17  Jesus welcomes Peter back into friendship
Refresh your memory now by reading these verses.
Unfortunately most translators ignore the fact that Jesus uses a word meaning ‘really love’, while Peter uses a different word which means ‘we are friends’. Here is my t ranslation of the conversation.

Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you really love me?
Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that we are friends.
Jesus: Simon, son of John, do you really love me?
Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that we are friends.
Jesus: Simon, son of John, are we friends?
Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that we are friends.

It is wonderful how Jesus calls us to a deep, loving relationship.  However, just like Peter, we are often unable to respond to this call. Jesus is happy to accept our lesser response and wait till we are able to love him more deeply.

1          Armellini, F;  Celebrating the Word.  P92

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