Jesus on the Beach

The scripture we heard was about the disciples’ third time of seeing Jesus after the resurrection.  The scene takes place at least a week after  the resurrection, and after Jesus had sent them out with specific instructions to forgive the sins of others.  “So send I you,” are the words we best know that Christ said to them and he breathed his breath into them.

But they aren’t out telling people Jesus has risen, forgiving sins or healing people.  The men are doing exactly what they were doing when Jesus first asked them to be disciples when his ministry had just begun.

Remember how the gospel starts out with the story of these men on the seashore trimming their nets or in the boat trying to fish, and Jesus said, “Come with me and I will make you fishers of human souls” and that was at the very first of Jesus’ ministry.  Yet after three years of his constant supervision, teaching, Jesus living with them, they are not out healing anyone or bringing joy to anyone but are back to being fishers of fish.  They went back to doing the same old same old.  Sometimes doing what we know best brings us comfort and they had certainly lived through trauma.  The disciples had gone through with Jesus’ trial and execution on the sidelines but still aware of all the injustice and cruelty they had seen and experienced.

          But notice Jesus’ demeanor on the shore watching these disciples.  He patiently prepared to make the disciples a fish breakfast.  He already prepared the fire before he even says anything to the men.  He didn’t scream at them from the shore “Hey, I told you to go out and teach the gospel!” He didn’t remind them that he was their leader and that they were not acting like he had taught them anything.

We all know that feeling of frustration as parents or as teachers and other kinds of educators even with friends, we want the people we know and love to remember what we have said when we are out of sight, or at least follow our example if how we have chosen to live is a positive way.  They are not teaching in the temple.  They are not even out with the publicans getting drunk in the pub. Instead of making a change outside of themselves showing a change on the inside , the disciples were back fishing just like in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

          And Jesus greeted them with hospitality and openness, helping them to do their same old same old in an even more productive way.  It was more of, “If you want to fish, I will give you all that your nets can handle.”  No animosity, no lack of restraint, no feeling the need to threaten or punish them or express outrage.  Jesus just stayed there on the beach. He made a fire, and the fire had gone to the stage of coals, and it was ready to cook over when he called them. Jesus waited for these disciples, and while waiting all he did was focus on taking care of them.  Surely when he told them to drop their nets on the other side of the boat, that had to sound like a familiar request to all of them. 

John and Peter seem to know right away what is happening after pulling up too many fish for the boat, and Peter begins to splash toward Jesus.  This is Peter who has been taught to walk on the water, diving in and swimming to Jesus.  Peter is the best example of typical human nature.  In the gospel stories Peter is the most reactive and most explosive disciple.  Jesus had always kept Peter close by like a teacher has that special chair near her desk for that exceptional student.  Peter ends up in many of the stories, generally showing his very faulty and impetuous side.  Consider that in the last few days of Jesus’ life

  • Peter had gone with Jesus to the last supper when Jesus washed Peter’s  feet and what did Peter do?  Peter said, “You want to wash my feet.  Wash all of me.”  Typical Peter who  overreacts to every experience in life.
  • From there they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Jesus, but Peter didn’t pray, he slept.  Jesus woke him up a few times, and yet he fell back asleep instead of praying with Jesus as Jesus requested.  You would think by that point that was all Peter could do “wrong” but Peter is our example of our humanity in scripture, so therefore our need for lots of grace and acceptance. 
  • When the soldiers show up to arrest Jesus, Peter immediately slashes off the Centurion’s ear, and Jesus has to heal the Centurion and remind Peter that they are pacifists. 
  • Peter then goes on to deny Jesus three times when  asked if he was with Jesus or even knew Jesus, leaving Jesus all alone to face his struggles from shame to execution.

 Jesus has steadily been with Peter during all of Peter’s faulters, always cleaning up Peter’s mess, using them as teaching moments, and Peter denied Jesus to the people around him when he was being tried, abused and readied for execution, when Jesus needed someone with him, enduring with him those sacrifices.  Instead, Jesus is crucified between two marauders, and only one of whom recognizes Jesus as the Christ.  Peter was not to be found.

 But Jesus on this beach, and there he reaches out to Peter to ask, “Do you love me?” Jesus was giving Peter a chance to make up all of these foibles that have happened, and asks Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus – “Peter, do you love me?”  Of course Peter reacts with “Of course I do.”  But Jesus had to keep asking like he had been asking the days before to the point that typically Peter is irritated.  But three times Peter had denied Jesus, and three times Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to redeem himself, and Jesus did so reminding Peter that his focus is to love him and serve others. 

Jesus didn’t say to Peter, “Shame on you for not being there for me.”  He didn’t talk directly to Peter about improving his behaviors.  But Jesus set a base for Peter react from for the rest of Peter’s life.  “Do you love me?” Jesus asks three times.  The third time Peter’s behavior said, “What gives you the impression I don’t love you,” but Jesus didn’t point out the many failures of Peter.  Instead, when it would have been so easy to correct him.

Instead Jesus gave Peter words to remember to encourage him – he reminded Peter that Peter has a devoted feeling for Christ,  and that he should act on that devotion. 

 We are all like Peter at some time in our lives. I know I am.  We react instead of responding.  We let our friends and family down.  We look out for number #1. We think “Why doesn’t so and so think the best of me?  I never let them down!”  denial instead of awareness, returning to old habits instead of making necessary change.  But the truth is that we all fail each other and the Christ in one another.  It’s part of being human. But instead of pointing these mistakes out to our friends and family, maybe like Jesus did and act out of grace and love.  “If  you love me,  _____________ (put your name there), your actions will show it.”  So if we love God and the Christ within all of us, can show and act out of love for one another.       We can respond from the inside of us towards others, from something stable and firm – the love of God within.  That love can ground all of us and help us learn to respond with kindness and patience, acceptance and grace. 


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