This past Easter Sunday for many of us will be the one that Church stayed at home. Today, April 15 I am still at home as we shelter in place during this virus pandemic. I have had more time to read and that is a good thing and I have been blessed that I do not have this virus. What will happen after this, I don’t know, we have yet to live that chapter? What happened after the cross? We have ample writings from those who were there and in reading some I was blessed to find this interesting Chapter from the book of John, Chapter 21. After some study of this chapter and other research material I do agree that this is a strange chapter. It is only 25 verses compared to the 31 verses in the previous chapter. Why is it viewed to be so strange? The gospel seems to come to an end in verse 31 in Chapter 20. But it strangely begins again in Chapter 21. As a layman I do not feel qualified to say why this happened but do feel the need to ask why and try to come to some conclusion. Chapter 20: 30-31 perfectly speaks to the aim of this book. It is impossible for the gospels to give a full account of Jesus’ life as they do not follow his activities day to day. They are instead a truthful and accurate collection of what he was like and the kinds of things he was doing. These collections of his demeanor and activities were meant to present him as Master, Lord and our Savior. If we approach them as a people seeking God we will be blessed and strengthened. So…Let’s take a look beyond the words and explore this what seems to be an addition to an Ending, a PS so to speak. I will be using the DBS, New Interpreter’s Bible and Wikipedia as primary resources.
Our first stop in this journey will be by the Sea of Tiberias where Jesus showed himself again to his disciples. Verse 2 of the 21st chapter.
2 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.
They had been fishing all night and it was just after daybreak, Jesus was standing there on the shore but none of them recognized him right away. It was in a gray type of early light that they first saw him. It was Peter who knew it was the Lord. There are always little bits of information that historical fact makes known to us and add a bit of realism to the words. When fishing the normal wear was just the loin cloth but when Peter in awe and joy leaped into the water to greet him because he wanted to be the first to greet him, he paused first to put on his fisherman’s tunic. You see it was Jewish law that a greeting was a religious act, such an act required that he must be clothed. There were many who had said that these appearances of the risen Christ by the disciples are only visions. Now they did not question the seeing of these visions, they did however insist they were only just that, visions. Here right at the first few verses of this chapter we see a possible reason for the addition of this chapter. It demonstrated once and for all the reality of the resurrection. The gospels insist that these were not as some were saying, just visions and hallucinations, they were not even a spirit, but a real person, the risen Christ. The tomb was empty and his body bore the marks of the crucifixion: the nail holes in his hands and the mark of the spear thrust into his side. Sometimes the way we do things can be used to validate a story or in this case the appearance of Christ to the disciples as they fished. When we speak of visions or even a spirit, it is not likely that either could have started a fire, cooked fish or prepared a meal. He then shared that meal with them! It would be hard for one of the men in the boat to spot a shoal of fish, but it was often done by a person on the shore, it really wasn’t that unusual. In these next verses 15-19, Jesus questions Peter’s love for him. Scripture has a way of putting forth a question or questions that reveal our true feelings. ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?’ Not being there we cannot be sure but reasonable thinking might lead us to ask what the context of these was. Did Jesus with a sweep of his hand indicate the boat, its nets and other equipment as well as the fish that had been caught? “Do you love me more than these things?” Was he asking Peter if he was willing to give up all this stuff to follow him? We could ask ourselves that question today, right here and now… Are we willing to give up our stuff to follow Jesus. Are we ready to be a shepherd to his lambs? It could have been Jesus asking Peter if he loved him more than his fellow disciples did? Jesus asked this question three times and within those three times we find astonishing revelations. Be a shepherd to my lambs He said to him a second time: ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?’ Jesus replied to Peter’s yes ‘Be a shepherd to my sheep.’ Then yet again Jesus asked ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me’? I am sure by this time Peter is confused but there is a purpose in this repeating question… Each answer given requires a task accepted. Peter was tasked with the responsibility of a lifetime of shepherding the sheep and the lambs. Like Peter we can also prove our love for Jesus by our love for others. To love is the hallmark of a Christian but with it comes a great responsibility. Jesus also presents Peter with his own cross. Sometime later in Rome Peter would be nailed to a cross. We should understand that even today to love Jesus will present us with a cross of our own. Our cross might be in the form of ridicule, shunned by family, friends a hostile workplace and yes missionaries who lose their lives loving, caring and bringing the good news to the sheep. So here is Peter, who by no means was anything like Paul, for Paul would have many voyages and adventures taking the word to the world. Most of us will not be able to travel the world or write as Paul wrote, but we who also love the Lord can accept the task of loving and caring and being the shepherd of the sheep of Christ.
This strange chapter shows us two great figures of the Church…Peter and John. Each given a different task, Peter to shepherd the sheep of Christ, to love and care for the lambs of the Lord. To John the task of witnessing to the story of Christ to live to an old age, dies in peace, writing ‘I know Jesus Christ, and I know that these things are true.’ We have been reminded in this strange chapter the reality of the resurrection, the inclusion of all believers in service to the Lord and the tasks of the church being shared by all who love the Lord. Christ has risen and to each of us there are the additional tasks that this strange chapter sets forth and reminds us of the reality of the resurrection.
Life is Good