• Christ Church, Willesborough

Fifth Sunday after Easter Morning Prayer (9 May 2021) St. John 21:1-19

Updated: May 9, 2021


The resurrected Jesus showed Himself to Mary Magdalene on the resurrected morning. He then met His disciples in the evening inside the closed hall. He came to meet Thomas and showed him His wounded hands and side. He walked with the disciples on their way to the village called Emmaus. He explained to them all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Resurrected Jesus did many signs in the presence of His disciples. He opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures. He spoke to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God for forty days. Today’s meditation is based on our New Testament reading, the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 21, verses 1–19. Let us meditate on this reading based on three questions:

1. Why was Jesus with His disciples for forty days before ascension?

2. What did the disciples do?

3. What love did Jesus expect and receive?

1. Why was Jesus with His disciples for forty days before ascension?

Jesus chose and called twelve disciples. He called Peter and his brother Andrew to be fishers of men. From the beginning, Jesus preached about the kingdom of heaven. He taught them through parables for better understanding. Although the parables were based on the culture, context and lifestyle of the early Hebrews, they found it difficult to understand them.

Jesus spoke to His disciples about His passion and death. He took Peter and John to the mount of transfiguration where He discussed about His death with Moses and Elias. Even the day before He was crucified, Jesus cautioned them about His death. Jesus prophesised about this in Mark 14:27, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered”. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples were scattered. Peter denied Jesus thrice that night. A certain young man left his linen and fled. Just as Jesus had said, His disciples and followers were troubled.

The Jews and disciples expected Jesus would save them from their enemies because He was the Messiah. But when they saw Jesus on the cross, they lost their hope and were afraid. On the third day, a few women went to the tomb to do their rituals. Peter and John ran to see the empty tomb when they heard from Mary Magdalene about the empty tomb.. They saw the empty tomb but they did not remember Jesus’ words that He would rise again.

In John 20:19 we read that “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews”. They were afraid of the ‘death sentence’ that was set for anyone who proclaimed Jesus as Christ. When they were in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had told them “after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee”. But He walked with two disciples to the village Emmaus and came to visit the disciples in the closed room. He taught them many things and told them about events that would happen. But the disciples did not remember them when they came to pass. So after His resurrection, Jesus “shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”.

During the forty days, the resurrected Jesus

- explained to His disciples about the scriptures and things concerning Himself.

- opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures.

- strengthened the disciples and made them witness of all the events.

- commanded the disciples that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

2. What did the disciples do?

When Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, He said, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” He then breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” He did many other signs also that are not written. Even after seeing the resurrected Jesus and his wounds, a few disciples went fishing with Peter. They caught nothing that night.

Jesus stood on the shore when they returned but they did not know it was Jesus. They did not recognise His voice when Jesus asked them for meat. After a fruitless night, Jesus asked them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they obeyed and cast their net, their net was full of great fishes and they could not draw the net because of the multitude of fishes. When John saw the miracle, his eyes were opened and he identified Jesus. Jesus called Peter and his friends to be fishers of men not fishes.

The resurrected Jesus sent His disciples to preach about repentance and remission of sins in His name among all nations. They were to be His witnesses. But after Jesus gave them the Holy Ghost, they went fishing for fishes.

Jesus asked the disciples for meat. What meat did Jesus mean? In John 4:32, Jesus told His disciples, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” In verse 34 He said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Jesus sent His disciples to be fishers of men. So when He saw the disciples return from their fishing, He asked for the meat. He asked them if they had finished the work that He sent them to do, which is to preach about repentance and remission of sins in His name. He was asking how many men they had fished as a result of finishing the task that was given to them. Jesus reminded the disciples about the will of God and their call when he asked “have ye any meat?”

3. What love did Jesus expect and receive?

Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” When Jesus asked the same question the third time, Peter was grieved. The Bible does not give a reason for Jesus asking the question thrice. Maybe He wanted Peter to confirm because he denied Jesus thrice. Peter also may have remembered the night before crucifixion when he denied Jesus thrice and was grieved. Peter should have given a yes or no answer to the questions, but he gave an indirect answer.

In our English Bibles, the question has the word “love” in all the three instances. But these verses have two different terms for love in Greek. The first and second time Jesus asks Peter if his love was agapas (ἀγαπᾷς), that is unconditional love. Peter answered his love for Jesus was philo (φιλῶ), that is dearly love. Jesus’s expectation was to receive unconditional love from Peter. But Peter replied twice that he was willing to offer dearly love. So the third time Jesus lowered His expectation. But when Jesus agreed to accept what he had to offer, he was grieved. However, he showed unconditional love during his death when he was crucified upside down.

Let us self-examine ourselves. Jesus has chosen us to be His disciples. He teaches and reminds us through various channels. He reminds us repeatedly through His word about the kingdom of god that we must strive to inherit. Are we willing to allow Him to open our understanding that we might understand the scriptures? After resurrection, Jesus reminded and strengthened His disciples for forty days. Today, He is reminding us and strengthening us for many years to be His witness.

What are we doing after we are reminded and strengthened? Are we going our way and carry empty nets? If we don’t fish how he wants us to, our nets will be empty. What will our response be when He asks us for meat? Are we able to recognise God’s voice? Can we differentiate between the voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the world? If we can submit ourselves to go fishing as He commands, He will give great fishes in our nets.

God’s love to us is unconditional. What about our love to God? Do we love Him for what He has done for us or do we love Him for who He is?

I pray we allow our Lord to open our understanding that we might understand Him and the scriptures. I pray we are strengthened to be fishers of men for Him. I pray we listen to only His voice speaking to us. Amen!

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