21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 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.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
This beautiful story is almost childlike in its simplicity. Some of the disciples decide to go back to work. St Matthew’s gospel tells us that Andrew, Peter, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John, were all fishermen, so for them, this was a return to normal life. Even though the risen Christ has appeared to them twice, the imperative to keep things as they were, is very strong. But it is not working. Even though they do everything the way it used to be, they embark in the boat, they cast the net - over and over again - they catch nothing.
This may be a sign: once you have had a real spiritual experience, a life-changing experience, you can’t go back.
Into this picture of normality, Jesus gently inserts himself. He is standing on the shore, just an anonymous figure asking a question. He addresses them as “children”, paidia, in Greek, which carries the connotation of small children who are being instructed. We can imagine that the professional fishermen took his advice to cast the net on the other side of the boat with some scepticism, but when they follow his instructions, lo and behold, they find so many fish that they can hardly haul it in. It is at this point, that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” recognises Jesus. Love calls to love. We connect to Christ, not through the intellect, but through the heart. Once the heart is awake, then faith, Peter, takes over and takes action.
Perhaps the point of this little story is as simple as the narrative. We have a powerful, transforming experience, but it is human nature to push this into the background and try to return to normality. What we didn’t understand is that Christ is not only present in a transcendent event, Christ is now part of our lives forever. Every so often, Christ will remind us that he is with us even in the most ordinary and routine life events. If our heart is open, we will know him by the love which flows spontaneously from us towards others and towards the world. Love is not just an emotion, it is accompanied by an action, and the action of love brings in an enormous harvest.
The presence of Christ creates love as an action, it creates a sense of wonder, and it brings joy, not just in prayer, devotion and meditation, but in every moment of our lives.
In this modern interpretation of the story, the sun shines at the centrepoint between Jesus and the disciples. The abundance of fish flows out of Christ into the net of the fisherman.
Today, let us express love as an action. Let us be more and more aware of the events of wonder and joy within life.
God wants people with fire in their bones and in their being, with strength within their hearts and grace on their lips. Go therefore in unselfishness and make disciples. Identify them, baptise them into the Christ, and bring the pulsation, the teaching of that being to the world. Yours is the task.
Rev Mario Schoenmaker, Enacting the Vision of Christ, 31st Jan 1977