After Jesus’ resurrection there are surprisingly few stories in scripture telling us what he did, who he met and the witness that he was to the world. Matthew gives a couple paragraphs (Matthew 28), there is some debate about where the Gospel of Mark ends, but even the longest version only provides two or three paragraphs (Mark 16), and Luke about the same (Luke 24). John is the Gospel with the most information and even that amounts to just two of 22 chapters (John 20-21). Given this momentous event you might think a little more might be written down, a little more evidence given. For the unbeliever and those who struggle with faith, I understand the difficulty of believing in this miraculous event especially given the lack of evidence.
When Jesus does appear he seems to do so in strange ways, meeting the women (John 20:11-17) in the garden, meeting most of the disciples in a room but not when Didymus is present (John 20:19-20), waiting a week to show himself to Didymus (John 20:26-29) and then a little later we find him cooking breakfast for seven disciples on a beach (John 21:1-14).
Given the seismic events and repercussions you can be forgiven for wondering why, if the resurrected Jesus is evidence to an unbelieving world of the glory of God, does Jesus remain pretty much hidden? That’s something to stew on.
One of the stories of Jesus told by John is of a miraculous catch of fish and breakfast on the beach (John 21:1-14). A number of the disciples had seen Jesus and rather than running and telling everyone sharing this amazing news, Peter decides to go fishing. Fishing! Peter has spent three years following Jesus, witnessed miracles, heard the teaching and now been witness to death and resurrection, and Peter’s response is to go fishing.
This isn’t completely strange, we are told Peter is a fisherman, when Jesus called him to follow, he was tending to his nets, it was the trade he learned from his father and did with his brothers. When we are faced with significant events, we often find sanctuary in old place and old habits. I will always be drawn back to the houses I grew up in, the streets I roamed, the trees I climbed, the school I attended, the church I worshipped in. There are certain smells and sounds that immediately take me back to certain people, activities or events. When I face a significant event, I do not want to shout about it or make a fuss, I will often become quiet and reflective. I do not want to talk, I want space; I want normality (whatever that is), I need the time to let my thoughts calm and process what I may have seen, heard, or experienced. My daughter has a cuddly rabbit, I know this would be the safe friend she will find and hold on to. Peter returns to the activity that is safe for him, he goes fishing, it is natural.
When Jesus arrives on the scene the fishermen have caught nothing. Mirroring how they first met (Mark 1:16-20), Jesus calls to them to try again, which they do and Peter recognises Jesus by the repetition of an earlier miracle (John 21:6-7).
There is much that could be said about the miracle, there are sermons and Bible commentaries you can search for these. The most wonderful part of this story though is not the catch of fish, it is that Jesus is simply cooking breakfast for his friends (John 21:9-11).
There is no large ceremony, no special words of prayer, praise or ritual. Jesus, the son of God, the resurrection and the life, does not require the disciples to dress up in special clothes, to share sacred bread or meet in an ornate building. Jesus, simply welcomes his friends, who have been working all night so will be tired, sweaty, grubby and smelly, to join him around a camp fire and eat.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Across the world people have been required to stay at home to avoid spreading Covid-19. All non-essential activity has ceased. The whole world has been turned upside down. God does not need us to prayer harder or more fervently to encourage God to hear. If you believe in God and the God you believe in doesn’t already know what’s going on, it doesn’t say much for the insight and wisdom of that God. If this whole event is causing you to ask questions of faith, such as why does God allow this to happen? Did God make this happen? Is this some kind of judgement? And, so on and so forth, you can look back to what I wrote a few weeks ago, explaining why I don’t think this is a judgement or punishment. If you haven’t asked these questions before, they are good and important questions to ask, there is and has been suffering in the world the whole time. You may or may not find that you receive a satisfactory answer. That is part of the struggle of faith, we have to live with mystery and doubt. Yet, if you have faith (even if it is as small as a mustard seed), there is an invitation to come and have breakfast.
We don’t need to dress up in special clothes or go to a particular special building. We don’t need to have the right words or way of speaking. We don’t have to do anything exceptional. Jesus, invites us to come as we are (unkept hair, unwashed shirt, doubts, fears, joys and sorrows) and to join him for nothing more than a simple breakfast that he prepares, because he wants to enjoy our company as we enjoy him.
When all this over and we are able to shop normally, to visit places of interest, take part in social activities and gather together again in and as church I’m not sure I’ll be celebrating (though it will be nice to see people), I’ll need space to process what we have all experienced. I will need space to grieve those we have lost (remember although Judas betrayed Jesus he had been a friend to the disciples and now he was dead) and work out what the new ‘normal’ will and should be. I hope I’ll be able to find (as well as offer) simple, modest space for those who need it to have breakfast (or elevenses brunch, lunch, tea, dinner or supper) with a friend, so that we might meet the risen Jesus without pomp or ceremony or distraction and be made whole.