A reflection on John 21:1-19 by Cassie Schutzer, director of the Young Adult Initiative
How often do we get discouraged or weighed down by the seemingly impossible call we’ve been given?
How often do we return to the way we lived our lives before we committed them to Christ?
How often do we throw up our hands and lament the state of things before we clasp them in prayer?
In truth, we aren’t so different from Jesus’ disciples in Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel.
These men had accompanied Jesus for three years. They ate meals with Him, learned from Him, met His family. They shared sorrows and joys with Him. They walked with Him through His suffering and death. They felt the awe and wonder of His resurrection.
And what did they do after all these experiences? They returned to what was familiar; they went fishing.
Here are four lessons we can learn from the encounter with the risen Lord at the Sea of Tiberias:
Lesson One: Toil where the Lord wants us
The disciples fished all night long, yet caught nothing. I imagine their mood was one of hopelessness. Not quite frustration (they were past that), but a tired recognition of the futility of their work – yet they persist because they don’t know what else to do.
How often do we feel that? We continue doing things the way they’ve always been done – not because it’s effective, but because it’s familiar, and we don’t have the energy to try something new.
The Lord calls out to His disciples – and to us – to cast the net elsewhere for a catch.
When we listen to Him and toil where He wants us (which is not always where we think to go), He will bless our work and bring about an abundance that we cannot achieve on our own. We have to be attuned to God’s voice in order to cast the net for the catch He wants us to bring in.
Lesson Two: Recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary
I love to picture the beloved disciple’s face when he recognizes Jesus. The moment where the glory of God illuminates his entire world. The Lord enters into the ordinary events of the day and sanctifies them with His very presence.
We, too, are called to recognize the Lord’s presence in the daily events of life. Where is He during our hectic mornings, our drive to work, our staff meetings, our shopping trips? Do we recognize His presence at our ministry events and programs?
And then, Peter! He hears that the Lord is waiting on the shore, so he jumps fully clothed into the sea. I always get a kick out of Peter’s exuberance. He doesn’t do anything halfway – for better or for worse.
How do we respond once we recognize the Lord’s presence? Do we abandon the safety of our boat to get closer to Him?
Lesson Three: Restoration is possible, and we are in need of healing.
After they share breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him three times: “Do you love me?” This scripture is familiar to us, but how often do we think about the significance of this question and the ramifications of Peter’s answer?
This is not a test that Peter can either pass or fail. This is not a public shaming of Peter after his three-fold denial. That is simply not how the Lord operates.
This is a moment of healing, of restoration. This is Jesus showing Peter his brokenness and giving him the opportunity to be made whole again. He brings a wound to the surface in order to heal it and to allow Peter to participate in his own healing. This is the kind of God we have.
He does the same for us.
All those places where we have failed Him, where we are broken, where we are in need of restoration. He offers us healing. He is gentle, tender, merciful, but firm when He asks us: “Do you love me?” If the answer is yes, then that love requires something of us. No, not something – it requires all of us.
The Lord wants to heal us, to make us whole, so that we can wholeheartedly follow Him.
Lesson Four: Begin again
In this Easter season, we are called as Peter was called. “Feed my sheep,” the Lord says. “Follow me.” We are called to begin again.
No matter how many times we fail or struggle or deny or doubt, the Lord breaks through the darkness, offers us healing, and calls us to deeper discipleship.
And we never start over from zero! We come with our baggage and wounds, yes, but also our gifts and joys and desires and hopes. We come with years of experience of triumphs and failures. We bring all of this into a new beginning, a new day, as we strive to serve the Lord with our whole heart.
May the Lord of new beginnings give us the strength and perseverance to live our call as disciples, beginning here and now – today.
Song Recommendation: “Still Rolling Stones” by Lauren Daigle