John 21:1-19 (NRSV)
Chapter 21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Verse 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Verse 3Simon 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. Verse 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Verse 5Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." Verse 6He said to them, "Cast the net to 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 there were so many fish. Verse 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. Verse 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. Verse 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Verse 10Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." Verse 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Verse 12Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Verse 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. Verse 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Verse 15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." Verse 16A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." Verse 17He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Verse 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." Verse 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."
When we hear the Gospel’s words “And he showed himself in this way,” our first temptation may be to try to decipher “which way” it was that Jesus revealed himself. Was it in the catch of fish? The words spoken? The apparition from a distance? We try to dissect the story to figure out the definitive “sign.” “Look, see, THAT’S how you would know it was Jesus!”
Instead of engaging in the “detective novel” model of biblical interpretation, I rather like recognizing that Jesus chooses to show himself in this way, by entering the narrative of their lives. They have decided to go back to fishing. They are having no luck at that. And they had no expectation of Jesus showing up while they were doing other things.
This is the way Jesus shows himself. He inserts himself into our otherwise already all planned out day, with observations, options for us, requests, challenges, and sustenance. All of that before we even finish breakfast.
God of incarnation, you strode into this world in Jesus, and you stride in here time and again to interrupt our orderly lives. Give me eyes to see your form, ears to hear your invitation, and a taste for what you have to offer. Amen.