Breakfast on the Beach
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 21:1–21:19
The Third Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2022
“Breakfast on the Beach”
With the beautiful weather that we’ve been enjoying, people are once again taking to the great outdoors for all kinds of activities: backyard barbeques, picnics, and breakfast on the beach. Huh? That last one may not be something that we usually think of, but why not? That’s what we hear about in today’s Gospel lesson as the risen Lord Jesus appears to his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. As with his resurrection on that first Easter morning, this appearance also takes place in the very early morning; as day is breaking, we are told. All of this becomes the theme for preaching today under the theme, “Breakfast on the Beach.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Last Sunday, we heard about Jesus’ appearance to his fearful and uncertain disciples who were gathered behind locked doors. Jesus came into their midst, showed them his hands and side, and they believed in him, including Thomas. Today, the setting is in a different place; not inside, but outside. Not in Jerusalem, but closer to home; way up north at the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus’ ministry first began and this is where the disciples now return. It’s about 125 miles from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee – quite a distance if you’re walking, which the disciples no doubt did. But why did they go home? Did they think it was all over, even though they had seen with their own eyes that Jesus had risen from the dead? What did Peter mean when he said he was going fishing? Did he mean he just wanted to get out on the water and fish? Or did he mean that the last three years with Jesus, wonderful as they were, were done and he needed to return to his former life? Whatever he meant, everybody thought it was a good idea and said they were going, too. But as anybody who goes fishing understands, you don’t always catch something. Maybe they forgot that Jesus had told them early on that in following him, he would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). The disciples had nothing to show for their all-night fishing expedition.
A lone figure on the shore calls out to them, asking if they caught anything. You can almost hear their frustrated reply: “No.” That same figure then instructs them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. What have they got to lose? They do it, and then cannot even haul the net ashore because of the catch. We’re even told exactly how many fish they caught: 153 large fish (John 21:11). How often do we do the same? We struggle and strive with nothing to show for it. But the risen Lord calls out to us today just as surely as he did to those first disciples. He meets us when we are tired and worn out. Are we listening? Will we do what he asks us to do? Will we follow where he is leading?
This leads us to breakfast on the beach: fish and bread over a charcoal fire. Jesus is the host, and he invites the disciples to be his guests. He provides food for them, and we are told these beautiful words: “Now none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (John 21:12b). We, too, will enjoy breakfast with our risen Savior this morning. We may not be at the beach, but Jesus comes to us today to feed us, not with fish and bread, but with his very Body and Blood. We don’t need to ask who this is who invites us because we know it is the Lord. This is the Lord’s Supper in which Jesus is the Host and we are his guests. Jesus feeds his disciples before sending them into the world to feed and care for others. That was true with breakfast on the beach then and it is true with this holy meal now. Like those first disciples, we are sent from worship, where we have been fed and nourished with God’s Word and the Sacrament, so that we may love and serve others as Jesus has loved and served us.
After breakfast, there is some business that needs to be taken care of. Remember Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-27)? All four Gospels tell us this, and now, after his crucifixion and resurrection, the risen Savior has a three-fold restoration for Peter. Three times, Jesus asks Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:15, 16, 17). This must have been upsetting and confusing for Peter; in fact, we’re told that “Peter was grieved” (John 21:17) about this. Did Peter understand what was going on here? Did he see the correlation between his denying Jesus three times and Jesus asking him three times if he loved him? The first two times, Jesus asks Peter if he loved him as God loves us (αγάπη) – a sacrificial, self-giving love that knows no boundaries or limits. But Peter replies using a different word. Yes, he says, “I love you” (ϕιλέω), meaning that his love for Jesus is that of one friend for another. It can be that way with us as well. Jesus has loved us with a love that is stronger than death, giving his very life for us on the cross. How do we respond? We struggle to love as we have been loved. But as with Peter, so with us. The Lord does not give up on us - ever. And because of this, we say: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
The Lord who loves us and gave his life for us calls us, as he did with Peter, to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, feed his sheep (John 21:15, 16, 17). That is what we rejoice in and celebrate each Sunday when we gather as the people of his pasture and sheep of his hand (Psalm 100:3). But we do so especially today as seven young men and women reaffirm their Baptismal vows in the Rite of Confirmation. We’ve been learning and growing in faith, what it means to be Jesus’ disciples, over the last two years. But we also have learned that Confirmation does not equal graduation. This side of heaven, we are never done with learning and growing in our faith. It continues on throughout our entire life as we grow in faith toward God and in love toward one another. Jesus’ words to Peter at the close of today’s Gospel lesson were probably very unsettling for him to hear. But the truth remains for Peter and for us that “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). We are safe in the Lord’s care and keeping in life and in death. As Jesus called Peter, so he calls each one of us today: “Follow me” (John 21:19b). God help us to do this, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.