I love breakfast. Breaking the fast begun the night before has a unique quality of anticipation and expectation. Eyes unfocused. Body disorganized. Mind perplexed. Stomach unfilled. The mind and body are screaming for fuel, empowerment for direction and focus for the day. Caffeine, carbs, and protein seem to fit the bill.
As the gospel of John comes to a close, Jesus has died, but death hasn’t won. The tomb is empty, but confusion remains. The disciples’ eyes are still blurry and their minds are still baffled as to what following a risen Lord looks like. They don’t realize that what they need is a good breakfast, a breakfast on the beach.
The epilogue to Jesus’ story, John 21, opens on the Sea of Galilee sometime after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus shows up at work for Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathanael, and others. Fishermen by trade, they’ve returned to familiar waters, unsure how to continuing “fishing” for men now that their rabbi has relocated. Jesus returns to the very place that he called these guys to leave their nets and follow him, a place where they’ll recognize his voice and his fishing instructions. (Matthew 4:19)
Jesus finds them fasting, so to speak. They’ve been out all night and have been unproductive, no fish to speak of. At one word from Jesus and a change of direction for their nets that defies logic and common fishing sense, they haul in a mother-load. Rather than the result of their own effort, this catch points only one direction, to Jesus himself. No one is going to beat Peter to his Lord and his God! He grabs hold of his loin cloth, jumps in the water half-dressed, and swims ashore.
When the others meet Jesus on the beach, he’s waiting for them at a charcoal fire, a painfully familiar site for Peter. It’s here that Jesus calls them to eat with him, breaking their fast with the bread of life and living water. He restores the disarray their bodies are experiencing with fish and bread, but he heals their histories and renews their mind with the power of his Spirit!
It’s on this beach, around a warm fire and with a full belly, that Jesus lovingly restores Peter, giving him three opportunities to reverse his denials and declare his love for Jesus. Jesus empowers Peter to do kingdom work, to continue to fish for men and to tend to sheep, the church, and even to endure suffering in his name. He empowers John and the others to do the same, and he does the same for us today. It would not be on Peter, John or any of the others’ skills or strength that the gospel would advance after Jesus’ departure, but on the collective work of the Spirit in each one as his remaining body, the church.
Peter and John understood that the Spirit is not merely a spiritual influence, but is rather the Spirit of Jesus himself living in his followers. In one of his letters, John said “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24) Peter spoke of the Spirit of Christ in his followers that pointed the way that they should go in one of his letters of encouragement to the church. (I Peter 1:11)
Gary Burge said it this way, “The work of the church is not religious energy fueled by our sense of commission; it is a call to work, wed to a divine empowering; it is ministering knowing that Christ himself (through the Spirit) is ministering in and through our efforts.”
Just like breakfast fuels the mind and body, so the Spirit fuels the church. Jesus left both on the beach that day. Eat up and drink deeply! Jesus is alive in you today!