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Archive for April 13th, 2018


John 21:1-14: It Was Already Dawn

Friday, April 13, 2018

James Tissot: Jesus Appears on the Shore

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to find new life in the Easter miracle of our resurrection as we re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave. Today we return to the Sea of Tiberius with Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples. Discouraged, frightened, needing employment, or wanting to go back to familiar rhythms and themes of life . . . we do not know why these followers return to the waters of Galilee. But we do know that this is where they encounter the risen Christ. It was already dawn, John tells us.

This imagery reminds us that when we believe our night of suffering and striving is endless, we – like these disciples – will look up from draining work to discover that it is already dawn. Perhaps we – like these disciples – meet Jesus when we are at our lowest. Perhaps we are the two unnamed disciples who take up nets and oars with our comrades to shove out into deep waters to see how we might survive. Perhaps we believe our lives have brought us disappointment again. First, there was the death of Jesus, and now we have been fishing through the night yet have caught nothing.  Unexpectedly, a stranger calls out to us from the shoreline, urging us to cast our nets once more . . . but on the starboard side of the boat.

This is how it happened . . . When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NABRE)

How could this possibly matter, we wonder? What difference can it make to change the side of the boat? We have strained ourselves to the limit and we have no more strength.

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. (MSG)

With this, Peter leaps from the boat and we question his actions as he flails his way to the shoreline; yet it is there – when the dawn is upon us – we realize that Christ has been with us all along.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  (NABRE)

We see that Jesus is already baking fish on the open fire, but we add our own fish from the new catch, finally understanding that we are to join Christ in his work. A memory flickers through our minds of the 3 fish and 5 loaves that Jesus divided so that five thousand might eat. And as we settle around the warmth of the fire to take in this meal, we realize our work, we hear Christ’s call. Despite our discomfort with the unfamiliar, we know that we must return to Jerusalem to continue the discipleship Jesus has begun in us.

Regardless of our fatigue, we lean into our nets again. In spite of deep waters and dark nights, we leap from our small boat to thrash ashore so that we might share a meal with Christ. Although we have thought our suffering and fears went unnoticed, Christ has been with us, waiting with baked fish and bread to erase our exhaustion and nourish our hope. And suddenly the night slips away . . . . almost without our noticing . . . for it is already dawn.


When we compare other translations with the ones in this post, we begin to understand that despite the length of the night and the frustration of the work, Christ invites us to join him in our own renewal.

To read Matthew’s accounting of how Jesus feeds 5000, read Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-34, Luke 9:12-17 or John 6:1-14. Matthew (15:32-39) and Mark (8:1-9) also describe the feeding of 4000. 

Images from: https://www.dominicanajournal.org/burning-coals-for-breakfast/ and https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/cooking-steckerlfisch-over-an-open-fire-high-res-stock-photography/56298235

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