“When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So 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. Jesus 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. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
The accounts of the risen Jesus at the end of John’s gospel are some of my favorite stories in the Bible. I think it’s because of how ordinary things seem, at least on the surface; yet in the midst of ordinary things—fishing, cooking over a campfire, sharing a simple breakfast—is the extraordinary presence of the one who was dead and is now a living, present reality. I won’t try to explain the metaphysical realities the gospel writer is trying to convey, or exactly what the nature of the risen Jesus was—physical, spiritual, some mystical combination of both—but for his friends, something decisive had happened that charged even an ordinary moment with something filled with new possibility and promise.
The disciples must have been shattered and grief stricken in the days and weeks following Jesus’ death. The women had told them something amazing had happened, but many of them found that hard to believe. I can imagine them, almost in a daze, making their way back to Galilee and in the fog of grief and confusion, trying to resume their old lives again. They are back on the waters of the lake, fishing as they had before they met Jesus. Seemingly stuck back in the same dead end cycle of backbreaking labor, heavy taxation, and military occupation.
But then, in the middle of that ordinary and lonely dawn after a long night of labor, something changes. Gathered around a fire, sharing the simple gifts of fish and bread, the living presence of love shows up. In that gathered circle, they see Jesus. And they know, in moment of recognition, that nothing will be the same. They haven’t been abandoned or forgotten. They haven’t been left to mercy of occupiers or violent forces of injustice. They have the very presence of the author of life in the midst. Even when they can’t see Jesus anymore, they have his spirit among them. They have his peace. They have love that can never be defeated. And that gives them the power to continue Jesus’ mission of healing, loving, serving, and challenging injustice. A mission that continues among us to this very day.
So I’m wondering–what is the ordinary moment that in an instant can become that moment of recognition, that encounter with the presence of life? When have you suddenly recognized hope, possibility, new life? Look around, because the risen Jesus is always present, waiting to be recognized. Maybe even at breakfast.
Risen One, thank you for coming to us in the ordinary moments. Thank you for promising that we would never be alone. Help us to see you, to recognize your presence, and to be transformed into your image—loving, serving, healing the world that you so love. Amen.