St. John’s Gospel (10) - A Seaside Meal (John 21)

Date: 5/4/2014
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The Resurrection Manifest in St. John’s Gospel (03) - A Seaside Meal

John 21:1–25 1   After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. . . . Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.”. . . Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus *said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” . . . 15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”

A Kingdom Meal - Like Luke 24, John 21 confirms the kingdom’s presence after resurrection with a meal. The Gospel lectionary today is the Emmaus travelers (Luke 24), the Psalm is 116, emphasizing the “cup of salvation” and a thanksgiving sacrificial meal. In Luke, it could hardly be clearer, “Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him . . . He was known to them in the breaking of bread” (24:35).  Jesus fulfilled His promise that He would not be at Table again, “until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18, also Acts 2:42, 46, 20:7). The kingdom came.

A New Covenant Meal - This seaside meal is framed by another symbol of the kingdom in the new covenant: fish. In contrast to the OT (farming prophets), the new covenant shows dominion over the fish of the sea of the Gentiles. Peter (in defection) returns to his former vocation of fishing for fish and the others follow (v3). Jesus manifests (phanero) to give them fishing lessons, just as in their call to follow Him. At Peter’s original call to fish for men, after a miraculous catch Peters says, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:5ff). But now (John 21) when Peter knows it is Jesus, he jumps into the water to get to Him (v7). He is accepted by Jesus at a “charcoal fire,” just like the fire when Peter denied Him (Jn. 18:18). Jesus accepted Peter.

A Great Commission Meal - The miracle catch of exactly 153 large fish signifies the re-vocation of Peter (and the disciples). St. Augustine saw the symbolism of 153 as the triangular of 17: i.e., if you add all the numbers leading to 17, you get 153 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 . . . +17 = 153). St. Jerome (4th century) claimed that Greek zoologists listed 153 different kinds of fish. The number 17 is associated with Joseph ruling over the Egyptian Gentiles: he was 17 when he was sold into Egyptian slavery (Gen. 37:2) and Jacob/house lived in Egypt for 17 years (Gen. 47:28). Acts lists 17 nations present for Pentecost (Acts 2:7-11). Hence, 17 is the number associated with the sea of Gentile nations. Jesus restores Peter to fish for men and thus lead in the Great Commission (Acts 10:1ff).

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more