14 April 2013

John 21:1-19

“Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord.” (v. 12)


This story heralds a week of Word in Time readings which, like all good stories, remind of us of other stories that themselves help us interpret what's going on. This post-Easter story of the living Jesus draws together echoes of other moments from Jesus' ministry, helping us to appreciate John's vision of who Jesus was and is.

It's an account in which the humanity and flaws of the disciple Peter are to the fore, perhaps in deliberate contrast to the greater perceptiveness of "that disciple whom Jesus loved" (v. 7), John, in whose name this story has been written. Certainly there is a contrast to be explored between the humanity of the disciples and the divinity of Jesus, "the Lord" they are being called to follow all over again.

It is John who first identifies "the Lord" (v. 7) on the beach, though Peter responds with characteristic enthusiasm by jumping from his fishing boat and swimming to shore. Are there echoes here of the stories in the other Gospels of Jesus calling his disciples (eg Luke 5:1-11)? Once again the fishermen are called, firstly to join with Jesus, in a meal that reminds us of their pre-Easter Passover together; then secondly (this time to Peter alone) to 'follow me'. In between, we have recalled the painful memory of Peter's three denials of Jesus while waiting in the courtyard as Jesus was being tried (John 18:25-27).

It's as if Peter's discipleship is being re-evaluated because, following the events of Easter, the stakes are now higher. If Peter thought he was following an inspiring teacher and leader before, now he is being asked to commit to somebody and something far greater - to someone in whom God lives and breathes. Just as a seaside breakfast is transformed by the resurrected Jesus into an act of remembrance and solidarity, so the resurrected Jesus demands of Peter solidarity in a new kind of sacrificial discipleship.

To Ponder

  • Has Easter been a turning point for you this year? How has your commitment to discipleship been refreshed?
  • Are there things you have sacrificed (or may have to in the future) for your beliefs? What are they?
  • To what extent do you think there can be true discipleship without any sacrifice at all?

Bible notes author

Laurence Wareing

Laurence Wareing is a Methodist local preacher and works as a freelance writer and media producer. He was editor of the Methodist publication Momentum from 2005 until 2010 and currently edits the website Singing the Faith Plus.