The Thirteenth Station of the Resurrection
Sunday 17th May 2020
John 21: 15-19
Greetings everyone –and a big virtual embrace…..
Have you heard any fishy stories recently? Sometimes they are called false news…. Like all fishy stories there is very often an element of truth within them. There was a lot of fish around in our gospel context this morning. No wonder the fish became the symbol of the early persecuted church when it went underground in the catacombs of Rome and even in Ephesus in the Icthus – the acrostic – Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour – the fish shape (sign of the fish). My new Testament tutor always said where there was a difficult saying or situation in the gospels – it was probably true. Fishy stories on the face of it…
There was so much going on that morning. It had been a long night of fruitless fishing. Jesus was on the shore of Galilee and enquired ‘Friends, have you caught anything?’. The answer was ‘No’. ‘Throw out the net to starboard, and you will make a catch.’ This they did and as a result a full net of fish. Then John…recognised Jesus and Peter leapt out of the boat delegating the net pulling to his friends. This is the context of this encounter over breakfast-breakfast first – some that Jesus had prepared before the great catch. Jesus always made sure that those around him were fed in all sorts and conditions of need whether on a beach, up a mountain, on the plain or transforming those unwell in their home, in an upper room and in the community.
The question of Jesus to Peter is ‘Do you love me?’ This was to the Peter – we have so much known about this future saint and rock of the early church (unlike other saints who we known so little about in recent times!)….
Peter, the one of whom we have three different accounts of his call in three of the Gospels.Peter the fisherman, Peter who attempted to walk on water, Peter who witnessed the transfiguration and the agony of Christ in the garden, Peter who was reluctant to let Jesus wash his feet, Peter who messed up mightily in his denial of Jesus, Peter who ran to the tomb, Peter who preached with power on the day of Pentecost, Peter who went to the Gentiles, Peter who raised Tabitha from death, Peter who went to Rome and died there for Christ, Peter who gave his name to two books of the New Testament. A wealth of material that give an extraordinary picture of a human being nurtured by his maker, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
So why this question of the thirteenth station of the resurrection, addressing Peter by his name and lineage ‘Do you love me more than these?’ – ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you’ Jesus reply – ‘Feed my lambs’. ‘Peter do you love me?’ – Peter is showing signs of irritation as to why a second time the question is asked, ‘You know that I love you!’ – ‘Tend my sheep’ is Jesus reply. Simon Peter, son of John, do you love me?’ Now Peter turned to begin hurting for a third time this was the question he thought he had answered. The reply is ‘Feed my sheep…’. ‘When you were young you had as much freedom as you wanted – never take it for granted because one day you could be old and relying on other – never take for granted the freedom that we have enjoyed in the past….’
I believe several things were happening here…
Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times in very pressured circumstances. He wanted to keep warm around a fire and to keep a weather eye on his teacher companion and friend after his arrest. He denied that he knew Jesus, three times. When he realised what he had done he wept bitter tears.
Around a breakfast fire Jesus, in front of all Peter’s friends, gave him the opportunity three times to affirm his love in a profound act of forgiveness and commission.
The commission part was, ‘Feed my lambs, tend my sheep and feed my sheep.’
Feed my lambs is to nurture those new to faith. Tend my sheep is to have pastoral care of the faithful progressing on their journey in order to strengthen them for service. Feed my sheep is to have a ministry of teaching and to deepen the spiritual lives of the flock.
We are approaching Petertide at the end of next month when it is ordination time in the Church of England. We remember all those who are on different stages of this journey in our community and all of us who are following different vocations within the church community locally and further afield. Those being ordained in the next weeks one way or another will have a retreat of sorts maybe at a distance. We pray for them all….and as Peter was given his commission because he was transformed to be equipped to be a nurturing and challenging and encouraging presence. A speaker who could move hearts and minds because he had been in the presence of his risen Lord and, like all those who witnessed that first Pentecost, were transformed by the Holy Spirit. They became real, vulnerable but empowered, doubting yet full of faith, testing out what is actually ‘meant to be’ in any given circumstance.
Today let us think of those Peter’s we know with all their gifts and flaws. In my electronic contacts I was surprised to see I have 24 Peters there – all very different…..The Peter who we remember today knew the telling eyes of Jesus who had at the core of his ministry the wonderful gift of forgiveness and love shared with his early disciples and with the whole world, starting from Galilee and Jerusalem. A fishy story, with a difference….
Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah, for he said so when Jesus asked ‘Who do people say I am?’ Peter was a slow developer…I can identify with that. Jesu’s loving challenge to Peter, after a hearty breakfast, bread and fish over an open fire, inspires us each day to say ‘Yes, I love you Lord – thank you for your forgiveness and love for me and for each one of us and our purpose to follow you in life and at all times. Amen
Canon Edward Pogmore