EASTER III    10 April 2016    

Acts 9.1-6   John 21. 1-19    

In the East the rising sun rose above the heights of Syria , filling Galilee with a mysteriously beautiful, golden haze as the light reflected off the sandstone cliffs surrounding the lake.  

After their fruitless night’s fishing the weary men pulled at the oars as they headed for the port of Tabgha , so named from the warm springs which entered the lake and normally attracted shoals of fish but not, it seemed, last night. They expected only dry bread for breakfast and nothing else for their families when they got home.  

A voice hailed them from the shore. A man, his white robe shining brilliantly in the sun light, was standing on a rock at the edge of the shore. ‘Have you caught anything?’  

‘Nothing’ they shouted back’  

‘Try on the right’ he said and they did. Suddenly they were all seven struggling with the net as it closed round a mass of fish. Too many to haul aboard. They just held on to it while others rowed the last hundred yards into the little harbour.  

John had been thinking. It was just like last time when Jesus told them where to fish and they’d caught plenty. Suddenly it dawned on him. The man on the shore was Jesus. ‘It’s the Lord’ he exclaimed. Peter heard him and  without a shadow of doubt he knew it was the Lord.  He grabbed his shirt and jumped into the water leading the way, as he’d always done, to meet Jesus.

Jesus had breakfast already prepared; fish were baking on the fire and bread beside it. He invited them to eat and then add more of the fish that they’d just caught.  

They counted their catch:153 in all and apparently all good for eating. Perhaps it’s a number which stuck in their minds because it was such an extraordinary event. Some suggest that the number was thought to be all the different varieties of fish that there were. Jesus had told them to fish for people to make them followers of Jesus. So these fish were showing that every kind of human being is to be caught for Jesus: all nations, all languages, all colours, all races, rich and poor, clever and illiterate, healthy and disabled. All must be brought into God’s kingdom.  

After breakfast Jesus drew Peter to one side for a private conversation. Three times he asked Peter ‘Do you love me’, expunging those three sad denials. We need not dwell on them. Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep and his lambs. These are also his followers, those who believe in Jesus and acknowledge him as their Lord. Such is the way of religious discourse that fish can become sheep; both are metaphors for disciples. In this conversation with the chief of the apostles the pastoral image is appropriate, for Peter is to be the shepherd.

In the Holy Land , the place where it happened is called the Primacy of Peter. Today a small chapel marks the spot.  

The final report of the first Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission, published in 1976, stated:  

‘The See of Rome , whose prominence was associated with the death there of Peter and Paul, eventually became the principal centre in matters concerning the Church universal. The importance of the Bishop of Rome among his brother Bishops, as explained by analogy with the position of Peter among the apostles, was interpreted as Christ's will for his Church’.  

It’s interesting and significant that the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today is the account of the conversion of St Paul .  

The ARCIC report concluded:  

‘The only See which makes any claim to universal primacy and which has exercised and still exercises such episkope is the see of Rome, the city where Peter and Paul died. It seems appropriate that in any future union a universal primacy such as has been described should be held by that See’.  

That future is, sadly, a long way off but it is what we pray for, as our Thursday Candle for the unity of Christians reminds us. Let us pray for that unity which Christ wills for his Church.

Crispin Harrison CR