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  • Writer's pictureMark Fairweather-Tall

Breakfast with Jesus

A sermon for the Sunday after Easter.

“Come and have breakfast!”

John 21:1-17

Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day, providing the sustenance and energy for the day ahead. Nutritionist Adelle Davis put it like this back in the 1960s: ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and and dinner like a pauper.’ We are going to hear a resurrection account of some of the disciples eating breakfast not like a king but with the king, as Jesus appears to them one morning and offers the invitation: ‘Come and have breakfast’.

Reading: John 21:1-17

A few weeks I saw a headline reading: “Walker stunned to see ship hovering high above the sea” David Morris captured the image on camera whilst walking near Falmouth in Cornwall. Apparently, this is an example of something called a ‘superior mirage’. Such illusions are fairly common in the Arctic but can happen in UK winters when the atmospheric conditions are right. Normally we expect air temperature to drop with increasing altitude – its colder at the top of the mountain than at the bottom. However, sometimes there is a temperature inversion where warm air sits on top of colder air and this is what can cause such mirages. If we asked the question, ‘Can you believe in the floating boat you see from the shore?’, the answer is ‘no’, the boat was not hovering above the water. However, in this resurrection account there is a sense in which the situation is reversed – can the people on the boat believe what they are seeing on shore… and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Simon Peter had decided to go fishing and six of the other disciples decided to go with him. They caught nothing that night. Early in the morning they could see a man on the shore, although they couldn’t see who it was. Jesus called out to them with instructions to throw the net on the other side of the boat. They did so and their catch went from nothing to a netful in the blink of an eye. There is incredible detail 153 fish were caught, John tells us. I love some of the explanations for this: One suggestion has been that there were 153 fish because there were 153 languages spoken at that time. Jerome suggested that there were 153 fish because in that sea there were 153 different species of fish. Therefore, the 153 symbolises the fact that someday people of all nations will be gathered together. The arguments get more complicated. Cyril of Alexandria said that the number is made up of three things: First there is the 100 and that represents the fullness of the Gentiles. 100 he says is the fullest number – 100 sheep in the pen, the seeds full fertility is 100 fold. Second there is the 50 and this represents the remnant of Israel who will be gathered in. That leaves 3 – that stands for the Trinity in whose glory these things will be done. Augustine had another ingenious explanation. He says there are 10 commandments. He then says there are seven gifts of the spirit. Ten plus seven is 17. If you add up all the numbers between 1 and 17, so 1+2+3+4 and so on to 17, guess what you get? 153! So the 153 represents all those who either by Law or by grace have been moved to follow Christ!Well, I don’t know what you think of those, but I prefer a simpler explanation – it was an amazing catch and someone decided to count them! They really could believe what they were seeing.

As the catch went from nothing to plenty, just like that, inevitably their minds were drawn to an earlier fishing experience recorded in chapter 5 of Luke’s gospel. Could they believe their eyes? Could the figure on the shore possibly be Jesus? The disciple described as ‘the one whom Jesus loved’ thought so. He says, ‘It is the Lord’, and man of action Peter believes it and jumps out of the boat and makes his way the 90 or so metres to the shore. When they all return Jesus says: ‘Come and have breakfast’. What an amazing, astonishing invitation and the disciples are wondering whether they can believe it: “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’” Could they believe it really was Jesus? The response comes: “They knew it was the Lord.” The wonderful, amazing and astonishing news of Easter is of a crucified Saviour who beats death and offers the best life possible for those who follow him… both now and for all eternity. Can we believe it? My answer, and the answer of millions of others is: Yes we can… and this transforms the way that we live and transforms our identity. We are going to explore this as we think something about what it means to receive the invitation: ‘Come and have breakfast’.

Simon Peter looks to the future

Some of you will know that I lived in Cardiff for a short while as a child when my dad was minister of Tredegarville BC. When we moved here last year, I wanted to take the opportunity to go back and visit places I remember. The manse was on Ty-Draw Road, opposite a part of Roath Park, I remember playing football and tennis. I remember my school. As I go to these places there is a draw to remember my past. Now when I do this, I know I can’t turn the clock back and live how things were then. But sometimes we can look to the past and be tempted to try to ‘turn back the clock’. In eating breakfast with Jesus, Simon Peter was being called to look to the future and not the past.

This account starts with the word, ‘Afterwards…’ Jesus appeared to the disciples on the first Easter Day. A week later Jesus appeared to them again, with Thomas present this time. ‘Afterwards’, at some point, they travelled from Jerusalem and returned to the more familiar ground of Galilee. This was where Peter lived before as a fisherman and he announces: ‘I am going out to fish’. Perhaps he was drawn by the familiar – ‘turning back the clock’ to the old way of life. There was nothing wrong in going fishing again but perhaps it signifies a choice that was to be made. Does my life go back to what it was before I met Jesus or is it going to stay changed forever? As Jesus invites Peter to breakfast and then in conversation afterwards asks Peter: ‘Do you love me more than these?’ When Peter says ‘yes’, Jesus says, ‘feed my lambs’. In this moment Jesus is asking Peter, ‘Are you willing to leave your old life of fishing for good in order to serve me?’ Is Simon Peter going to embrace the future or is he going to try to hold onto the past?

We are to look to the future

Let us first apply that to ourselves: We can meet with Jesus and be excited by what that means for our lives. We may have had a thirst for reading the Bible and when we prayed we felt so close to Jesus. And yet over time, for maybe many reasons, our life begins to return to what it was like before we met with Jesus. Or perhaps the last year has dented ways in which we serve and we aren’t sure we want to take up things again, preferring the simpler, peaceful days outside of so much involvement. Maybe our faith has mainly been focussed on Sunday and impacts the rest of our week less. Peter would make his choice after breakfast when Jesus calls him to ‘take care of his sheep’. He was sold out and completely commited to the risen Jesus. But what is our reflection and what is our choice? Are we as close to Jesus, as excited by him and committed to him as we have been in the past? Are we going to move towards the future or try to hold onto the past?

The church needs to look to the future

And as churches, perhaps we can identify with the question about ‘What next’?’ We could forgive Simon Peter if he was drawn in any way to how life used to be. The trauma of being in conflict with the authorities and the shock of Jesus’ death could mean a strong temptation to go back to how things used to be. The last year has been tumultuous to say the least for churches and for those of us who are part of churches. Perhaps we can sense that temptation for church to resume after lockdown and go back to what it was like before this significant event of Covid. If only things could be as they were! But maybe we need to ask the question, is that what God wants for us? Or is he calling us to something new. Simon Peter said ‘yes’ to moving into something new and not going back to what life used to be like. What about us as churches? Are we ready to learn lessons from lockdown and be different in the future? Not difference for the sake of difference but to be in step with what we are called to do now rather than what we used to be called to do. Simon Peter said ‘yes’ to the new and he was significant in the birth and growth of the number of followers of Jesus. What about us?

Closing thoughts

We live in light of the resurrection of Jesus. Praise God! We are recipients of the invitation from Jesus that the disciples received, ‘Come and have breakfast’. It is an invitation to spend time with Jesus and have our lives changed by him. Out of this love, there is a call on our lives to serve him so that others might be fed with the love of Jesus. This is a call to whole-life discipleship. In being invited to breakfast, we can know that we have a personal relationship with Jesus and that he has a purpose for our lives. My Easter prayer for us is that we will eat breakfast with the King and know how wonderful and life-changing this is.

Picture taken by David Morris and published on the BBC website

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