What is Salvation? Community
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Not a bad way to spend a morning. Sitting on a beach on the Sea of Galilee. Circled around a crackling charcoal fire. Eating freshly grilled fish and bread. With Jesus in the very center of it all. I can’t imagine too many mornings better than this.
This is Jesus’ fourth appearance since his resurrection. The first was to Mary Magdalene in the garden by the tomb on Easter morning. The second was to all of the disciples except Thomas, telling them “Peace be with you” and breathing the Holy Spirit into them. The third was with Thomas, allowing him to feel his wounds, see his skin, and know that he is truly alive and risen.
And now we get the fourth time. Not outside a tomb. Not in an upper room. But on a beach as the sun is rising over the water. Back on the Sea of Galilee, where he performed so many miracles, where he calmed the waves and walked on water, where he healed people and taught so many about God’s love and grace.
Jesus stands on this beach now as the resurrected one, as one who has defeated death, as savior of everlasting life, conqueror over sin, Lord of heaven and earth. And with all that he has already won and accomplished and given for us, Jesus comes to this beach with a surprising, yet simple message. Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.” Come and join me for a meal on this beach. Come and be around me. Together again.
There’s a lot going on in this passage: Peter is naked, the disciples catch 153 fish, the net never tears, even such a big haul. But at the heart of all that is happening, is a simple picture of sharing a meal in community.
It seems a little bit crazy that with all that Jesus could teach and show and perform after his resurrection, he chooses to spend his time on a beach with friends eating fish and bread.
Yet isn’t that what we all would want to be doing? Maybe fish isn’t your thing. Maybe pancakes or eggs or biscuits would be your choice for Jesus to cook up over the fire. And maybe you don’t like sand or water. Maybe it would be a backyard or living room. But when you look back at your happiest moments, aren’t they simple moments just like these?
I can remember some of my favorite moments growing up were visiting my cousins in Canfield, Ohio. In the evenings there, we would run around their backyard, catching lightning bugs, playing flashlight tag, jumping and running, and laughing together. It’s those simple moments, those simple actions, those simple times that have meant the most to me. It’s those times in community, whether with family or friends, or colleagues or neighbors or people I’ve just met, where I am welcomed as I am, and surrounded by love and laughter.
Jesus comes back this fourth time to remind us that resurrected life is meant to be lived in community. It’s why we meet here every Sunday to sing and pray and learn and grow. It’s why we come as one body to this table. It’s why we serve alongside each other, gather in small groups, welcome each other into our homes and lives, over meals and games and stories.
And it’s not just in this life either. In our life to come, when we will be in God’s kingdom forever, we won’t be alone. We will be again with those we love, those we have lost, those we miss dearly, those we can’t wait to see again and catch up with and hug and embrace. God’s kingdom is not a lonely place. It is a place where we will gather again on that shoreline with family and friends and loved ones and grill some food over a fire. And Jesus will be at the heart of it.
So every time you live out those simple acts of community, you offering a foretaste of God’s kingdom. Everytime you welcome someone to your table. Everytime you grab coffee and hear each other’s stories. Everytime you pray for and with one another. Everytime you invite children to play games or read books or catch lightning bugs or find Easter Eggs, or just be who they are meant to be. Everytime you gather together in song and fellowship and faith and catch up with life with a smile on your face, you are giving us a glimpse of God’s kingdom.
And the best news in this passage is that this community has no limits. The fish and the net in this passage have a great meaning. They remind us that Jesus wants us not just to fish for fish, but to be fishers of people. To seek out those who are longing for love and life and community and invite them into the grace and fellowship Christ freely offers. The meaning of 153 fish has a lot of possible meanings. My favorite is that at the time of John’s gospel, there were believed to be 153 different species of fish known in the ancient world. So all people, of all tribes, and backgrounds, and pain, and sin, and worry, and joy, introverts and extroverts, young and old, silly and serious, are welcomed into Christ’s community. And while most nets would tear and rip with that amount of fish, this one is strong enough. This one is big enough. This one will never break. There’s always room for more. Amen.