Disorientation. Nobody likes that. We spin around too much so that we get dizzy and we can’t wait until we feel planted again. I do not know how fighter pilots deal with the vertigo as they fight for what is up and down.
So where is God when we feel spiritually disoriented? How do we find the presence of Jesus? If we think He is distant, who moved? But if we find Him again, what do we do next?
In the case of Peter, he hurt ever since Jesus was arrested and his own denials of Him. One time could be explained away as an impulse sort of. Three times is the anti-charm making Peter feel like he was close to the anti-Jesus or worse.
But Jesus was out for mercy and not vengeance. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it; doing it one soul at a time. In His first appearance to the apostles he renews this message but now in the power of the cross and the resurrection.
John 20:21 “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
But in his heart, Peter may have asked, “But will my sins be retained? Have I committed the unforgivable sin? Do I deserve to be in the new normal of this forgiveness that he talks about?”
But the next day Jesus relentlessly pursues this lovable fisherman right in his territory.
JOHN 21: 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.”
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.”
Jesus is into meals. He says in Revelation that he stands at the door and knocks. If you open the door then He and His Father will come in and dine with you. So there He is standing on firm ground. The way is clear for Peter to come closer without hesitation.
A few things have always confused me about this story. One is that Peter takes his cloak into the water with him. He is weighted down in the water more than if he had stayed less clothed.
What I get is dedication. Jesus said many times before that if you want to follow Him but are looking back, then you are not worthy to be His disciple. I am thinking now that Peter did not want to get to Jesus and then tell Him to hold on until he gets his cloak. Peter had the attitude, knowing only that Jesus is Lord, that to set himself up for total dedication this time would have to be holistic.
The other thing that confused me is the 153 fish detail. What is the big deal about the exact number? When I was reading this passage in my Ignatius Study Bible, Curtis Mitch wrote, “The number of fish hauled ashore is symbolic. St. Jerome claims that Greek zoologists had identified 153 different kinds of fish (Comm. In Ez. 14, 47). If this is the background, the episode anticipates how the apostles, made fishers of men by Christ (Mt 4:19), will gather believers from every nation into the Church.”
I would go a bit further with a lens for typology or a symbolic point of view. Before I do, I should tell the reader if they do not know already that I am a new and old believer. I want to be up front that I have been a follower of Jesus for over thirty years but now I am also a new Catholic. I wear Catholic glasses much of the time and appreciate the life of Simon Peter in these blogs both as a fellow sinner saved by grace and as the first pope.
Peter was not only the chief apostle but that day the chief pursuer of Jesus by diving toward him. While he was pursuing Jesus, the other apostles brought in the catch of the day. But the fish coming to Jesus was put into the hands of Peter. Peter has them in his hands in a net that should not stay together but does.
By design this pope or any pope is called to set the best example of pursuing the presence, thought and intent of Jesus. The fish are the nations and the pope is delegated to be the chief fisher of men if Jesus is not on the boat. His helpers on the boat called earth cast out the net, and bring in this world of different peoples that should be divided but are not. The pope presents the world to Jesus because the world is his assigned diocese.
So as Peter heads off to breakfast after a rough graveyard shift, he is getting the hint that yes, this grace thing, it is for him too. Hopping out of my time machine I would tell Peter to go to breakfast boldly knowing that there is always a place for him, and us, at the Masters table.