Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

That Awesome Breakfast At the Galilean Seashore (vss. 9-12)

We may confidently affirm that this was in really no sense of the word a sacramental meal, though it was a very special heaven-sent breakfast on earth. Surely, it was different in nature from any common breaking of the fast. Literally the Greek text reads “come and break your fast” (deute haristeesate). The Greek term hariston properly is: the first meal. It is a meal in the early morning before the work of day. The term for supper is quite different in the Greek. This refers to a more formal meal, usually held at eventide (John 13:2, 4Luke 14:17-24John 21:20).

There is here at this breakfast a rather strange and bewildering relationship. Although no particulars are given to us in the sacred passage, it seems as if there reigned a certain silence of hushed and subdued awe and reverence in the presence of the “Lord.” The breakfast consisted of bread and roasted fish. However, the overtones here in this blessed account of Christ’s third manifestation speak volumes. Here was the glory of the Lord manifested in every detail of this breakfast at which the Lord is the heavenly host, ministering to His honored guests. This was the foretold fulfillment of the word “I will meet you there,” or “there shall ye see him.” This too had been announced by the angels at the tomb, where death had truly been swallowed up in victory!

This breakfast is given as a manifestation of Him who has truly conquered death and hell, merited life eternal and eternal glory. Small wonder that these obedient disciples dared not inquisitively pry into the deep and secret things of God. Yes, a wicked and cruel Herod cunningly searched out every detail concerning the exact time when the Star which the Wisemen had seen in the East had first appeared unto them, but these godly men put off their shoes from their feet; they felt that they stood on holy ground as much as Moses did at the burning bush! At this bush the prophetic word affords vistas of the New Testamental resurrection glory of the risen Christ, as the revelation of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus had shut the mouth of the unbelieving deniers of the resurrection-faith. These deniers were the petrified priesthood of Aaron as represented by such men as Caiaphas and his entire evil generation. But there is here a greater than that “burning bush.” He is the God of glory Himself, in Jesus Christ, who appeared unto Abraham (Acts 7:2).

Even when Jesus says “come and breakfast” He still is somehow at a great distance from them. Here there is a “manifestation” of Him whose glory John had seen, full of grace and truth. Here we see the Christ, whose shoe-latchet John the Baptist was not even worthy to tie. John was not worthy to be a lowly bootblack. Somehow these seven disciples felt the truth of the gentle rebuke to Mary Magdalene: “touch me not for I have not yet ascended unto my Father.” All former familiarity which might breed contempt is gone.

There is not a word uttered by Jesus concerning Himself in this remarkable and historic self-manifestation. From beginning to end, as Lenski so aptly remarks in his exposition, “everything is action here, omitting to add even the slightest reason for, or explanation for the action,” as He did so very clearly in the upper chamber when He told them explicitly that He had given them an example for their Christian, humble conduct (John 13:12, 13). Here we have nothing of that sort. The meal is ready, prepared by a higher hand, as part and parcel of the manifestation of the living Christ before their very eyes! There were no questions asked, and there evidently was no “small talk” either on the part of these fishermen. All sat in silent expectation.

The question may have arisen in Peter’s heart: is this the manner of the foretold rendezvous in Galilee? He must have felt that the half had not been foretold him, or that he had not listened very well to the specific instructions of his Lord. Meanwhile the thoughts of Peter and of the rest were on the strange nature of the events which had befallen them during the past night and morning. All these simply were not such that they could have their source in the heart of man, but were the mysteries of godliness which is great!

This was the third manifestation of the Lord unique in nature and in pedagogical purpose.

The Threefold Simon, Simon, Son of Jonas (John 21: 15-19)

The first matter that calls for our careful reflection is the role of Peter in this breakfast appointment. Peter is still the leader, as we have seen earlier in these essays. When Jesus tells all seven disciples to bring of the fish which they have caught, Peter went into action.

There are two interpretations of this word of Jesus. In passing, I would call attention to the fact that Jesus does not direct this word of command merely to Peter. It is quite clear from the Greek verb that this was directed to all the seven disciples who were to share in this breakfast. Peter evidently was the first to go into action with the assistance of all the others. All shared in the task of strenuous effort of pulling this large amount of fish to the shore, and all ascertained the correct count of these fish, that it was one hundred and fifty-three large fish. Even that they were all large is noteworthy, it seems to me.

However, Lenski in his Commentary feels that these large fish were those who had been selected as “good” fish in contrast with the “bad’ fish, according to the analogy of the parable in Matthew 13:47-50. The difficulty that I have with this explanation is that the text does not say “one hundred fifty-three good fish.” Is it less wonderful that Christ could bring forth these fish than that God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah in the stormy sea? These fish were in a very special sense also a part of Christ’s self-manifestation in His glorious resurrection power, and of His very special providence over the witnesses of the resurrection in all the world. And was this not to be an incontrovertible proof of Christ’s resurrection glory?

They were in a very special sense a gift from heaven!

And, as we have observed earlier, they added to the breakfast of fish which lay on the coals on the shore. Where did Jesus obtain those fish and that bread? The entire meal was as much a wonder as was the bread from heaven for forty years in nourishing Israel through the desert to Canaan.

Yes, they were all wonder-fish.

The bread was wonder-bread. It was a special gift from heaven.

Once more, I feel that we stand here in holy awe, and that it behooves us to take the shoes from off our feet!

Such is the awesome setting in which Peter is questioned by Jesus, who is the chief Shepherd of Israel.

A threefold question and a threefold answer. I do not believe that this was what might be called “cross-examination,” in order to determine whether Peter was speaking the truth. However, it was a threefold question which accorded with the threefold denial of Jesus by Peter in Caiaphas’ court. Yes, that was in the fearful night in which Christ was betrayed by Judas, the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. It was the night in which the cock crowed; yes, it was then that the earth trembled for Peter. Peter did not need any cross-examination here. He had gone out and wept bitterly, and the angels of God had seen it before the face of their Father and had exalted!

Peter says, in effect, “Here I stand, so help me, Lord!” Peter will not “think of himself more highly than he ought to think”; but he thinks of himself soberly, “according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). Here we see a Peter in action, who has learned deeply the lesson of which he writes in I Peter 5:1-4. He ‘places himself as to his relationship to the church on the same level with the other elders. He is a fellow elder! And the admonition which he gives to the elders to “tend to the flock of God which is among you (exercising the oversight (episkopountes)), not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God, nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as lording it over the charge, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock . . . .”

Here stands Peter now in the strength of the Lord, lifted up in due time by God’s mighty, saving hand (I Peter 5:6).

Such a Peter is ready for service in the love of God shed abroad in his heart. Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee, and that in this love I can do all things, yea, even suffer and die for thy sake!

Feed My Flock, Peter!

Peter is not instructed to go out and to win the world for Christ and to lay it as a votive offering at His feet! God forbid!

Nor will Peter henceforth attempt futilely to bring down the enemies with the edge of the sword; he will no longer try to shield Jesus, but will adore and worship Him as the LORD of lords and as the KING of kings! Jesus will care for Peter, protect him. This is expressed in the great promise of Matthew 28:20b: “and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end (consummation) of the world (ages).”

But Peter has a task to perform in Christ’s name, who is the Shepherd of the sheep.

Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.

This is a twofold aspect of the work of a shepherd:Feed and protect, the under-shepherd is duty-bound to do. And thus he walks in the footsteps of the chief-Shepherd. He feeds that flock and carries the shepherds staff to correct and to protect the sheep from the wolves and false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but who are inwardly destructive animals! The shepherd even works with trowel and sword. The sword serves to protect what was builded with the trowel of the positive preaching of the Gospel of the Cross and resurrection.

And so Peter has his work cut out for him. However, this same injunction also holds for John and for all the others at this breakfast rendezvous. Fact is, that this is the pattern for all the elders in the church. It held for Peter as an elder and for John, and so it obtained down the ages for all faithful shepherds of the flock.