Written by Gretsie Ames - Wife of Bishop Roger C. Ames
“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore and said
“Come, have breakfast ” (John 21:4-14)
Alive, well, Jesus appears to His disciples for a third time after he was raised from the dead. At this time, they are still overcome with grief and at loss as to know what to do. Then Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” Something familiar, something physical, something they can all do together. Something to take their minds off the numbing loss of their best friend.
So they all go, and fish all night, and catch nothing.
Another loss. Another disappointment.
Jesus, watching them from the shore, calls out to them, “Friends haven’t you any fish?” “NO”, they answer. “Throw your net on the right side of the boast and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
John, then says to Peter, “It is the Lord”.
When they arrive at the beach with fresh fish to put on burning coals and fresh bread, none of the disciples dared ask him “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
But here the story takes a dramatic turn.
Yes, they KNEW IT WAS THE LORD. But He was changed. He was different. Nothing was as it had been before. Nothing they had hoped for, nothing they had expected had happened. And suddenly they were faced with a new reality and they didn’t know how to respond.
When Jesus had first appeared to them, the disciples were overjoyed! He came through locked doors and said “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”, and He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” and told them that if they forgave anyone’s sins they were forgiven, if not, they were not.
But what were they to do?
The second time Jesus appeared, was a week later, and specifically to Thomas who had not been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. Jesus wanted to convince Thomas that he was indeed raised from the dead.
Now, here we are, all together, on the shore having breakfast that Jesus himself has orchestrated and prepared. The most common, familiar, and personal thing they could do together- to share a meal and to break bread together. Jesus knew that His friends needed to be anchored in the reality of His Resurrection and their commissioning in the Kingdom of God with the old as well as the new.
And so it is with us, dear ones.
Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning,
And God does provide comfort for those who mourn.
This post-Resurrection account from John’s Gospel shows us how intimately and deeply and personally God cares for each of us when we suffer loss. No matter what the loss, when it is crushing to us, and breaks our heart, and paralyzes us with grief, Jesus is present to heal our broken heart, set us free to live again.
But He does it in community. He does it with friends who will walk alongside us and suffer with us. Yes, suffer. It is a costly ministry. But one that is LIFE-GIVING both to us, and to the one we serve.
When my sister Karen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the last stages, it was numbing. She was my older sister, my hero! Two years older, she fought all the battles for me and protected me in those war years when we lived with our grandparents and our dad was on the Western Front.
Not particularly religious, Karen was a staunch church member and I knew she believed the Gospel. Nonetheless, I was unprepared for the grace and courage with which she faced her untimely demise. It was stunning.
I’d gone to Florida to be with her and her husband for what I knew would be our last time together. One day, Karen said, “Tell me about the after-life, I need some help here. What will it be like?”
I took a walk on the beach and she took a nap.
When we came together again I said, “ Well, I only know from the Gospel of John that Jesus REALLY lived after his death on the cross, in a body, and appeared to His disciples and ate fish with them and broke bread with them and talked with them and made the fire himself early one morning on the beach.
And Jesus is our pattern.
“Oh, that’s wonderful!”, Karen exclaimed. Truly delighted!
Karen and I grew up each summer from the time we were two years of age with our Grandparents on the shores of Peconic Bay, Long Island in N.Y. Facing the east, the summer cottage had a wide porch all across the front with glass doors letting in the Sun’s rays as it came up out of the Bay, sending silver sparkles across the water and turning the sand bluffs to gold.
I knew that Karen’s favorite time there was in the early morning, with her coffee, her two minute egg, and her piece of whole wheat toast out on the front porch watching the sun rise up from the Bay.
When the call came that Karen had passed, I wept. I was so sad. But tears of sheer joy mingled with my grief. Why? Because Karen had died peacefully with her husband by her side, early in the morning, and at the sea shore.
I knew that Jesus had called her to Himself saying, Karen,
“COME, HAVE BREAKFAST.”
And so, dear ones, we too, must grieve, and not be ashamed. Jesus understands. And our knowing the Lord Jesus doesn’t preclude this process, rather it invites us to join with Him in the process, fully and deeply, which then allows us to enter into His JOY. As the Africans say, “Weeping and Rejoicing’ al;ong The Way. And as Louis Evely, has said.
“JOY IS SORROW OVERCOME”.*
(*The title of a fine book by this Catholic Theologian on the Resurrection)
May this season from Easter until Pentecost be ALIVE with Fresh encounters with the Risen Lord!