John 21 : 1 - 19 ( NRSV )

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.(1) Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee,1 and two others of his disciples.(2) 2Simon 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.(3) Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.(4) Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."(5) 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.(6) 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.(7) 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.(8) When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it,3 and bread.(9) Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught."(10) So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three4 of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.(11) Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." 3Now none of the disciples dared to ask him,5 "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord.(12) Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.(13) This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.6(14) 7,8When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"9 He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."(15) A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."(16) He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.(17) Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go."10(18) (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."(19)

Comment

     Earlier the disciples had a special evening meal with Jesus before His death. This appearance of Jesus is linked to a meal theme with strong eucharistic allusions. At the time of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (beside the same lake) the gospel account uses the same words to describe Jesus' action:
    Jesus took the loaves,
    gave thanks and distributed
    them to those who were sitting there;
    He then did the same with the fish,
    distributing as much as they wanted.
(Jn.6:11)

And again in the appearance to the disciples at Emmaus. Now the gospel uses the same words:
    Jesus . . , took the bread
    and gave it to them
    and the same with the fish.
  (Jn.21:13)

Jesus has everyone taking part in a common meal, a communion! In the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus states that the communion of the community of disciples was His "body." Now He has that communion with them in the bread and fish. The Risen Jesus is experienced in eucharistic gatherings. This is the point of departure for disciples whose task is to now transform the world. Setting out on a mission of transformation is linked to eucharistic meals. This tradition concerning a miraculous catch of fish, is an appropriate image for the task of including new-comers in the Christian community.
     The netting of fish is not an appropriate image for the on-going care of those who are so brought in. In the gospel narrative the image changes as Jesus ignores the fish and instructs Peter:
    When they had eaten,
    Jesus said to Simon Peter,
  "Simon son of John, do you love me
    more than these others do?"
    He answered, "Yes, Lord,
    you know I love you."
    Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."
  (Jn.21:15)

        The time-honoured image in the scriptures of on-going care of those who are brought into the community, is shepherding. The Johannine imagery shifts from Peter the fisherman to Peter the shepherd. But before Simon Peter is assigned the role of "tending sheep" he is asked insistently, "Do you love me?" According to the narrative, if authority is given, it must be based on love of Jesus! And Jesus continues to speak of: "My lambs," "My sheep."
The members of the community continue to belong to the One who said,
    I am the good shepherd;
    I know my own
    and my own know Me.
"(Jn.10:14)

     Jesus' conversation with Peter includes multiple questions and answers bearing on an apostle's role. In place of a net full of fish, the metaphor for community is now a sheepfold. If Peter assumes the shepherding role, he must meet the Johannine qualifications for shepherding. These are; that "the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn.10:11). Having instructed Peter three times to, "feed" or "tend the sheep," in the next breath Jesus tells him about the way in which He will be put to death!! This death will be the proof that, in Peter's role as shepherd, loving discipleship has been given priority (Jn.13:5 & 15:13).
 
footnotes:
JOHN 20:1-23 There are many non-Johannine peculiarities in this chapter, some suggesting Luke's Greek style; yet this passage is closer to John than Jn.7:53-8:11. There are many Johannine features as well. Its closest parallels in the synoptic gospels are found in Lk.5:1-11 and Mt.14:28-31. Perhaps the tradition was ultimately derived from John but preserved by some disciple other than the writer of the rest of the gospel. The appearances narrated seem to be independent of those in Jn.20. Even if a later addition, the chapter was added before publication of the gospel, for it appears in all manuscripts.
1. [ v.2 ] The sons of Zebedee: The only reference to James and John in this gospel. Perhaps the phrase was originally a gloss to identify, among the five, the two others of his disciples. The anonymity of the latter phrase is more Johannine (Jn.1:35). The total of seven may suggest the community of the disciples in its fullness.
2. [ vv.3-6 ] This may be a variant of Luke's account of the catch of fish; see the note on Lk.5:1-11.
3. [ vv.9,12-13 ] It is strange that Jesus already has fish since none have yet been brought ashore. This meal may have had eucharistic significance for early Christians since Jn.21:13 recalls Jn.6:11 which uses the vocabulary of Jesus' action at the Last Supper; but see also the note on Mt.14:19.
4. [ v.11 ] The exact number 153 is probably meant to have a symbolic meaning in relation to the apostles' universal mission; Jerome claims that Greek zoologists catalogued 153 species of fish. Or 153 is the sum of the numbers from 1 to 17. Others invoke Ezek.47:10.
5. [ v.12 ] None . . dared to ask Him: Is Jesus' appearance strange to them? Cf Lk.24:16; Mk.16:12; Jn.20:14. The disciples do, however, recognise Jesus before the breaking of the bread (opposed to Lk.24:35).
6. [ v.14 ] This verse connects Jn.20 and 21; cf Jn.20:19, 26.
7. [ vv.15-23 ] This section constitutes Peter's rehabilitation and emphasizes his role in the church.
8. [ vv.15-17 ] In these three verses there is a remarkable variety of synonyms: two different Greek verbs for love; two verbs for feed/tend; two nouns for sheep; two verbs for know. But apparently there is no difference of meaning. The threefold confession of Peter is meant to counteract his earlier threefold denial (Jn.18:17,25,27). The First Vatican Council cited these verses in defining that Jesus after His resurrection gave Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock.
9. [ v.15 ] More than these: Probably, "more than these disciples do" rather than "more than you love them" or "more than you love these things [fishing, etc.]."
10. [ v.18 ] Originally probably a proverb about old age, now used as a figurative reference to the crucifixion of Peter.
 

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