Jesus and his disciples at the last supper



BY: Fr. Karabari Paul



“It is the Lord.”

When something horrible strikes an organisation or group, either of two things must happen to the members. It is either they are scattered or the bond among them is increased. The passion and death of Jesus had scattered the disciples. However, they had to regroup. And in the the Gospel (John 21:1-19), we see an increased bond and unity, perhaps, even out of fear. They all agreed to go fishing. It is good for Christians to be much together, not only when they are in church, but also in discussion and common business.

For three years they had been Jesus’ near-constant companions. Now there was a gaping hole in their lives, and they were left wondering how to fill it. Peter, always a man who liked practical action, comes up with a very obvious solution: back to work. Back to the practice and the trade he and the others knew so well, that of fishing. It is entirely understandable that the disciples wanted to fill their time doing something positive. They may well have needed to do so for financial reasons.

These fishermen were real professionals. They knew what they were doing when it came to fish. That was why they went out at night: experience has taught them this was the most productive time. But on this occasion they fished with a singular lack of success. When morning came, their nets were as empty as when they had begun. We can imagine their feelings: tired, frustrated, tetchy, baffled and hungry.

The simple phrase ‘they caught nothing’ is profoundly evocative. It calls to mind all the occasions when we work extremely hard over something and achieve nothing. What we all experience at times like these is the futility of work. A sense of time, money and energy having been wasted: in the words of Ecclesiastes, ‘a striving after wind… What has a man from all the toil and strain with which he toils beneath the sun?’ (Ecclesiastes 2:17,22). Like Peter and his colleagues, we catch nothing, and find it difficult to understand where we have gone wrong.

So completely at their wits’ end, that they are ready to act on the advice of a complete stranger, even though this must have been a serious blow to their pride. Who was this clever fellow on the shore who asked the painful question: ‘Children, have you any fish?’ Never mind, from His vantage point He might be able to see something they couldn’t. They cast their net in to the right, and this time they really do catch something. The realisation that it is the risen Jesus who is the mysterious stranger rapidly follows. The exclamation, ‘It is the Lord’, comes with excitement. It provides energy and hope. It gives us a reason for gratitude, so that we can say, ‘It is the Lord’s doing.’ God’s involvement in our affairs changes everything.

Christians whose work is business should take encouragement from the fact that the glorified Lord makes Himself known in their doing of a secular job. What Jesus does is bring success to their working endeavours, to lead their night out fishing to a marvellous conclusion.

He transforms our mundane, complex and often difficult situations just as He filled those fishing nets to the bursting point? Just as there are episodes of depressing futility at work, so there are also moments of exciting transformation. It could be a dreaded interview with a member of staff, which turns out much better than expected: a hostile relationship turned into a friendly one, with real reconciliation taking place. It may be a miraculous recovery from illness after given up on hope. It may be a sudden influx of customer orders after a period of deep failure and constant cutbacks.

It should be said however that Jesus’ presence with us on the shore does not guarantee that everything in the place of work will go wonderfully smoothly. The Christian faith is not that sort of insurance policy. Frustrations and setbacks, crossed lines and empty nets will continue to afflict us from time to time. But in Jesus Christ there is a room for transformation, which is relevant to working life as well as our spiritual life. In this particular story, change is effected through listening to a word of advice: ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat’. Christians need to be on the alert for similar words of wisdom. If they are living in a state of close relationship with their risen Lord, they may be surprised at the flashes of inspiration which sometimes come their way.

In this story there is a fine sense of Jesus and the disciples being co-workers. Admittedly, Jesus provides the decisive piece of information, but the disciples have to haul the fish ashore, and quite a weight it was too. When they reach the beach they find Jesus has already been busying Himself cooking a breakfast, apparently having access to some private fish supply of His own. No doubt the disciples forgot their tiredness, the crossness about the long hours wasted catching nothing, and marvelled at the transformation which had taken place – all because of the risen Jesus in their midst.

Peter’s faith took a bit of a fall as Jesus approached His death. He denied that he knew Jesus three times, just as Jesus had predicted. But after the resurrection, Jesus gave Peter a chance to make up for his mistake. Jesus asked him, three times, whether he loved Him.

Significantly, Jesus didn’t ask, “Simon, son of John, do you know me?” because that won’t be unreasonable question since Peter had said, “I do not know the man” (Mt.26:74). Instead, Jesus focused on that which should define the affairs of both men and the Kingdom; love. When Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”, you would expect Jesus to say, “I love you too.” But Jesus appointed him to show greater love for that which He has purchased with heart’s blood; to feed His lambs, tend His sheep, and feed His sheep.

Love is the healing medicine. Peter had denied His Master three times. Jesus healed the broken bond by drawing out a three-fold declaration of love from him. We must strive to make sure that our love for God exceeds our mistakes.

And then Peter did become one of the early instigators of the church. God used Peter despite his mistakes. And when we make a mistake, God doesn’t give up on us either. He gives us another opportunity to get things right. Every new day is an opportunity to live better than yesterday. God will still use us, call us and equip us for the kingdom. Our mistakes don’t mean God discounts us if we don’t allow them to define us; if we live above them. We are still whom He says we are, and we can still do what He has asked us to do.

Greater blessings should move us deeper in love with Jesus. God’s favour towards us should propel us into higher responsibility of love towards Christ and His Kingdom. Love must be practical and shown in commitment.

Jesus did not criticise the disciples for going back to their old occupation. The point is that Jesus had called them to be fishers of men. In His absence, they were going back to being fishermen. He had to redirect their focus. Thus, he asked Peter to focus on His sheep and not fish. We could be doing something legitimate that is not our vocation. He won’t abandon us but we may lack fulfillment. We need to pray for God’s directions. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. I fervently pray that Christ may meet you sooner than expected at your very point of lact and failure to change that depressing futility through the same Christ Our Lord Amen. Good morning. Happ Sunday.

Fr. Karabari Paul

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