Last week in the Gospel reading Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked room. In today’s Gospel, the third Sunday of Easter, the disciples are now in Galilee, and they return to their role of fishermen. Simon Peter announces that he is going fishing, the other disciples follow him. They spend the night fishing but are unsuccessful. Then Jesus appears to the disciples for a third time after his Resurrection.
He calls to them from the shore, but just like when Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala, the disciples do not recognise him immediately.
The stranger calls out “throw the net out to the starboard side”. They do and there were so many fish they couldn’t haul the net in.
The disciples then realise that it is Jesus. This is a constant theme in the resurrection stories – that Jesus is not recognised straight away – it takes some word or a familiar gesture for him to be known. This is a way of making it clear that the resurrection is not a return to an earthly life; Jesus has now risen to a new life beyond death. He is the same Jesus, but now he is transformed.
This raises an interesting question. Why did the risen Jesus just appear to these seven disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias? Why didn’t he appear to the multitude of followers? Why didn’t he make himself known to anyone who wanted to see him, anyone who wanted proof that Jesus had risen from the dead? There’s a great Easter film called “Risen” where a Roman Tribune is tasked to find the risen Christ. He finds him and he becomes a believer, so why then didn’t Jesus become more visible? Bishop Robert Barron writes that “John Henry Newman theorised that if Jesus has appeared publicly and indiscriminately to all, the lasting power of the Resurrection would have been lessened”.
Instead, as we hear today, Jesus appeared to a small number of disciples who knew him, loved him, and understood him. He appeared to those who would take his message and story out to the rest of the world, they were to become ‘fishers of men’.
I do hope you enjoy the long bank holiday weekend,