By Rev Sally Douglas, Richmond Uniting Church
Jesus said to them “Come and have breakfast.” – John 21.12
I have many favourite passages in the Bible. The whole of Mark’s gospel is one of them. Matthew’s gospel (aside from the gnashing of teeth) is another. I also cherish the ancient hymn fragments embedded in the New Testament, such as the Colossians hymn 1.15-20.
However, there is a verse towards the end of John’s gospel that takes my breath away.
In biblical studies, debate continues about whether chapter 21 of John’s gospel is original or was a later addition.
One of the arguments people make is that it must be a later (and odd) addition because in chapter 20 Jesus has already appeared to Mary and the other disciples, Thomas has been invited by Jesus to touch his scars, they have received Holy Spirit and been commissioned to go about the work of sharing forgiveness.
So, the reality that the disciples turn around and go back to their old life of fishing in chapter 21 seems ridiculous.
I am not convinced by this argument. As human beings, I think, so often this is the case. We can experience moments of great insight and clarity in our ongoing relationship with Holy One – Sacred Three and then we forget. The clarity fades, or we freak out, and we return to our old habits of thinking, or patterns of behaving. We cling to stultifying familiarity.
What I love about this passage is the way in which Jesus responds. When the risen Jesus sees the disciples fishing again, Jesus doesn’t reject them. The risen Jesus doesn’t storm off saying: “That’s it! What did I tell you to do?” Jesus doesn’t threaten punishment. Instead, in wild contrast, Jesus says “Come and have breakfast”. Stunning, practical, loving words of hospitality and nourishment are offered.
For Christians, in Jesus we see the Divine, and so at this beachside campfire we are confronted with the astonishing tenderness of the Holy One.
This is the One who seeks to nourish us out of our fears and into love, even as we fail spectacularly.
In the ordinary act of having breakfast each day, I think this is a mystery worth pondering.