John 21:4-14

Joanna Harader
June 20, 2021

There is a lot of great stuff in today’s scripture.

  • A Resurrection appearance.
  • One hundred and fifty-three fish.
  • Reminders of the feeding of the 5,000 and the Last Supper.

But in the midst of all of the meal stories we’ve been looking at, what strikes me about this meal story is that it is Jesus who prepares the meal. And that the disciples who show up are welcomed, just as they are.

We’ve got Peter, excitable and impulsive as always. At first he doesn’t recognize Jesus, but as soon as he does he’s putting on his clothes and jumping in the water. Despite the fact that he denied Jesus three times, he is anxious to see his friend. So Peter gets to the shore soaking, dripping, wet.

We’ve got the disciple whom Jesus loved, who seems a bit more mature and insightful than Peter. This disciple is the one who first recognizes Jesus. And this disciple also stays on the boat to help the others haul in the fish, even though I imagine they were also very anxious to see their friend.

We’ve got all the other unnamed disciples on the boat. Despite their intense time with Jesus, they’ve gone back to their old lives—because they didn’t know what else to do. They are trying to move past their grief. They are working hard. I’m amused that the writer of John tells us there were 153 fish. It seems so precise—and unnecessary. But my friend Isaac Villegas says that of course the disciples knew exactly how many fish there were; fish were their livelihood. Each fish meant money to care for themselves and their families.

There’s another thing that strikes me as odd about the story. Jesus already has fish cooking on the fire when the disciples show up with their 153 fish. Jesus tells them to bring him some of the fish they caught. And Peter does. But it’s not clear that Jesus really needs their fish; he seems to have breakfast under control. But inviting the disciples to share their fish is another way of expanding the table, of allowing them to truly be part of the meal and not just guests.

I’m loving our little series on expanding the table. So far we’ve talked about how we can be good hosts to a wide range of people; about how our broad welcome is part of our testimony; about how we are called to practice justice within our church. And this morning we formally welcomed Camilla into our church community, thus expanding the table to include her.

There’s been a lot of talk about reaching out and including others. Which is good to hear. But before we finish up this series next week, I am grateful for this story of breakfast on the beach that gives me an opportunity to say, clearly and emphatically, that God’s expanded table includes you. You are a precious child of God. You are a beloved member of God’s community. You are welcome at the table. Or around the fire, as it were. You.

Not the image of you that you try to project to the world.

Not the you that your parents or your partner or your friends or your kids wish you were.

Not the you that you want to be in six months or a year or five years.

Not the you that you used to be when you had more time, or when your mind was sharper, or when your body cooperated better.  

Just as Jesus cooked breakfast for Peter, regretful and soaking wet; for the disciple whom he loved, wise and conscientious; for the other disciples, disillusioned and focusing on work—Just as Jesus invited all of them as they were, God’s expanded table includes the you that you are right now. The you God created and loves and nurtures.

And whatever fish you have to bring to the meal . . . Jesus, of course, welcomes them. But Jesus doesn’t need them. The meal is available whether we have anything to contribute or not.

It turns out we don’t have to expand the table after all. The table is plenty big enough.

What we are called to do is to accept God’s breakfast invitation. To come as we are with what we have. And to extend that same invitation to others.