Reflection on John 21.1-14 (Friday of Easter Week)

John 21.1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon 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. 

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 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. 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 lake. 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. 

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 


None of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord.

How often do you find yourself feeling too afraid to ask a question? Perhaps you don’t ask because you feel that in doing so you will belittle yourself in some way. Perhaps you don’t ask because everyone else seems to know the answer and you don’t want to stand out as being ignorant or naïve. Perhaps you don’t ask because you are overawed by the presence of some important person and you don’t want to bother them with your lack of understanding. There are, of course, other reasons why you might not want to ask a particular question, but they are all rooted in a desire to keep your thoughts and misunderstandings private, locked away from the public gaze.

In today’s reading the disciples encountered the risen Jesus by the Sea of Tiberias. Following the crucifixion they returned to their old way of life … they went back to their fishing boats. Then the risen Jesus was suddenly with them. It was through another wondrous sign that Jesus was recognized by John. But there was clearly some uncertainty. The stranger on the beach prepared and ate breakfast with them. As the time passed they became certain that they were in the presence of their Lord, but none of them dared to ask: ‘Can we just check … who are you?’

Our journey in faith gives rise to many questions but, too often, we are afraid to ask those questions. Our natural reticence and desire to seem ‘in control’ holds us back, and our growth as Christians becomes stunted and underdeveloped. Jesus is always with us and willing to reveal the truth to us, just as he did to the two disciples walking to Emmaus. We just have to set aside our strategies of self-defence and our need to be ‘in control’ at all times, and allow him to open our hearts and our minds to the truth. But … that part of the Christian journey can only really begin with us asking ‘the questions’, in all humility.

Let us pray that we might not be afraid to ask God to tell us the truth that will shape our lives as he would have them shaped, and to lead us along the path he would have us follow.