The second charcoal fire – Friday within the Easter Octave – Acts 4:1-12/John 21:1-14
The text of today plays out a good one week after Easter Sunday. We don’t know the exact time but we know that Jesus appeared to the apostles on Easter Sunday and then for the benefit of Thomas he appears a week later. The Gospel of John tells us that after the events of Thomas’ encounter, the Lord worked “many other signs but these are not written in this book.” One must remember that the Gospels are not biographies but a faith narrative that is written so that “we may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.” Yet, Saint John feels compelled to tell us just one more easter narrative that has Peter at the heart of it all; Peter is mentioned by name seven times and while our text does not include the climax of the narrative it sets the background for it.
Simon Peter seems unfocused. On Easter Sunday, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the apostles (John 20:22) with a purpose and a mandate. Perhaps Peter, as head of it all, was lost and so he thought it better to go back to his old trade. Somehow the events of the last week seemed to have clouded all that Jesus had prepared him for. He has received his personal out pouring of the Holy Spirit yet he chooses for some unapparent reason to go back to his profession; he decided to go fishing and was joined by six others.
John 21:3 tells us the outcome of a distracted ministry; “that night they caught nothing.” Strange as it may sound, they were mandated by Jesus to be fishers of men, casting their nets on land and yet they were casting their nets into the sea. The results were quite expected; “they caught nothing.”
In the midst of their misery, Jesus walks in. There is no judgment but only kindness. He calls them “children,” and instructs them to cast their nets on the right side. While the “right side” may seem like a physical space, it was also a spiritual admonition to cast our nets in the ‘right place’. Every decision to minister, must be directed in prayerful consultation with the Lord or else we won’t be casting on the ‘right side,’ and will end up catching nothing.
Meanwhile, we are told that Peter is overwhelmed with the haul in the nets. But while he is tongue tied it is John who makes the proclamation of faith, “it is the Lord.” Can we recognise the miracles in our life as coming from the hands of the Lord or are we mesmerised with the miracle itself? The object of very miracle is not the spectacle we behold but our acclamation of the Lord who works it for us. “It is the Lord” should be our cry every day when we see him working miracles in our lives, every moment of the day.
While Simon jumps into the Sea of Galilee, the six other disciples haul in the catch. Verse eleven tells us that there were a hundred and fifty-three fish and then goes on to give us another detail; though there were so many fish, their nets were not torn. Memories are powerful, be they joyful or tragic. Memories imprint themselves on our minds and the minutest details are etched on our brain. This was one of those memories where John, the author of the Gospel, was so touched that he remembered every single fish that was caught. He remembered it enough to etch it for all of us to remember; 153 in total.
Yet there was another memory that John could not forget. While the six disciples dragged in the haul of fish, Jesus was already ready on the shore with some bread and fish and yes, another interesting detail; a charcoal fire. Clearly Peter was sitting with Jesus as he had jumped into the water and swam ahead of the rest.
The last time Peter was around a charcoal fire it was the evening of Maundy Thursday. John 18:18 tells us that they were in the courtyard of the high priest and there was a charcoal fire around which the slaves and the ‘police’ were warming themselves. Peter was also warming himself and it is around a charcoal fire that Peter when confronted about his association with Jesus denied him three times. Now, once again he finds himself around a charcoal fire. This time there are no accusers, there is no denial and the Lord too has no condemnation.