I wish our Uniform Texts had started with Luke 23:55. In both the Greek New Testament and the NRSV, Luke 24:1 begins with “But . . . they came to the tomb.” What happened before the “but,” and who is “they”? (The NIV provides “the women,” but what women?)
In 23:55, we learn that “the women” were disciples who had followed Jesus from Galilee. Let’s not forget that Jesus had women disciples, as well as men, following him. But now the men have fled the scene, so women are center stage. They do what women do when a body dies: prepare spices and ointment to mask the smell of decaying flesh. The women did not expect a resurrection. I imagine their grief and impatience to anoint did not let them get much rest on the Sabbath.
Sit with this story (23:55-24:12) for a while. Read it aloud. Imagine you are Mary Magdalene or Joanna. What is the mystery? Does Luke over- or underplay the drama? Is it typical of men not to believe women and consider their story a hoax? In what ways does Luke stress that nobody expected a bodily resurrection?
Then read Luke 24:30-35. What common, simple event in this story of a disciple couple sharing supper with a stranger begins to convince them otherwise? How would you defend Jesus’ resurrection to someone who doesn’t believe it happened?
Although another disciple writes the John 21 account, the texts for April 1 and 8 are connected by food and a meal. This time Jesus is not the guest but the host. He is like a mother who cooks food for her children.
In verse 14, the author says, “This was the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” Apparently, the eternally resurrected body of Jesus can come and go at will, but when he appears, his body is solid, and he can eat and perform ordinary human activities.
What does a disciple do after a messianic resurrection? Those who had formerly left their fishing occupation are back at it again, perhaps unsure what to do next. And fishing is so . . . normal. Besides, we have to eat.
Fishing is night work, but by dawn they catch nothing until a dim figure on the shore calls to them to try the other side of the boat. Success — 153 fish in one catch! What a fish story! The Beloved Disciple figures it out first, but impulsive Peter jumps into the lake and swims to the shore to meet Jesus.
Unlike you and me, Peter puts on his robe to swim. Though slaves and manual laborers wear only a loincloth when working, no respectable man would approach another man “naked,” that is, without his more formal robe.
The catch is brought in, and Mother Jesus feeds the seven fishermen with fry-bread and grilled fish. They know it is Jesus, but they are afraid to ask, “Who are you?” or “What’s it like being resurrected?” or “How did you find clothes to wear?”
Had you been there, what would you have wanted to ask the risen Jesus?
The ultimate purpose of Jesus’ appearance at the seashore may be found in John 21:15-25. Peter needs rehabilitation. So far in John’s Gospel, the Beloved Disciple stands out as the wisest leader. Peter has leadership qualities, but he talks before he thinks. At the time of Jesus’ arrest he denied three times that he ever knew Jesus.
Now Jesus asks Peter a painful question three times. Does he love Jesus? Each time Peter insists that he loves him, and each time Jesus asks him to feed his lambs or sheep as a sign of his love. In this way they both acknowledge Peter’s lies and betrayal, but Jesus accepts Peter’s penitence and gives him a new vocation. He is now thrice-commissioned to lay aside fishing and become a shepherd to God’s people.
Like the Good Shepherd from John 10, Peter must learn to love and care for his sheep, even if it means laying down his life for them.
According to tradition, Peter was crucified under Emperor Nero in the early 60s C.E., and John’s Gospel probably was not written until the 90s C.E. Why do you think this author included the story of Peter’s restoration? What did John’s church community need to know about Peter?
Reta Halteman Finger teaches part-time at Eastern Mennonite University and is a contributing editor at Sojourners magazine. Find her series of lessons on the entire Gospel of John at eewc.com/tag/gospel-of-john/.