Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. They did not recognize him. This was actually the third time, in John, that Jesus had appeared since the crucifixion, and you know about the rule of threes. It usually means wake up! You are about to hear something important!
Peter had wanted to go fishing the night before and invited the disciples to come along. They had been fishing all night long in the dark with no luck. That morning Jesus called out to them, “Children, have you [any] fish?”
They answered, “No.”
Jesus then said, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”
So they cast the net on the right side – I imagine out into the sea
and not toward the beach. They were barely able to haul in the net because there were so many fish!
Now, no one had recognized who was giving them such sage advice up to this point. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved recognized him. Now obviously Jesus loved all his disciples, but I imagine, he REALLY LOVED the disciple who could recognize his spirit alive in the world after he had died.
So, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter hadn’t recognized Jesus. Peter is such a character– a fisherman chosen by Jesus who: gets to walk on water, witnesses the transfiguration, can’t stay awake, denies Jesus, is restored by him, and then gets to preach the day of Pentecost. Peter is so human, so fallible. Gotta love him. Peter hears that it was Jesus telling them to fish the other side of the boat, so he puts on some clothes, and jumps into the sea to swim toward Jesus.
He was fishing naked! All of the disciples likely were.
There are some disputes about whether they had on underclothes or not. But back then, if you were a fisherman or a carpenter or any of the working class folk you likely only owned one good set of robes and if you were going to be casting out heavy nets all night long: 1: you wouldn’t want them to get all sweaty, and 2. robes are not the easiest things to wear while throwing fishing nets.
So, Peter sees Jesus after he is pointed out, puts on his robes and jumps into the water, while the other disciples do the hard work of dragging in their net full of fish. While the other disciples make an incredible catch by looking in the same direction as Jesus, Peter dives in weighed down by his robes and swims to shore.
If we are going to recognize Jesus, the spirit of love and truth and justice, if we are going to recognize the spirit that is alive in this world over which death has no dominion, we might imitate the beloved disciple and in fact be vulnerable ourselves. We must do our hard work naked (not literally of course) but vulnerable.
If we want to be abundantly successful and receive our catch,
We must look in the direction of Jesus and explore the unfamiliar territory of the other side of the boat.
The Disciple who recognized Jesus was naked and stayed that way… but Peter burdens himself with layers of clothes that get in the way and makes that 100 yard swim a much more difficult one. He dives in, I imagine head first, struggling with every stroke and emerges on the beach before Jesus, exhausted, his clothes drenched and heavy. Why does Peter put on his robes to swim? Jesus reminds us in this story to stop struggling for grace.
There is no reason to hide yourself before GOD. If what you are doing is important and holy and on the path then your vulnerability is required. It’s almost laughable to assume that it can’t be seen hidden behind a robe or even a fig leaf. Let us not buy into some mythology about vulnerability being weak or gullible or frail because that mythology is the very thing that keeps us from our greatest strength and prevents us from doing the thing that matters most.
I love this story about Peter in John 21 because, not only are we reminded to be vulnerable, but this scripture also reminds us to take a look at where we are casting our net. If we only cast toward the shore toward the familiar, what we think we already know, we just might miss the abundance of the sea.