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A Resurrection Feast

Updated: Apr 9


a message by Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens

Coral Isles Church, U.C.C.

April 7, 2024

John 21:4-14 NRSV

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 his outer garment, for he had taken it off, and jumped into the sea. 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. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them, and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 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. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Who doesn’t love a feast?  I mean unless you are on a diet and remember what the first three letters of that spell!  Now, there are lots of ways to define a feast and lots of types of feasts and a lot of reasons for feasts.  Let me confirm that ANY reason is pretty good. I was thinking about all this for two reasons.  Our Scripture depicts a breakfast feast, a resurrection feast with Jesus and his first disciples.  And today we celebrate Holy Communion which is another kind of feast.  So today, I guess I’m going to spend the next fifteen minutes or so making you really, really hungry for lunch after worship!  #sorrynotsorry!


Let’s talk about the breakfast feast Jesus has in the story from John’s Gospel. It is, of course, after the resurrection.  Jesus has already appeared several times to different groups of the disciples.  Just before this happened, John describes an episode where Peter gets a “hankerin’” to go fishin’.  Peter doesn’t say why but several of the disciples agree to go with him.  Of course, remember that Peter and the Zebedee boys and some of the others were fishermen, before they left their nets to be part of Jesus’ movement for God’s Reign.  So as you heard, they were out there all night, no luck at all, come morning some guy on the beach asks if they have anything in their nets and they say no.  He says, toss the nets on the other side and they come up with a huge catch.  153 fish John tells us a little later.  I do not know who counted them, nor do I know the meaning of that number, or why John includes that detail, except to say, that is a lot of fish.  I am the world’s worst fisherman and even I know, 153 fish is a LOT of fish.  It is, as we say in the south, a “bodacious” catch.


Something about the miraculous nature of this catch cues the Beloved Disciple in to the fact that the wise guy on the beach is Jesus.  Peter, ever the Impulsive Disciple, jumps in and does the breastroke the 100 yards to the beach.  Jesus calls them over, they grab a couple pieces of pita bread and, voila, a resurrection feast!  Let me remind you a few things about Biblical feasts.


First off, by definition a feast is a meal of abundance.  Maybe a ridiculous abundance, even.  I have seen these “memes” on Facebook before suggesting what the table would have looked like if someone’s Italian grandmother had been hosting the Last Supper.  It usually is a table covered with a ridiculous number of dishes and food.  An abundance.  When I think of a feast it always makes me think of more food than can ever be consumed in one meal.  I am sure you imagine it that way too.  The Bible is full of feasts, as well as famines, that touched the lives of God’s people throughout the ages.


What about the feast of the Communion Table?  Uh, bite of bread, sip of juice?  Abundance?  Well, metaphorically, yes.  It is a reminder of God’s abundance.  I think it is kind of a shame because this loaf of bread Jim always buys for us to tear into deserves more than pulling a little tidbit off the edge of it.  I see it and I want to peel off at least two or three mouthfuls.  It is a beautiful loaf of bread, apologies to those of you with gluten intolerances.  But remember it is based on the Passover of Jesus’ religion.  A feast that served as a Jewish reminder.  Passover was a symbolic taste of the meal the first Hebrews ate as they prepared for God to liberate them from slavery in Egypt.  A symbol.  A metaphor.


I like symbols and metaphors.  But sometimes, like when you are really, really hungry, a symbol or a metaphor just ain’t enough!  Karoline Lewis, a theology professor and writer comments on this business of metaphors and symbols [ “Resurrection is Abundance,”, April 3, 2016 ].  She says this, “Abundant fish. Don’t metaphorize this. And I don’t care if that’s not a word. What if it was really true? 153 fish? That is a crazy amount — and why? Because that is how much God loves us.


“The whole gospel of John is about abundant grace. Grace upon grace in John 1:16, but after the Prologue, no mention of grace ever again. Why? What good is the incarnation if you can’t touch, taste, smell, see, and hear it? So 153 fish is that very truth. This fourth resurrection appearance is to reveal that grace upon grace is true. By definition, grace upon grace cannot be restrained to a passage, to a gospel, and that’s the point of John 21. To show, by a ridiculous amount of fish, that God’s grace cannot be limited to the incarnation, to the crucifixion, to the tomb, to the resurrection, and certainly not to the end of a Gospel story called John.  Resurrection is abundance.”


She admits that, for us, resurrection is a metaphor or a symbol, “an eschatological promise rather than an incarnational truth.”  What that means is it is another sign that points us toward the time when God’s reign on earth is fulfilled.  That means it becomes real.  But she goes on to tell us, “don’t make this a sermon about grace. This is a sermon that points to what grace upon grace really can be — a hell of a lot fish, … when you least expect it, just like the wine at Cana, when all hope is gone, when you wonder what you are doing, when you think there is no future, when your well has dried up, when you doubt that grace is true, when you question if grace is for you. This is the resurrection story we need. Desperately. All of us. That we will, indeed, experience the truth of the resurrection beyond the empty tomb. That Jesus will always show up on the shore, will invite us to share a meal once again, because abundance really means abundance when it comes to God. Why? Because it seems that God truly does love the world.”


And that my friends is the famous promise John makes: “for God so LOVES the world.”  I always feel like that needs to be in the present tense, not the past tense.  God sent a son, yes, past tense.  But God keeps sending that Christ, the really resurrected One all the time.  And every time he shows up you can start counting fish… right up to an abundance. 


I don’t know.  I’m often overwhelmed by the temptation to only believe in what I lack.  What I don’t have.  I can throw me a pity party in a Key West minute, my apologies to New York and its minute.  But if I stop long enough to listen for the voice of the Risen Christ, I always hear an invitation to an abundance.  An abundance of love.  An abundance of fish – whatever fish symbolizes or metaphorizes for you – an abundance!  When what I lack is at the center of my heart I’m like Peter.  Ready to give it all up and go fishing, even knowing I am the world’s worst fisherman.  Pretty much anytime I have given up I get reminded.  A voice seems to say, “try throwing your net on the other side.”  Look at things from the other side of your boat, I guess.  And that’s when I always seem to give up my empty nets and give thanks and praise to God, instead.


In a minute we will sing “Alleluia” to God.  To sing “Alleluia” before we come to this table is to say, “Thank you for your abundance, God.”  Praise to you for all you provide, all you have provided, all you will provide.  Save me from all the ways I am tempted to give in to fear and doubt and grief when you are a God of abundant grace, real grace.  And may every day in our lives be an opportunity to enjoy an infinite, abundant feast on the love of God, and to sing “alleluia” in response to it.  After all, who doesn’t love a feast?  Especially a resurrection feast.  C’mon, let’s feast. AMEN.

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