I’ve been pondering this passage for a long season. It grips me in so many ways from so many different angles. John 21 is chock full of meaty information, rich fodder for pulpits willing to preach it and bookstores willing to stock it. I imagine you have been privy to as much as I have along these lines. Collectively, we’ve probably “heard” it all over the years. Hearing has never been our problem. Our problem is absorption, a problem James clearly identifies as a “looking at our faces in the mirror, then quickly forgetting what we look like” kind of problem (James 1:23-25).
We hear the Word, but do we do the Word? Do we allow it absorption into our hearts so that our nourishment therein exacts a result in the process?
Guilty as charged; thus, my wanting to do the Word better… to live it better. Not for “doing’s” sake, but rather for kingdom’s sake—for moving onward and upward toward holiness and my perfection. Along those lines, I’m going to be fleshing out some thoughtful considerations via my pen. Writing those considerations often solidifies them in my heart. To ponder without putting any action behind that pondering is a waste of time for me, for I am woefully prone to my forgetting. But to frame that pondering with some words… well, chances are I’ll remember it, at least have it at my fingertips for recall down the road.
I keep a file folder on my desk that is filled with previous thoughts I’ve scribbled down on particular Biblical topics—skeletal thoughts that need some corresponding “flesh” at some point down the road. After perusing my folder’s contents yesterday, I came across three stapled sheets worth of thoughts that I had written back in the fall and now duly labeled with a sticky note that simply said “breakfast.”
And so I begin with that one word and what it means within the context of this passage and, correspondingly, what it means within the context of my soul. I do not live in isolation from this story. I wasn’t there as it occurred in living color; neither were you. But we live it today, even as the disciples lived it 2000 years ago. That’s the powerful witness of God’s sustaining Word. It never grows tired or empty or void of purpose. It is an accomplishing, active Word intended for our transformation in 2010.
And so I begin… with breakfast.
With breaking my “fast” from Jesus. Truly, if we only gleaned one “teaching” from John 21, this one is enough to bring hope to a heart that is longing for intimate fellowship with the Divine. John 21 has less to do with the route we take to “get to Jesus” and more to do with the route he takes to “get to us.” No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). We think differently most days… we think it’s all about us and the steps we take to get to Jesus, and, indeed, there is great wealth that comes to us because of our posturing our hearts toward that end. But all of our posturing and managing of our schedules to get to Jesus means very little if he isn’t already there as we arrive. Jesus understands, better than us, our need to break our fast from him. Accordingly and faithfully, he sets a table over some hot coals, preparing for our presence, even though our presence remains off shore and, most days, unaware of our great need for his sustenance.
“It happened this way…” (oh, I can barely get past those four words, for they speak a message all their own—something about the authenticity of God’s Word and his wanting us to know the exact details of how this moment in Scripture actually “went down”)…
Simon and a few others had gathered in their grief, in their moments beyond the witness of the empty grave, yet unable to move forward with much of anything simply because that “much” wasn’t as clearly defined as they needed it to be.
Ever been there? Ever stood on the other side of Christ’s resurrecting truth, yet felt completely overwhelmed by the revelation and your responsibility therein? In our need for quick understanding, we reason that Peter and the others should have known what to do with the resurrecting truth of their Lord… should have immediately taken its witness and began in the unpacking of its merits to those walking around with deficient understanding. But Christ’s work in them—his directional “next” for them—had yet to be clearly defined. Emotional chaos was their compass, and is so often the case when emotions chart our course, we default to doing the one thing we’re most comfortable doing.
For Peter it was fishing; for us, a great many other “doings.” It’s natural, even reasonable for us to land in a place of “comfortable” while sorting out our emotions and our determinations regarding what to do with the weighty revelation of Calvary. Christ understands our chaos, even as he understood the disciples’ chaos so long ago. He stands ringside and watches it unfold, even as he stokes the fires of a breakfast that will yield the answers… the peace… the directional good our hearts are hungering for.
Long before we ever hold those answers as our own, our Savior tenderly cradles them as his own. Thoughtfully, he places them over burning embers, tending to them and cooking them to completion, so that when our feet find their way to the beach, there is food enough to fill the gnawing ache that has consumed us in the night.
As we default to doing what we naturally do in times of confusion, Jesus Christ defaults to doing what he always does, despite our confusion. He prepares a table of rich intimacy for us that will not only feed us, but that will gradually transform us for his high and holy purposes.
God sees us in our “doing” this day, friends. We may not be aware of his watchful glances from the shore, but he finds us, no matter our doings, no matter the chaos going on around us. And for some incredible reason beyond my understanding, he loves me still, despite my lack of awareness regarding the breakfast that he’s cooking on my behalf and the table he’s preparing in anticipation of my arrival to shore.
Christ’s preparations for intimate fellowship and sacred discipleship exceed ours. In fact, his preparations precede ours. We may come to the table thinking that our obedience is what yields the filling of our stomachs; but the truth is, our Savior has been up all night preparing for the feast, waiting for the moment when we will break our fast and dine in his presence.
Today, as we go about “doing what we do” and Christ goes about “doing what he does”, let us be mindful of the sacred intersection between the two. If you haven’t stepped on shore today to break your fast from Jesus, know that his fire burns in eager anticipation for your arrival and with ample food to satisfy your hungering need.
I know. He’s fed me well this morning.
peace for the journey,
Copyright © January 2010 – Elaine Olsen