They can be special because they are part of a particular celebration. They can be special because they bring together family and friends. They can be special because of the food that has been prepared. Mealtimes can also be special because of words that are said or things accomplished around the meal.
There are many special meals referred to in the Scriptures. Some are regular feasts, and some are unique occasions. Some involve many people, some involve few. Some involve the regular preparation of the food, and some involve a miraculous provision, such as Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 and the 4000.
I want to focus on one memorable meal found at the end of John’s gospel that, I believe, has much to say to us.
So, turn with me to John 21 and read this account of A Most Memorable Meal that impacted the life of one man especially, the Apostle Peter.
Reading from the ESV: John 21:1-22)
Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples
21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out 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, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus and Peter
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus and the Beloved Apostle
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
One reading of this chapter will certainly reveal the significance of this occasion. I want to view this significance as it surrounds the meal that took place.
Let’s look at it together.
This is an account of the resurrected Christ revealing Himself. Jesus stands on the shore of Galilee and asks if the fishermen have had any success. Jesus totally initiates this occasion.
Jesus directs the unsuccessful fishermen to try again. A great catch of fish leads to the realization by John (the disciple) that this person directing them is none other than the Lord. John tells Peter, and Peter throws himself into the sea to come to Jesus. The other disciples follow. It is through this help and this miracle that Jesus reveals Himself.
It is fascinating that the charcoal fire is already prepared, fish and bread are already there. Jesus invites them to bring fish that have just been caught and He says, “Come and have breakfast.” The writer notes that the disciples did not ask who Jesus was, they knew it was the Lord. (In one of the denials of Peter a charcoal fire is mentioned (18:18). This may or may not be significant).
Jesus serves the disciples this meal of fish and bread. What an occasion. Breakfast by the sea with the ultimate host. And according to John (the disciple and writer), this was the third time Jesus had revealed Himself to His disciples.
Just briefly we need to think about those who were invited.
These men had just failed in their attempt to catch fish and now Jesus is feeding them. Obviously, their past with Jesus was very important. But, this was a renewed invitation to be with Him, the resurrected Christ. And they had just experienced His power afresh as he guided them to 153 fish.
After the meal, Jesus carries on a special conversation with Simon Peter. We know that Simon Peter betrayed the Lord. So, this conversation gives this meal time a special significance.
The narrative focuses in on Jesus and Simon Peter. There was some unfinished business that Jesus needed to deal with after they had eaten. So, Jesus directs the conversation and begins with a question, in fact, three questions. This whole interchange between Jesus and Peter involves three questions, three answers, and three commands. You may think that this is a strange after “breakfast talk,” but Jesus knew Simon Peter and He knew what Simon Peter needed in order to move on in his life and service for the Lord
These are familiar verses. Jesus probes the heart of Simon Peter. The three-fold probe must have caused pain, and it was a call for honesty. But, what is awesome and so powerful is that Jesus now only asked the penetrating questions about Simon Peter’s love, He charges him to service” “Feed my lambs……. Tend my sheep….. Feed my sheep.”
Jesus had predicted Simon Peter’s failure and He had predicted that Simon Peter would return and “strengthen the brethren.” Despite his terrible denials, this was not the end of the role of Simon Peter. No! He needed to be restored and then re-called. Yes, the re-call is based on genuine humble love, but the call is given to do what he was called to do at first.
For Peter this after breakfast dialogue was a time of recovery, of restoration, of restatement, and “re-call.” Peter had failed miserably despite his boasts that he would never do so. The Lord gives him an opportunity to reaffirm his love and to hear afresh His call to serve.
Twice Jesus says, “Follow Me.”
The first “Follow Me” comes after the Lord has told Peter that he will suffer. Peter will not be able to control his destiny. His future includes a death that will be beyond his control. Peter will follow his Lord in death. It is only genuine love for the Lord that will result in such a loyalty that will lead to an obedient death. Peter had escaped suffering through his denials, but he would not escape suffering in the future. His death would be similar to his Lord’s death. “Follow Me.”
The second “Follow Me” comes after words that may seem strange. Peter seems concerned about John the disciple as to his future and role. The Lord does not answer Peter’s question other than to say, that is none of your business. The call to Peter is the call he originally received years previously, “Follow Me.” In short, the call hasn’t changed. Peter is to do what Jesus wants him to do. He doesn’t need to focus on fish anymore, he needs to serve his Lord in the ministry to which he had been called.
This call to “Follow Me” is a call for loyalty. This is what cracked in the denials that Peter made before His Lord was crucified. He was disloyal. Peter has now affirmed his love. This love will be needed to suffer for his Lord and not to get side-tracked by anyone or anything else.
Despite the amazing miracles that surrounded this memorable meal, I think the conversation that Jesus had with Simon Peter is the critical feature of this account. The Gracious Host uses this context to re-call his disciples who had failed Him, especially Peter. Maybe all of them needed to learn from this probing and charging and calling of Jesus. Maybe we need to learn from His probing of our hearts, His charge to us, and His simple call to “follow Me.”
Are we following Him today?
That is the question we need to answer.