“In the breaking of bread, fellowship is restored
and the one that has denied, rejected, and fled
is invited once again into the participation of the divine life.”
There they are, Peter and these weary, defeated disciples. Maybe in their minds, former disciples.
“Come and have breakfast,” Jesus says.
In these words, through the offering of a meal, the Savior offers the restoration of fellowship and human dignity. To quote the late great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Burning coals. Bread and fish. A meal together with Jesus.
We’ve been here before. Whether or not John the Gospel writer intended the symbolism, it is obvious and powerful.
- Peter’s denial in the evening courtyard around the fire.
- The miracle of supernatural provision in the feeding of five thousand.
- The Passover meal in the Upper Room
That last Passover meal: maybe Peter’s last good memory of himself before it all fell apart. If that was the Last Supper, this is the Last Breakfast. And, as has every act of corporate communion since, there on that foggy beach, breakfast plays the role of the Eucharistic feast. In the breaking of bread, fellowship is restored and the one that has denied, rejected, and fled is invited once again into the participation of the divine life.
The Return of the King
There is a sense in which Peter’s redemption is incomplete until this moment. The resurrection itself remained a great mystery to these disciples. There hangs over the whole diorama here an air of bewilderment and confusion. Jesus is alive! The wonder, the awe – what does it mean? Who is he, an apparition? Thomas wonders. Even today, the resurrection by itself is incomplete without the appearance in the flesh of the risen Lord. It is not enough to us or to Him that He rose – He has come back to be with us.
Jesus didn’t merely rise. He returned. That changes everything.
He promises his disciples in the early hours just before his arrest: “I will not leave you alone!” He is not just alive but is living, walking, talking, loving, and eating with his disciples. Here Peter is restored to His teacher, lover and Lord. Thomas Oden has said that “nothing is more characteristic of the church’s essential identity and self-offering than bathing and feeding.” Every person needs a bath and a meal. Jesus, the Divine Word of God’s goodness to his world, offers a meal. What a picture of the divine Savior! John the Revelator, the one recounting this beautiful scene, speaks of this portrait of salvation in the form of Christ standing at the door and knocking. “And if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Says Jesus to the humbled and shamed leader, to the rock of His church, “Come and have breakfast with me.”
Our salvation and redemption is ultimately to bring us into the joyful and very real presence of Jesus the Christ, Blessed Son of God, to share from His table, see his face, and converse with Him freely and without shame. For Peter, this is the prelude to Pentecost but it is the beginning again of his life. The direction and depth of his life is set on a new trajectory and we are the legacy of his obedience.
Fifty-two years of my own life’s history came together right here in this chapel a little over one week ago. In 1952, Gordon, a 37-year old dairy farmer and father of 6 heard the call of God in his own life and entered into the ministry. With his own hands he built the church building for the local congregation he began in their small Oklahoma farm town. Eight years later, Rev. W. Talmadge Johnson ordained Gordon as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene.
On a Friday night in 2004, I knelt at an altar and Dr. W. Talmadge Johnson — the son of the man who ordained my grandfather — laid his hands on my head, ordaining me as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. As he stood before me and the entire congregation, he recounted for us his own memory of watching his father all those years ago bring my grandfather and his entire extended family into the church. As I listened, my mind was consumed with the words of the liturgy we had just spoken moments earlier, words that I could imagine my own father and his father before him having heard: “As a priest, you are to lead the people of God in worship, to administer the holy sacraments, and to be an instrument of God’s benediction in the church.”
More than five decades ago, my grandfather, Gordon Easley, heard those words coming to him, words of benediction, words of God’s good news. He responded with his life, family, and vocation and today I am a product of that legacy. In my own home, I am a priest raising up a fifth, perhaps sixth generation of men and women that know and follow God. That’s the power of the presence and the call of Jesus Christ in one life.
An instrument of God’s benediction: Vessels, conveyors, incarnate messengers of God’s goodness and freedom and redemption. People need to hear the good words of God, words of release, fulfillment, restoration and redemption. This is the climactic moment of the post-resurrection story, I believe. This account of Jesus’ appearance is unique; it is much more personal and conversational. In this story, the Word made Flesh is the bearer of the words of redemption and restoration. God’s redemption can never be detached from the person who brings it. Marhsall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” The Apostle John said, “The Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That divine Person who now lives among us is our hope of both the now and the yet to come.
Several years ago, my son Jacob and I stood by the graveside casket of my great-Aunt Thelma listening to the wind and the singing of the gathered mourners. I closed my eyes, felt the wind tugging at my hair, felt the warm grasp of a four year old’s little hand in mine, smelled the sweet mesquite and sage in the wind and thought of the goodness of that moment. There was real comfort and joy present right then. I could see it in the eyes and tears of my grandfather and his three siblings, all in their late 80’s – they all walked with Jesus and had for many, many years. The soaring strains of my father’s violin and the words of the hymn floated through the warm, prairie air, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” The promise of hope, words of good news – words of benediction even in the face of death.
Jesus is God’s blessed Word of goodness to his world, a Benediction showing up as a person to people mired in the dismal and often disappointing patterns of life. His face, his actions, his words of invitation transform those circumstances and change us! We are likewise called, as men and women bearing the mantle of divine ordination as leaders to be vessels of God’s good words to His world. We see, hear, and follow, even as we invite others to see, hear, and follow us.