A fish eating ghost! John 21
I have in fact seen a ghost. So I have to believe in them.
It was my habit in my late teens to go out on a Saturday night to
relax after a day working in Sainsbury's on the cooked meat counter. And I would come back late often after mum and dad and my sister had gone to bed. It was a piece of sheer bliss to creep into the kitchen and raid the fridge! Often I would make a large beef sandwich (before I was a vegetarian)and a warm cup of coffee (with sugar) in a special insulated cup and I would creep up to my room and survey the night-sights of London’s suburbia through my bedroom window. In was on such a night that movement in a garden two doors away from ours caught my attention, and the noise of gravel being
disturbed. I saw a man trying to dig, with chains on his body. He was dressed in ragged clothing and was not young. I wasn't frightened at all, there was nothing to be frightened about. In the morning I asked mum and dad who the man digging in the garden so late at night might be. They had no idea to explain it. I saw the same thing several times
and it became as normal as any other experience for me. I absorbed it.
So I believe in ghosts...and I believe in life after death, but we are dealing with a very different ghost here, one that eats fish! What do you make of it?
The disciples are returning to their normal duties after the death of Jesus, to fishing, perhaps in desperation, this meaning intensified by the fact we are told that they catch nothing.
Jesus appears to them on the beach and they have a heavy catch of fish on their hands.
Peter we are told is fishing naked but puts on his clothes before he dives into the water because to offer a greeting naked would be impolite, even today. We may assume that Peter had mixed emotions in this encounter with Jesus. He had denied any knowledge of him, 3 times.
Much has and can be made of the symbolic significance of the number of fish caught, 153, especially if you are a mathematician and we know that the symbolism of the fish in early Christianity is very widespread. The story also recalls for us Luke 5(the big catch).
We also realize that. because she was a woman Mary Magdalene’s resurrection appearance is discounted. Even today we find that woman are discounted as legal witnesses.
Jesus had made a charcoal fire (notice the detail) and grilled fish on it for them to eat. If you have ever tasted fish grilled like that you will remember how delicious it is.
Jewish hosts always said a blessing at the beginning of a meal and we have remnants of that in bon appetite. Jesus is therefore following the norm when he blesses the food. Of course as in all the resurrection appearances there are eucharistic overtones and we remember that most of them take place within the context of eating together. There may be a profound truth here that Jesus is always potentially to be found as we eat together.
So we have a ghost with a gaping hole that you can feel, a ghost who makes a breakfast barbecue. Or maybe it's just a story, a comfortable way of resolving grief.
The story has several possible meanings. One would be that the disciples had returned to be fishers but they are to be fishers of people. They are to become apostles to the whole world which will be their catch.
The language of this chapter is different from the other chapters of John, so many New Testament Greek specialists believe it to have been written separately. The most logical explanation would seem to be connected with the role of Peter in the early church.
Another emphasis is that Jesus is with the disciples wherever they may be, in Jerusalem, in Galilee and to the ends of the earth, despite his death. He is present through the Spirit.
So what do we make of this?
We can do one of three things;
1.Discount it as a piece of fabricated nonsense
2.See it allegorically as meaning that Christ is with us everywhere
3.See it as an attempt to restore the importance of Peter to the early
church by adding to the gospel, later.
4.See it as an accurate rendering of a strange happening, another
resurrection appearance that proved Jesus victory over death.
The choice is yours!