OK, I get it. Jesus didn’t have a wok or a steel rack for his beach cookout. He didn’t have salmon or lemon slices.
But come on: you want some, right?
Breakfast with Jesus is still breakfast; it demonstrates that he has not neglected his followers’ physical needs. Far from it. He continues to provide, and provide generously.
As I suggested in an earlier post, John 21 might be read as a “bonus scene” that transitions us from the story of Jesus to its sequel: the mission in which the disciples, empowered by the Spirit, would become the main characters. Out fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Peter and his companions had not recognized the risen Jesus when he appeared and called out to them from the shore; not until he had granted them a miraculous catch of fish did they realize it was him. Peter then swam straight to Jesus, leaving the others to tow the strained net a hundred yards to shore (vs. 8).
As they gathered to Jesus, they saw that he had bread, with a charcoal fire already lit and fish cooking. (Where did he get the fish? Who knows. It’s Jesus.) I imagine them salivating over the aroma after their long, dreary night. Jesus told them to bring more fish to throw on the coals. Peter responded, going back to drag the heavy catch up onto the beach.
Then Jesus invited them to eat. John tells us that “none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord” (21:12, NRSV). The fact that they would even entertain such a question suggests that there was still something different about Jesus’ appearance.
But by that time, they must have become at least somewhat accustomed to the idea. What mattered was not how he looked, but what he did: calling Mary tenderly by name; breaking bread with the Emmaus disciples; speaking the word of peace into their fear; inviting them to put their doubts to rest; surprising them with generous miracles.
And now, Jesus revealed himself by inviting the tired and hungry to breakfast. As he had been on the hillside the day he fed thousands, Jesus was the host: “Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish” (21:13).
Before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus had promised to come to his disciples (John 14:18). And here he was, for a third time (21:14) — this time bringing sustenance, nourishing his disciples’ bodies.
One might see in all this a warning against overspiritualizing the Christian life. Instead of scolding his disciples for not having the faith and insight to recognize him immediately, he coyly allowed them to recognize him through his gifts. What better, more abundant, or more concrete gift of providence could there be for tired fishermen than a net full of fish? And putting those same fish to good use, he invites them into the kind of table fellowship shared by family and feeds them.
It’s a fitting reminder for those who will soon be sent out on mission. We are given work to do. But beneath that labor — which may sometimes feel like a waste of time and energy — there runs the sure current of divine providence.
And then Jesus invites us to breakfast, to fellowship, to be fed and to enjoy what grace has made of our efforts.