Seven disciples. 153 fish. 100 yards. A naked Peter. A charcoal fire. Fresh baked bread. There is a lot of specificity in the Gospel lesson appointed for Sunday. Of the very few resurrection appearance stories we have in Scripture, this one from John 21 is probably the least well known. Perhaps it is because many scholars think it to be an appendix slapped on to the end of an otherwise pretty tight Gospel. Maybe we skip past it to get to the restoration of Peter after his three-time denial in the hopes of making sure we too are included in those who are saved. I’m not sure why I haven’t paid much attention to this story in years past, but this afternoon, I’m struck by just how oddly specific it is.
As I ponder the details given in the story, I’m struggling with a battle between two parts of my brain. The cynical side says that whoever wrote this story included these details in order to make sure that it would be considered authentic and be included in the canon of John’s Gospel. The other side rejoices in the details because I can better find my place in a story full of details. I can see the fish pulling at the net. I can ignore the naked Peter. I can smell the bread baking over the charcoal fire. I can be there because of the details, which makes this resurrection story come alive for me in ways that are different than other stories that get included in the Gospel accounts.
If I were preaching, I might consider inviting my congregation to enter the story with me: to imagine where they might be in the story. Are they exhausted from a night of fishing and left to deal with the 153 fish? Do they feel the cool water as they swim to shore? Are they sitting at Jesus’ feet? Where does the story come alive for you?