The Breakfast Club

John 21:1-19

1 Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. This is how it happened: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.” They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus. 5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they weren’t far from shore, only about one hundred yards.

9 When they landed, they saw a fire there, with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter got up and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three of them. Yet the net hadn’t torn, even with so many fish. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples could bring themselves to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.” (CEB)

The Breakfast Club

As a child of the ‘80s, I knew the movies of John Hughes. He’s the guy who wrote the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies. He wrote, produced, or directed Sixteen Candles; Weird Science; Pretty in Pink; Ferris Beuler’s Day Off; Uncle Buck; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; and the Home Alone movies. For some reason, one of my favorites was The Breakfast Club from 1985.

Back then, I just thought it was an interesting movie. Watching it again as an adult, I thought, Wow! This really deals with a lot of stuff. When I was a kid, I had no idea how deeply the movie examines who we are and how we act as people, how we perceive and judge others at the most superficial levels without bothering to know their story.

In the movie, these five kids from different cliques are forced to spend the day together, and all kinds of craziness happens.

I imagine Jesus calling the Twelve Disciples together looked similar. You have different people with different personalities, different values, and different stories all smashed together in this ragtag band that follows Jesus around. They argue, they vie for power, they fail to understand, they disagree with each other, they get belligerent, they complain about each other, and talk behind each other’s back. It’s all the drama of high school and more (because they’re adults).

Sometimes I think the real miracle of the early Church is that Jesus was able to guide this collection of jack-wagons through the entire journey with only one of them betraying him.

I think one of the things this story highlights is the fact that the disciples were people not so different from us. After the crazy events in Jerusalem where Jesus had been crucified, raised from the dead, and appeared to the disciples twice, the disciples went back north to Galilee. To home.

The story sounds more like something people would do after a funeral than after experiencing the joy of a resurrected Jesus. They gather together in uncertainty. Finally, Peter can’t stand it anymore. He gets up and announces that he’s going fishing. None of the others know what to do either, so they say, “We’ll go with you.” After all, many of them had been fishermen prior to their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. They went back to what was familiar.

And who could blame them? The last few weeks of their lives had been overwhelming. They had experienced emotional highs and lows: from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the trial, beating, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, to their glimpses of him in the resurrection. They probably needed some time and space to sort things out. After all, their lives would never be the same. What had once been ordinary and routine would no longer be ordinary and routine. It doesn’t matter where they go, God is there before them.

The Psalmist asks the questions, “Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there, too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean—even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight!” (Psalm 139:7-10, CEB).

Wherever we go, whatever we do, God is there before us. God is there with us. Even in something as mundane as working at our occupations. The disciples fished all night. They didn’t catch a thing. But Jesus shows up on the shore and calls out to them. Jesus tends to interrupt daily life and sometimes asks us to try something different. He tells the disciples to cast their net on the other side of the boat.

Now, if I had been fishing all night and didn’t catch anything, and some dude on the shore told me the fish were hiding on the other side of the boat, I might have said something unkind to him. Strangely, the disciples don’t object. They simply cast the net on the right side of the boat and get so many fish in their net—153 to be exact—they can’t haul it in.

The disciple whom Jesus loved recognizes the person on the shore as Jesus before the others do. When Peter hears it, he throws his clothes on and dives into the water to swim ashore. John might have been the first to recognized Jesus, but Peter is the first to come to him. It’s a repeated theme. When Mary Magdalene brought the news that Jesus had been raised from the dead, John ran to the tomb and got there first. He looked inside and saw the tomb was empty. But Peter didn’t stop outside the tomb. He ran in.

Saint John Chrysostom interpreted this story allegorically. He commented, rightly, that John is usually the first to recognize Jesus. Recognition of Jesus is a necessary part of faith, but time and again, John’s recognition doesn’t turn fully into action. Peter is usually the first to act, which is also a necessity of faith, but his action isn’t always grounded in recognition. Neither understanding nor acting apart from the other counts as authentic faith. It takes both. We have to recognize and act. We have to unite in ourselves the best of Peter and the best of John to be a true person of faith.

Along those same lines, I think we can interpret this as something that points to community. We all have different gifts, different leanings, different insights, different perspectives, and even different theologies. The thing is, John and Peter needed each other. Without John’s insightful recognition, Peter might never have acted the way he did. Without Peter’s brash action, the disciples might still be staring at Jesus contemplatively from the boat.

Oh yeah. That is Jesus. I’ll be darned. Wonder what he’s cooking? Huh. How about that.

It really does take the community for us to grow into authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. Others around us see things that we don’t see. We need each other.

One of the things I enjoy about teaching confirmation classes is the discussion we have together. Each of the youth have a mentor, and they go over the lesson together sometime during the week. Their job is to take notes. Then, when we have class to go over the lesson again, each confirmand brings a unique perspective about that lesson through their conversation with their mentor.

I’ll never forget the lesson we had on God as Trinity. Part of the lesson talked about how Saint Patrick used the shamrock to teach about how God is Three and yet One. I asked the confirmands to think about what other metaphors from nature might help us understand God as Three-In-One. One youth mentioned the three primary colors. Another mentioned the three physical states of water. We talked about the potential problems with those metaphors. But my favorite one, by far, was the youth who said chicken feet. One foot. Three front toes (we ignored the toe in the back, apparently). One God. Three Persons.

We need each other. We need to value each other, including our divergent ideas, actions, and thoughts. We all come to Jesus in different ways and by different means. It’s Jesus who meets us where we are.

When the disciples finished eating the impromptu breakfast Jesus cooked for them. Jesus begins his questioning of Peter. “‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ Simon replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Jesus asked a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Simon replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ He asked a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (CEB).

Some have interpreted the three questions and answers as a kind of restoration of Peter after he denied Jesus three times. And maybe that’s right. But I think the significance lies more in what the questions and answers mean. Loving Jesus exhibits itself in caring for others. We are called to feed each other and every person we encounter with the love of Jesus Christ.

It means we look past the superficial judgments and surface first impressions. It means we take time to learn each other’s stories and love each other because of and in spite of those stories.

I think Jesus would have liked the move The Breakfast Club. Eventually, these five kids start to talk. They learn each other’s stories and, though they come from different places in life and are categorized differently by their peers, they realize they have much more in common than they assumed from their superficial judgments. So much so that they begin to see themselves in each other.

In the end, they become something like the church. The become a new community. The smart guy, Brian, writes the essay the Assistant Principal, Mr. Vernon, assigned to them. Only, he writes it for entire the group. He says, “Dear Mr. Vernon. We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

Sometimes I wonder if we are able to see each other as well as they saw one another. Do we even bother trying to see past our own judgments? I think Jesus would have liked The Breakfast Club. It’s the kind of community we’re called to be.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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