Editor’s Note: Post originally published May 9th, 2017.
Whenever someone utters the words “breakfast” and “Sunday mornings” together, I immediately picture sizzling bacon, fresh orange juice, crisp toast covered in butter or jelly, and chocolate covered, glazed, or cake donuts. Besides the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, the reason I bring this topic up is because I was reading through John’s Gospel and I came across a peculiar event that I never truly paid attention to—Jesus grilling!
The Symbolism of Jesus Grilling Fish: A Deeper Look at John 21:1-14
According to John 21:1-14, Jesus appeared to the apostles at the Sea of Tiberias and he is watching them fish. Whether the fourth gospel writer intended to or not I think it is interesting that the miracle of the great catch of fish mirrors a similar miraculous haul in Luke 5:1-11. In John’s version, Peter and the other disciples do not initially recognize Jesus, while in Luke’s account, Jesus had already chosen the apostles.
I believe Jesus’ post-Resurrection miracle in John is a perfected version of the Lucan fish phenomenon because according to Luke 5:6 the apostles nets started to tear in contrast to John 21:11 which states, “So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.”
Upon the apostles arrival at the shore, Jesus says, “Come, have breakfast (John 21:12). With these words the apostles recognized the identity of Jesus. Along with the fish, Jesus took the bread and gave it to them as well. Together with the Emmaus episode in Luke 24:13-35 the taking of bread is a sign of the celebration of the Eucharist!
The Meaning of the 153 Fish Caught
Upon rereading the previous verses about the 153 fish caught, I discovered that this number represents the apostles’ universal mission, according to commentary. St. Jerome claimed that Greek zoologists catalogued 153 species of fish, and John uses fish to symbolize men. This realization highlights our calling to bring lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics to Christ. The apostles’ catch of 153 fish represents bringing all types of men to Jesus. We can only partake of the Eucharistic food after we reconcile with the rest of humanity. Like the apostles we’re invited to a morning meal (in the form of the Mass) with Jesus after their symbolic haul of humanity.
God appears to us in peculiar ways so the next time I am eating breakfast on Sunday morning, maybe I will suggest grilled fish to my wife [we recently bought an outdoor grill]! Be always open to God’s plan no matter how fishy it sounds…or smells.