Grilling Fish

The disciples don't know what to do after Easter. They know that Jesus rose from the dead. They know that he is on the loose. He came and ate a meal with them. He let Thomas stick his dirty fingers into his side. But now life is back to normal. It’s back to the grind. So the beginning of our story starts with them doing the only thing they know: they go fishing. They spend all night fishing, and they do not catch a single fish. They are tired, frustrated, and ready to go home. But a stranger on the beach calls out to them. "Try throwing the net on the other side of the boat." They give it a shot. And as luck would have it, they catch a ton of fish. And then they realize the truth. The stranger on the beach, is in fact, Jesus. Simon Peter is overcome with joy. He jumps from the boat, clothes and all. An endearing display, but not too bright, as the disciples quickly bring the boat to shore after him. I can imagine their confusion as Jesus sits down next to a fire, and starts to grill up some fish. He calls to them, "Come and have some breakfast!" But the discples do not want breakfast, they want Jesus to give them some purpose, some direction.

I go through a similar kind of confusion every year, right after Easter. We have witnessed the most powerful display of God’s love and mercy that the world has ever seen. We walked alongside Jesus as he was beaten and crucified. We sat with the Centurion at the cross. And we were at the garden, with Mary, when Jesus rose from the grave. He called our name. Everything has changed, ut it all still feels rather normal. Death has been defeated, but that was like two whole weeks ago. It doesn’t feel like Easter anymore. It feels like the normal humdrum of life. And so we pull out our reels and our tackle and we go fishing. The only thing we know. We go back to our normal, everyday lives. We all have moments in our lives where God shows up. Easter moments. Weddings. Baptisms. Birthday parties. Major accomplishments in our lives. Even tragedies can bring us close to God. But those moments don’t happen all the time. They pass. We move on. The majority of our lives are full to the brim of normal, boring, everyday things. Nothing too exciting. Nothing too tragic. Grocery shopping. Paying our taxes. Going to the gym. Making breakfast. Just like the disciples, it’s hard to feel purpose in the mundane. It’s hard to feel conviction and passion in the small things. It’s hard to feel direction and purpose when we are just living life, day to day.

And so the disciples go fishing. But Jesus shows back up, sitting next to a campfire. “Come have some breakfast.” It seems so trite. So normal. The Gospel of John is a roller coaster of miracles and signs. Political drama. Religious debates. Powerful sermons. And now, at the very end of the book, we have Jesus, just eating breakfast. Such a simple gesture, with profound implications. The Gospel of John opens with some of the most famous words in all of scripture. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John makes it clear from the get go, that Jesus is not only sent by God, but Jesus is God. In the beginning, Jesus was. In some mysterious way, Jesus formed and shaped the heavens and the earth. The mountains, the seas; the deserts, and the jungles. Jesus breathed, and out came animals and birds and all the creatures of the sea. Jesus took red dirt, and formed and shaped it into human bodies, and then breathed his own life down into them. Into us. Since Jesus is God, it makes sense that he would perform miracles. It makes sense that he would heal people, and teach, and even raise Lazarus from the grave. All of that makes sense. God is powerful. What makes far less sense, is that the God that formed the universe took the time to cook for the disciples, and then eat with them. All of that is contained within the first three verses of John’s Gospel. And now, only 21 chapters later, John has the audacity to claim that the God who created and sustains the universe takes the time to cook for the disciples. And even more incredible, the God who placed the stars in the sky, and knows each blade of grass by name, takes the time to eat with his friends. The power of food.

I grew up where BBQ was just a kind of restaurant you went to. I liked BBQ, but it was just another meal. Just some meat with sauce on it. And then I moved to the South, where BBQ is not just a meal, it’s a way of life. A year after I moved to North Carolina, I was invited to a help out with a pig pickin. I had no idea what that even was, but I liked pig, and I liked pickin, so I went. We got up at like 5am. We fired up a giant grill, and my friend dragged a 90lb pig from his trunk. He placed it on the grill, just like his father had taught him, and his father before that. Generations of pig pickins. Then we unfolded some camping chairs, and we sat and watched the pig cook. All day. Until dinner. And then we ate. On that day, I was initiated into a ritual. The altar of the grill. The communion of the pig. I was baptized with smoke and BBQ sauce. I had enjoyed meals before that day, but I had never had a religious experience eating. The time it took: all day by the grill. The sacrifice of the pig, hich, you should know, was not prepackaged in shrink wrap. It’s blank eyes stared up at me while it roasted. The conversations around the grill: normal conversations, uplifted by the prehistoric simplicity of roasting meat. And the eating: such a simple act. We need to eat to live. But we were living to eat. And boy was that pig delicious. I could taste the history, and the love. All of those things came together to tell a story. A story of passion and grace. Of community, and history, and culture. All of that came together, and I understood that eating is about far more than eating.

Jesus rose from the dead. Everything has changed, and yet, it pretty much all feels the same. The disciples don’t know what to do. They need purpose. And without them even knowing it, Jesus gives it to them. They want clear direction, but instead, Jesus does something very simple. He invites them to breakfast. As Jesus roasts fish on an open flame, he is inviting the disciples to something far greater than a meal. He is inviting them to the whole point of the Christian life. From bathing, to brushing our teeth, to paying our taxes, to roasting pigs. The God of the universe has seen fit to make all of it his. The miraculous and the ordinary. All made Holy. Life is full to the brim with banality. We spend so much time doing the routine. Sleeping. Brushing teeth. Going to the bathroom. Making beds. Washing clothes. Cooking and eating. Which means there is great hope in Jesus grilling fish. There is great power, for us, in Jesus taking the time to eat with his friends, because in that grilled fish, we discover that God takes as much joy in creating galaxies as he does in eating breakfast with you.

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