One of the enduring themes of the Gospels is the degree to which the disciples misunderstand Jesus. Mark makes this a major theme in his work, pointing out time and again that the apostles are unable to grasp the truth of who Jesus is, again and again. At times we, as readers, become exasperated by their blockheadedness , for it seems to obvious to us.
Yet, we fail I think to recognize what it must have been like for them. Even in a culture steeped in some serious measure of mysticism, the things Jesus said and did, were beyond they own experiences. Is it so hard to imagine why they found it so difficult to gather in and process the true magnitude of what they were experiencing?
In today’s Sunday readings we have but another case of Jesus having to explain the obvious. The disciples, are out fishing, and the catch has been nil. They hear a voice asking, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
Now, who else would be calling them children? And surely they were not fishing for food to eat, for the lot of them were not necessary for that task. Yet, John claims that they did not recognize Jesus.
This might be explainable if this was their first encounter with Christ after his death, but John points out at the end of the first section of this reading that it was their third such meeting with the Risen Lord.
Jesus instructs them to cast their nets on the far side of the boat. This they do, even though as of yet, they have no idea who has given the order. It falls to the “disciple whom Jesus loved” to identify him. Peter in his exuberance, plunges into the waters and swims ashore, only to find Jesus tending the fire and cooking fish!
The rest come ashore with their massive catch, and come to eat.
Now John relates the most amazing statement of all: “None of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you’, because they recognized it was the Lord.”
What in the world is going on here? They have seen the Risen Lord twice before. The beloved disciple announces that it is Jesus. Peter, so excited, swims to shore ahead of the boat in order to see Jesus, and they are afraid to ask, “who are you?”
It is one of those mysterious statements that confound us. What is meant here?
I suggest that it relates not at all to the actual mechanics of facial recognition, but rather the continuing fog that seems to envelope this group of men and women when faced with what can only be a supernatural event.
They keep having this “vision” of the man they have lived with intimately for three years. They had ate and slept with him, traveled the roads with him, listened to him preach. They had seem him joyous, sad, pensive, angry, all the emotions that they were prone to. He had become all too human to them, albeit he was strange in his talking and behaving at times. He had bled on the cross and he had died. He did what any human would do.
Yet, in their sorrow and confusion about what to “do now”, they kept having these experiences of him. He was there, and then not there. He spoke, he was “touchable”. Yet suddenly he was gone again. They whispered among themselves, reassuring each other that they had in fact all felt his presence, yet all too soon, things returned to normal.
Imagine in those moments of his presence–how everything must have become surreal–the air must have shimmered, the smells sharp and piercing, the sounds muted, echoing, searing the mind. And then suddenly, as if in a second, a shudder passes over the landscape and all returns to normal. The room is stifling hot, the odors of animals and human sweat return, the cacophony of human transactions outside, the dust.
From a moment of euphoria, suddenly the stark reality of nothing has changed, returns. They try to reassure each other that what transpired was real, but as we learned last week, they could not convince even Thomas of the first encounter. And slowly their minds convince them that it was not really real at all, but figments of their desires and pain.
By this third encounter, this one where Jesus eats with them in such a normal human fashion, their perplexity once again rushes at them. This is the Lord they are convinced. But he is not as before. Who and more importantly what is he? Who is this man/God who disrupts them again and again, refusing to leave them in their grief and desire to just get back to life as they knew it before Him.
Who is this Man?
Each of us is called upon to lose our complacency of who Jesus is.
Each of us is called to ponder more and more deeply what this Jesus is.
Each of us is called to decide how this realization changes us, and changes everything about our lives.
Are we not all continually asking “who is he?”
Our answers, as we journey along will change, grow, and develop. That is what conversion is, a continually evolving thing.
That is what the disciples were learning in those days following the crucifixion.
- Waiting With an Empty Net (fullofrosesinspirationals.wordpress.com)
- Todays reflections 13th April 2013 (mumbailaity.wordpress.com)