Recently my Bible reading plan took me through John 21. As I closed out the fourth gospel, I was struck by the kindness of Jesus. This chapter details one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to a group of disciples who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (aka, the Sea of Galilee). This group of men included Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two other unnamed disciples (John 21:2).
There are some interesting details in the story, including the very specific number of 153 large fish that the disciples caught, the impulsive behavior of Peter who jumped into the lake to get to Jesus, and the fact that Jesus prepared breakfast for these disciples on the beach. All of these details are worthy of consideration and meditation, but the part of this story that struck me this week was the gracious, merciful, generous kindness of Jesus.
For starters, consider the fact that the Maker of the universe, the One who spoke the cosmos into existence was on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias making a charcoal fire and making breakfast for his disciples. Additionally, remind yourself of the events surrounding Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. In Jesus’ moment of greatest distress, the disciples were sound asleep under a canopy of olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus was arrested by a Judas-led mob, the disciples all turned tail and ran for their own lives leaving Jesus alone. During Jesus’ trial, his most confident disciple was calling down curses and insisting that he had never met Jesus of Nazareth. Even after the resurrection, Thomas was incredulous, insisting that he would not believe Jesus was alive without solid proof.
After all of that pain and hurt, what was Jesus doing as the disciples lugged in 153 fish from the sea? Was he making a list of all their failures? Was he staring at them with arms crossed and brow furrowed? Was he trying to shame them into feeling bad about all of their sins? No, no, and no. Instead, Jesus was building a charcoal fire and cooking fish for breakfast.
I hope you can feel the weight of this kindness, and I pray that you know Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus is not cranky, bad-tempered, irritable, or curmudgeony. Jesus doesn’t wallow in bitterness and anger, nor does he hold a grudge. Jesus is not mean or harsh with his people. Jesus knew you were a sinner when he joyfully went to the cross and endured its shame for you. If you are a believer, Jesus knows you’re still battling indwelling sin as you seek to grow as a Christian. Jesus is still kind to undeserving sinners.
Odds are, Jesus isn’t going to tell you where to catch 153 large fish. And, Jesus likely won’t be in your kitchen tomorrow morning making pancakes. But, Jesus is still kind. He is still merciful. He is still gracious. He still delights in serving and saving sinners.