In N.T. Wright’s commentary on John 21:1-14, which I’m preaching on tomorrow, he notices that Jesus already has fish on the grill (see v. 9) as the disciples are bringing their miraculous catch of 153 fish to him.
But then there comes an interesting little exchange. Jesus is already cooking fish and bread on the charcoal fire. He doesn’t need their catch. He is well capable of looking after himself (though what ‘needs’ his risen body now has are past our comprehension). John, describing this scene, isn’t wasting words. He isn’t filling in time. John never pads out stories. He is telling us something, something about working under Jesus’ direction, something about the relation of our work to his.
How dreadfully easy it is for Christian workers to get the impression that we’ve got to do it all. God, we imagine, is waiting passively for us to get on with things. If we don’t organize it, it won’t happen. If we don’t tell people the good news, they won’t hear it. If we don’t change the world, it won’t be changed. ‘He has no hands but our hands’, we are sometimes told.
What a load of rubbish. Whose hands made the sun rise this morning? Whose breath guided us to think, and pray, and love, and hope? Who is the Lord of the world, anyway? We may be given the holy spirit to enable us to work for Jesus; but the holy breath is not independent of the master who breathes it out, of the sovereign God, the creator. Neither the institutional church nor its individual members can upstage him. Jesus welcomes Peter’s catch. He asks him to bring some of it. But he doesn’t, in that sense, need it.
This is a helpful insight to me, a pastor, who often feels as if the weight of the world—or at least that tiny portion of the world within a few miles’ radius of my church—is on my shoulders.
1. N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part Two (Louisville: WJK, 2004), 159-60.