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Sunday 1 May 2022: Third Sunday of Easter

What do we do now?
John 21:1-19

By Sam Cross
Parish Priest of St Thomas, Kensal Town in the Anglican Diocese of London

Context: Main Sunday Parish Mass with an urban congregation of mixed ages and ethnicities
Aim: What do we do now that Easter has come?


He is gone. Our Lord, the saviour, the one to lead us out of oppression in this life, the one to restore us to God - He is gone. The overwhelming feeling of loss, three Sundays in, is tempered somewhat by proclamations from trusted friends that they have seen Him, spoken to Him, eaten with Him. Most of the twelve have been in the presence of a seemingly ghostly visage that appeared in a locked room. But the question remains, what do we do now? He isn’t here like He was before, everything is different, all things have changed.

The disciples are wandering around bewildered, no clue what they are to do next and like sheep without a shepherd - these men are followers, disciples and their master has left them. Peter emerges as the leader, so often he has been their mouthpiece, now he must take the mantle - and where does he lead them? Back into the mission field? Back to those who flocked to the Lord, for healing and teaching, for direction and compassion? No, Peter does what he knows best. He returns to his boat, to his former occupation, to the life he once knew seeking stability upon the waters of Galilee.

And void of any better option, the others follow. Some of them too are fishermen, for whom this path just makes sense. Others are not, they are those who have plied their trade on land, and yet, they go too. Because nothing makes sense anymore. Their very existence is utterly upturned.


They get into the boat. We are not told what preparation had to be made. Had this boat been in storage these three years? Were the nets in good order? Were the hired hands still around? The fact that these details are lacking doesn’t weaken the narrative, it simply shows how easy it was for them to turn their hand back to what they knew, to return to a life pre-call. They immediately left their boats to follow Him, and now, almost as immediate, they return to the comfort of their previously known life.

But things are different. They spend all night in the boat, casting out and pulling in, going through the usual rigmarole of fishing, hard labour, much sweating, out of practice experts with disillusioned amateurs in tow. It cannot have been easy - and their efforts are fruitless. Perhaps those three years off have robbed them of their former skill, perhaps the presence of those who have never fished held them back, perhaps their hearts were simply not in it. Whatever the cause, no fish are caught.

And then. A mysterious stranger appears on the shore. Too far away for them to see clearly, but close enough that His voice drifts across the waves. Children, He says. Not patronising them, not condescending, but in love. A paternal love, that has seen their effort and lack of result and now offers guidance. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take kindly to strangers informing me how to do my job, especially if I don’t know their experience, qualification or credential, but without argument or hesitation, they do as He suggests- casting the net on the other side - as if that might make a difference, as if fish don’t move around in the water from one side to the other, darting this way and that.

But of course, it does make a difference. The net bulges with fish. The ropes strain under the sheer volume. Every sinew of each arm heaves against the weight - and then it is clear who this stranger is as John proclaims, boldly – ‘It Is The Lord.’

It is the Lord.


Peter does not wait. There is a desperation in his action as he drops his hold on the nets, hastily undresses and dives into the water -- swimming with frantic need to reach the shore, to see Him.

A few weeks ago we walked with Christ through Holy Week and for these last weeks we have wandered with the disciples in this dazed confusion - but He has come to us, to be with us, to guide us, to love us. His death has saved the world and His resurrection has flung wide the gates of Heaven so that we too may proclaim - IT IS THE LORD.

Step out of the boat dear friends - swim frantically for the shore - and the embrace of the Lord.

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