The mystery of the Resurrection cannot be understood by the intellect or empirically explained.

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:27-32, 40B-41

When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

Revelation 5:11-14

I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

John 21:1-19

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

A lot of ink has been spilled on today’s Gospel reading. Starting from the disciples’ failed attempt of fishing to their miraculous haul, the exact counting of the catch, the breakfast that Jesus prepared, the three questions posed to Peter and the three commands of Jesus, the whole episode was filled with theological color. In light of the many exegeses which have provided a good comprehension of the text, today I would like to highlight only one area.

It is the mysteriousness of Jesus’ appearance. Pope Benedict XVI in his book, Jesus of Nazareth (Holy Week), has dealt with this point quite extensively. Careful reading of the text reveals the “special mysterious nature of the risen Lord’s new existence” (P. 266). Together with the other “appearance” accounts, this one vividly displayed many loose ends. Apart from the practical questions of how did Jesus come and where did He get the fish and bread, the mysteriousness comes from His non recognition by the disciples. “None of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). It must have been ineffable for the disciples to comprehend the totally new experience of Jesus’ presence and therefore they did not dare to ask. He was of “real physicality” but “not bound by physical laws”. He was both the “same embodied man” and “a new man embodied in a new way” (P.266, 268). According to Pope Benedict XVI, these loose ends were the proofs of the veracity of the resurrected Lord (P. 266-267). If the Resurrection story was invented, it would have been patched up nicely to make it more believable. It was with such originality that the text bore witness to this real encounter (cf P.275).

I would say that this mysteriousness is important not so much for its theological implication but more for our faith. The risen Lord was definitely not a ghost (spirit) for He had a body (cf Lk 24:39-43; Jn 20:27) and yet was freed from bodily constraints (cf Lk 24:31, 36; Jn 20:19, 26). His coming back from the dead was not something eerie or a paranormal phenomenon but “a new dimension of human existence” (P.274) that cannot be understood by the intellect or empirically explained. “Since we ourselves have no experience of such a renewed and transformed……….kind of life” (P.274), it is only with and through faith that we can come to accept the reality of this unthinkable event and not only accept, but believe that this new kind of life, brought about by Jesus, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20-23), has been made possible for us.

Posted: April 10, 2016

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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