I love James Tissot’s paintings of biblical scenes. I know their Victorian realism distorts what the original scene might have been, but the details are mesmerizing. Here in this depiction of the post-resurrection appearance on the shore of Lake Tiberias, the homeyness of the charcoal fire and Jesus waving to his friends conveys the normalcy of the fishing trip and the meal on the beach. The happiness with which the friends greet each other, and Jesus’ fishing advice do the same. But then there is the incredible haul of fish—and the truth they are afraid to speak, that this is Jesus, who was dead and now alive—that are not normal at all. We are living in strange times right now: it is a beautiful spring, life goes on in its dailiness, but the world has changed in profound and life-altering ways. The way we lived before will not be the way we live for the foreseeable future—or ever again. What does the resurrection story in its fullness offer us as hope and encouragement in our present moment? How is Jesus present with us now, and what does he give us, that he also gave to his first disciples, to help us keep going?
The Holy Gospel John 21:1-14
Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Christ Appears on the Shore of Lake Tiberias
Opaque watercolor over graphite
James Tissot 1886-1894