Bible passage: John 21 v 1-19
Sit lightly to things
The theme to be explored in this study is the Biblical call to sit lightly to things that we might naturally wish to grasp in an attempt to give ourselves a sense of stability and security, or legacy and immortality. This requires us to get our priorities straight and, in the light of Christ and his kingdom, to focus on what is essential at any one time.
Before reading the Bible passage(s) your group may find it helpful to look at this painting by William Turner, called The ‘Fighting Temeraire’ Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up, which dates from 1838.
Notes on the painting
1After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.3Simon 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.
4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He 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. 7That 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. 8But 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. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So 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.
12Jesus 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. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
- What is behind Peter’s decision to go fishing (v3)?
- The whole story points back to earlier events. How many can you identify?
- Why do you think John draws out these earlier connections?
- What is Peter being asked to let go of here? What is driving him forward (see John 6v66-69)?
- Jesus himself is letting go here. What does he have to say goodbye to and how does he do this?
- What can this passage tell us about making good endings?
Here are four passages in addition to the main one above. You could have a one-off study on a single passage, a series using all five passages, or break up a larger group into small subgroups to look at one passage each and then come back to share common themes. Click on the texts to find the suggested questions.
- In this passage Paul is exhorting his readers to imitate Jesus in his act of letting go of his entitlement and status and taking on the lowliest of human forms. How did Jesus show this in his life? How did he show it in his death? How are the two connected?
- Unlike Jesus, we are not divine. What are we asked to let go of?
- What are the things that are most difficult for you to let go of? What does that tell you about yourself?
- In talking of the ‘mind’ Paul seems to be saying that our attitude is at least as much as our behaviour. How might a ‘letting go’ attitude be life-giving for us?
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