The Tenth (10th) Eothinon (Morning Orthros Gospel Reading)
Sermon delivered April 11, 2010
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Xristos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! This greeting we exchange during the time of Pascha, the forty day period after the Resurrection of Christ which we began celebrating last Sunday. Because of the grand significance of the Feasts of Palm Sunday and Pascha, we took a break from our sermon series on the Eleven Eothina or Sunday Orthros Gospel readings. We left off after covering the Eighth on March 21st. So that brings us to the Ninth.
However, when Pascha occurs, the cycle starts over the next Sunday on Antipascha, commonly known as Thomas Sunday, which is today. Thus, we read the First Eothinon in this morning’s Orthros service. Now, coincidentaly, the Ninth Eothinon is exactly the same reading for the Liturgy of today’s Feast—Antipascha. It is also the reading for the Agape Vespers service of last Sunday when, according to Tradition, it was read in several languages. Therefore, we are going to jump to the Tenth Eothinon for today’s sermon. That means next week will be our last segment in the sermon series on the Eleven Eothina.
Let us read and hear the Tenth Eothinon John 21:1-14:
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.
The first thing I would like to call our attention to in today’s passage is that “Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples” (v.1). In this series on the Eothina, which are all accounts of Jesus’ appearances after His Resurrection, we should have learned that Christ Himself, not the disciples nor us His modern day followers, chooses how, when and to whom He will reveal Himself. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have some control over this dynamic.
For instance, we may think that as soon as we start praying, we should actually see the risen Christ or that we should see Him as soon as we go to liturgy or do a good deed. As I’m sure most of us know by know, this is not how it works. Yet, it is this faulty thinking that causes us to despair because in our society, we are quite used to getting what we want, when we want it. We can only try, as best we can, to follow the Lord’s commandments and teachings, and then, wait patiently for Him to appear, knowing that He may not appear but trusting that He knows what’s best for us.
The second lesson for us in this passage is this: After Jesus appeared to the disciples, standing on the shore, “they did not know that it was Jesus” (v.4). In other words, when Jesus chooses to appear we better be ready to recognize Him as Lord and God. Otherwise, we can miss, as they say, an opportunity of a lifetime.
This works in two ways. First, like many of the Jewish authorities of Jesus time, even though they heard Him teach, saw Him perform miracles and heal the sick, they did not see Jesus as the true Messiah of God. Thus, a faith in God, that is based on a sincere search for truth, not colored by our own false beliefs and immature expectations, is necessary to see Christ when He is in our midst.
Secondly, like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, although we sense something special is happening at the time, it is not until after serious reflection that we realize indeed, the risen Christ was present with us.
The third and final lesson is this: When the disciples brought their boat ashore, Jesus “took the bread and gave it to them and likewise the fish” (v.13). This should sound familiar to us because it is just like the Feeding of the 5,000 in the wilderness where Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes as recounted earlier in John 6:1-14 and also in Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44 and Luke 9:10-17. The Fathers and Saints of the Church interpret that event as a prefiguring of the Eucharist—the heavenly and eternal event of the Lord’s Supper in which Jesus gives His body and blood as food for everlasting life.
So, yet again, just like Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Fifth Eothinon, Lk.24:12-35), the Evangelist and the Orthodox Church are teaching us that the experience of the risen Christ begins in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the reception of the Eucharist. In today’s Gospel of the Liturgy, Christ invited Thomas to place his hand in the open wound where blood and water spilled from. Likewise, Jesus invites us every Sunday to touch His wounded but risen body and blood by receiving Holy Communion for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews is the pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fr. Andrews is the past president of Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), and a volunteer chaplain with the St. Paul Police Department.