When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. – John 21:9-14
Diane Ackerman is an poet and author writes, “Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” Or, we might add, a charcoal fire, and a cold courtyard and a young girl who asks Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” (cf. John 18:17-18).
I wonder if Peter knew it was coming. Did he suspect that Jesus would ask him about that night? That will come later. At this point, there is simply a large haul of fish, an invitation to breakfast, and a group of disciples too afraid to ask if it was really Jesus. This is the third time Jesus reveals himself to his disciples.
John includes the curious observation that “none of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.” The mystery is solved in the next moments, but the question remains: Why does John tell us this? Is he merely observing that the disciples are being circumspect? Is he pointing out that Peter is not his usual foot-in-mouth self?
As the story unfolds – even this small part of it – we begin to see that Jesus is in full control. The agenda is his. Not only has he provided a remarkable catch of fish, he has built a fire. He has cooked breakfast. He has set the stage for what will follow.
This is the third time Jesus appears to his disciples. Another series of three will soon unfold. For now, however, we can simply take to heart that Jesus is in control of every situation. And what he will do will serve ultimately for our good and his glory.