By Pastor Glenn Pease
The Bible says God's mercies are new every morning, and the result is that many of His blessings have come to His people at breakfast. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, tells of this event in his life as he prepared to go to China. When he got to China he knew he would have to depend upon God alone, and so he began to practice while yet in England. He decided that he would move man through God by prayer alone. He worked for a man who needed to be reminded every time his salary was due. Taylor was determined to trust God to move him and not do so directly. He began to pray for God to bring this need to his employer's mind. The time came for his quarterly salary, but Dr. Harley made no mention of the matter. As the day passed, Taylor prayed without ceasing until finally he was down to one coin that was worth about one dollar.
On Sunday he had a full day of Christian service, and after the last service at about 10 at night a poor man asked him to come and pray for his wife who was dying. The man was a Catholic and so he asked him why he did not send for a priest. The man explained that he had, but the priest would not come without a payment of 18 pence which the man did not possess. That reminded Taylor of just how poor he was also at that point. His last coin was in his pocket and all he had at home was some water-gruel for breakfast. He had nothing for dinner the next day. He thought how gladly would I give something to these poor people if I only had more, but to part with his last coin was not even thinkable. When he got to the home he saw a miserable and wretched sight with five children with sunken cheeks. They were slowly starving, and there was the poor exhausted mother lying on a pallet.
He began to struggle with himself. He tried to offer words of comfort, but inside he was calling himself a hypocrite, for he was telling them to trust God, but he would not trust God alone. He was clinging to that last coin as if that was his only hope. He prayed and rose to leave. The father said, "You see the terrible state we are in. If you can help us, for God's sake do!" At that moment the word flashed into his mind, "Give to him that asketh of thee." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his last coin and gave it to the man. Joy flooded his heart, and he was again on track of trusting God alone and not God plus a coin. He walked home rejoicing, and that night he reminded the Lord of His Word which said, "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord." He asked God to not let his loan be a long one for he had no dinner for the next day.
The next morning he rose and sat down to eat his last plate of porridge. While he was consuming this final bit of food, there was a knock at the door. It was the postman with a very unusual Monday morning delivery. When he opened the letter he found a blank piece of paper out of which fell half a sovereign. He writes, "Praise the Lord," I exclaimed, "Four hundred per cent for a 12 hour investment." This was not the end of the story for he did get his salary also in answer to prayer, but this blessing at breakfast so convinced Taylor that he could trust God alone to meet his every need that he went on to start the greatest missionary movement in the history of China. That breakfast was the beginning of a great movement in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Jesus loves to do some great things at breakfast. As we focus our attention on the beautiful breakfast on the beach in John's Gospel, let us keep in mind that it was indeed the last breakfast. We hear much of the last supper, but here was the last breakfast that Jesus had with His disciples, as far as the record of the Bible reveals. It was also a breakfast of beginnings, for Jesus here taught the disciples the same lesson Hudson Taylor needed to learn. He taught them that He can supply their every need, so they are to follow Him and fish for men, and trust in Him alone. This breakfast was also the beginning of a great missionary movement. The movement that began the history of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Many great movements begin with decisions made around a meal. Here is one of the greatest ever to begin at a breakfast. Breakfast is the most unsociable of all meals. How often do you have people over for breakfast? It is the least elaborate and most monotonous of meals, and yet many experts say it is the key meal of the day. There are even poets who will rank it the number one meal for pure pleasure.
Dinner may be pleasant,
So my social tea;
But yet methinks that breakfast
Is best of all the three.
Irvin S. Cobb said, "Next to the Magna Carta, and Englishman's breakfast is his most sacred right."
Since the Jews generally ate only two meals a day it is likely they felt quite strong about their breakfast also, and especially after working all night, as did the disciples in this context. This last breakfast was nothing elaborate, but it is the most mouth watering meal described in the life of Christ and His disciples. It is of interest to note how often food is involved in the resurrection appearances of Jesus. In Luke 24:30 we read of how He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to the two companions He had met on the road to Emmaus. They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
Later that night Jesus appeared to the disciples and in Luke 24:41-43 we read, "He said to them, have you anything here to eat? They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them." In both of these references we see Jesus at an evening meal, and this last one was more like a midnight snack of left over fish. But when we come to this last breakfast we get details like no where else in the Gospels. Verse 9 shows us a charcoal fire on the beach with fish frying on it and bread being toasted. If you have ever been camping you know the appetite that the open air develops. You can just imagine what a sight and smell that was to those hungry fishermen.
Jesus knew they would be hungry, and so He prepared this delicious fish breakfast. Fish for breakfast is not very common for most of us, but a study of history, and books on nutrition, reveal that Jesus was a very wise cook. He may have done this often for His disciples in that He was a early riser. We only have this one record, however, and we see Jesus making fish for breakfast. Helen Brown, a breakfast expert, says that for a good protein diet the American people should have fish for breakfast. The early Americans did. The early presidents had cod fish cakes for breakfast. In 1888 a nutrition expert, Thomas Murrey, wrote, "Would it not be beneficial were the average American to substitute fish for the everlasting steak and chops of a breakfast table." Jesus, of course, did not have the choices of cereal or eggs and bacon. He used what was common every day food of that day.
The point that most expositors focus on here is the identification of the risen Christ with our humanity. We do not see Jesus anywhere in His earthly ministry more involved in the common place realty of everyday life than we see Him here as He cooks breakfast. He has just demonstrated that it is He and not the mythological god Neptune who controls the sea. He is the one who got them a great catch of fish, and yet in spite of being the Lord of all nature He stoops to serve human nature by cooking breakfast for His disciples. The Lord's supper was prepared by others, but the Lord's breakfast is really just that, it is the Lord's breakfast that He prepared Himself. This is the only men's breakfast we read about in the Bible, and the Lord of the universe is both the host and the cook.
The incongruity of what was happening was hard for the disciples to adjust to. The paradox of the King of Kings frying fish for these grimy fishermen was more than they could cope with. Verse 12 reveals the confusion of their minds. None dare ask Him who are you? They knew it was the Lord, they knew, yet it didn't seem possible, and so they questioned the reality of what they were experiencing. For Jesus to appear in the upper room and show His nail-pierced hands made sense. That was a place of sacred memory for them all. To appear in the garden to Mary was a beautiful and logical appearance. Had Jesus come in the clouds they would have shouted for joy. But now they come ashore and discover the Lord busy around a camp fire cooking them breakfast, and they were puzzled.
There was no parable coming from His mouth. No profound theological dissertation was on His lips. His only words were, "Come and get it." It was also commonplace they just could not recognize how their risen Lord fit into this role He was playing. What did Jesus do after He conquered man's greatest enemy? What did He do after He rose victorious as Lord of all time and eternity? He fixed breakfast for His disciples. Jesus was going from the marvelous to the mini; from the tremendous to the trivial; from the magnificent to the mediocre. John ends His Gospel by telling us that Jesus did so many other things that the world could not hold all the books if they were all written down. Yet, with all that material to select from, he chose to end his Gospel with the risen Lord making breakfast on the beach. There has got to be profound implications in this breakfast.
I am convinced that the purpose of it is to make clear that though Jesus is ascended to the right hand of the Father, He is still one of us. The humanity of Jesus survived death as well as His deity. He still enjoyed the common pleasures of life like fishing, and eating breakfast in the open air. This closing chapter of John should impress us on how much Jesus loves the commonplace realty of our humanity. It also supports those who believe that in the eternal kingdom the redeemed will continue to enjoy many of the common pleasures of this life. Commonness was the great note of the incarnation. His birth was as common and as earthly as that of any fisherman. His ministry was preceded by His working with the commonplace tools of the carpenter. During His ministry He lived and labored among the common people. All His life Jesus was the Christ of the common people.
John is in this last chapter making sure that Jesus does not lose that identity with the common people because of the reality of His resurrection, and departure into the realm of the spirit. It is possible to so exalt Jesus that we remove Him from involvement with our everyday lives. This last breakfast helps prevent us from that mistake. This last breakfast should play a greater role in our lives than Christians have allowed it to be historically. We have the church of the resurrection; the church of the ascension, and the church of the transfiguration. They all capitalize on the supernatural events in the life of Jesus. But where is the church of the bread and fish? Where is the church of the charcoal, or the church of Christ the cook? Nobody builds temples to the commonplace. Peter on the Mr. of Transfiguration wanted to build three tabernacles, but no such impulse came over him on the beach.
It is a universal aspect of human nature, for we are motivated by the spectacular, but we tend to miss the joy and meaning of the commonplace. Because of this we miss much of the fellowship we ought to have with our Lord, for He is ever present in the everyday events of life, and not just the spectacular events. John 21 is a commentary on the Great Commission promise, "Low I am with you always." This means, not just in crusades and revivals, but at breakfast. G. Campbell Morgan, the prince of expositors, feels we have missed a vital truth taught by this last breakfast. We feel we must put a gap between breakfast and spiritual work, or some gulf between fishing on Saturday and worshiping on Sunday. Morgan says we fail to see the fullness of the Gospel until we see the unity of the sacred and the secular. He said in a sermon to mothers and wives,
...When tomorrow morning you are up laying a fire,
preparing a breakfast, remember that the Lord of
glory built a fire and cooked a breakfast. This is a
wonderful sanctification of life; this is an illuminating
glory that transfigures the commonplace and makes it
special. Let us cancel the word "Secular," or at least
some of our uses of it. There is nothing secular. Our
Lord transmuted the commonplace, base metal, and
made it the fine gold of the sanctuary of God, when He
prepared that breakfast and waited upon those hungry
If you doubt whether Jesus cares about the ultimate values of life and your forgiveness and cleansing from sin, remember the Lord's Supper. But when you doubt that Jesus is concerned about the routine commonplace everyday needs of life, remember the last breakfast.