The restoring Jesus What Scripture brings into the room
This chapter continues to develop the practical Christology—the restoring Jesus—for pastoral supervision grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christology presented in this chapter and the next utilises a passage from John’s gospel (Jn. 21:4-19) which has a parallel in Luke Chapter 5 (the significant Christological differences are addressed later). Following the previous two chapters (6 and 7)—the remembering Jesus—the practical Christology of the restoring Jesus in Chapters 8 and 9 is developed via James McClendon’s risen Christ. Shaped by the theology and practice of the radical reformation, McClendon’s Christ is both risen and reconciling, which then animates three theologically shaped practices: calling, convicting, and contending.
Restoring Jesus: John 21:4-19 (and Luke 5:1-11)
Peter’s reconciling encounter with the risen Jesus on the beach foreshadows the most defining restorative moment in the New Testament: Paul on the Damascus Road. It is hardly surprising the biblical accounts remember the detail, drama, and lively dialogue in these resurrection appearances—three times in Acts (9,22, and 26) for the Damascus Road. Raymond Brown cites Dodd, approvingly listing ‘John 21:1-14 as an obvious example .. . with an abundance of detail, drama, and lively dialogue where “the centre of interest is the recognition of the risen Lord, but here the recognition is not immediate but spread over an appreciable period’”.1 McClendon describes
this newer strand of Lukan exegesis is represented for us here by Swiss New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer in his commentary on Luke’s Gospel (1984). . . did indeed see history continuing after Christ’s resurrection as before, but not continuing the same. Easter had changed the story of human morality; it had instated a new order. The post resurrection disciples were not to carry on as before.2
The necessity of the apostle Peter’s need for repentance is dramatised by the sequence of geographical locations: from a courtyard fire occasioning a three-time denial of Christ, to a beachside fire occasioning a three-time reinstatement by Christ. According to the gospel of John, this event occurs after the resurrection of Christ: a restoring, call-renewing narrative. According to Luke’s account, it occurred at the beginning of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ: a calling narrative. The scholarship on these two passages has focussed on their similarity and independence and wonders if they narrate the one event. Those debates confirm the approach I am adopting here that they cannot be understood independently from each other, an approach that dates back to Augustine.3 Brown interprets John 21 as ‘narrating] the commissioning of apostles to the work of evangelism’ and in that way ‘the narrative recalls Luke 5:1-11 (a miraculous catch of fish, but not a resurrection appearance) and may in fact be an allegorical interpretation of the incident’.4 The deeper theological connection between the two accounts is found, according to Brown, in ‘the expression “Jesus revealed himself” in vss. 1 and 14, which creates a bond between the activity of the risen Jesus and the Jesus of the ministry’.5
The restoring Jesus revealing himself to the apostle Peter begins around the fire in disillusionment and despair. As in the Emmaus story, Jesus’ death on a cross forces the disciples back to what they knew (fishing) and what was familiar (boats and lakes). According to Luke, locating the story at the start of Jesus’ public ministry means it functions as a call narrative. As in the garden account in Luke 22:39-53, the crisis of Jesus’ suffering and death becomes a zone of forgetting for Peter and the disciples.
McClendon notes the importance of the resurrection for the Christology of the restoring Jesus:
The narrative that identifies Jesus is radically incomplete apart from the resurrection that opens that story to us: Christ is raised; therefore we too can know him; therefore the gospel is good news to us. And that resurrection, as we have seen, is nothing less than God’s (reidentification of the entire earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, from conception to its last breath, with God’s own immortal life.6
The restoring Jesus reveals failings and failure, relationally
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
The immediate context for Peter’s encounter with the risen Jesus is the failure, retreat, and disappointment of the previous days.7 Peter’s confession of Christ attested in three of the four gospels (Lk. 9:18-21; Mk. 8:27-30; Jn.6:67-71), viewed through a relational lens, can be summarised as allegiance to Jesus; acceptance of his calling; and authentication of his leadership
The restoring Jesus: Scripture 103 role among the Twelve. Peter’s courtyard denial, attested by all four gospels (Lk. 22:56-62; Matt. 26:69-75; Mk. 14:66-72; and Jn. 18:25-27), must be understood relationally. More than just personal failure or a crisis of faith, the courtyard denial is a denial of those relationships: disloyalty to Jesus; denouncing his calling; and defecting from the Twelve. The restoring Jesus confronts these various failures relationally and conversationally.8 Pastoral supervision is defined by genuine mutual regard and is essential to restorative conversations because they enable us to remember the past truthfully. What was the relational failure of the apostle Peter that must be named and forgiven? In the courtyard, Peter, by reversing his previous confession of Christ (Mk. 8:21), failed in his allegiance to Jesus. Peter, abandoning his calling as a disciple of Christ, returns to fishing for mere fish (Mk. 21:3). Peter, leader of the Twelve (‘I am going fishing’), continues to exert power and influence over the entire group (‘We will go . . .’). As well as a threefold denial in the courtyard, a threefold dimension to this failure can be added: the failure of loyalty, the failure of vocation, and the failure of leadership. These failures are common in the supervision room but are difficult to name for those with a pastoral calling. Compliance highlights the rules infringed and not the relationships impacted and, on its own, cannot enable vocational faithfulness. The temptation for church bodies focussed on mere compliance is to deny or dismiss the relational harm caused by such failures, which is to remember untruthfully (see the following section and the role of confession in restorative conversations).