Discouraged and Looking For Comfort
At Mensa Christi, the beautiful spot on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus met the Disciples after His resurrection and made them an early morning breakfast, there is a plaque from Luke 5: 5, “At Thy word I will let down the net” which summarizes the early faith and obedience of Simon Peter. However, in the Gospel account of John, chapter 21, at the end of Christ’s ministry, it is here that we find a very discouraged group of Disciples, including Peter, who have returned to Galilee and the poignant, bittersweet comfort of memories of earlier times with Jesus. While fishing on this particular night, according to John’s account, they had not caught anything, which in itself is amazing, because on the Sea of Galilee, the fish jump right out of the water, with splash after splash, from dusk to dawn. An experience that amazes everyone as they stand on these very shores when visiting the Holy Land.
A Fishing Lesson
After Jesus called to the Disciples and told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, they pulled up an unbelievable catch! Peter, always impetuous, jumped into the water and swam the hundred years in record time… he should have been in the Olympics! The others came to shore a little more sedately, dragging the loaded net after them because it was too heavy to lift into the boat. John’s account tells us that after breakfast, Jesus and Peter took a walk along the shore of the lake with John following behind. It is during this walk, when Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him.
Scholars have debated for centuries about why Jesus asked the question three times. Was it because Peter denied Him three times? Is it because there are three kinds of love? The same scholars have debated over the exact number of fish noted in the account, 153?? Various theories have been discussed, from the number of species of fish found in the lake to the number of languages spoken across the world. In the end, they may all be right, only God knows! But let’s not stumble or get stuck on these details, what we should find encouraging is that Peter, human and with faults just like ours, is reconciled to his Savior.
Who Came Looking For Who?
Even more wonderful is the answer to the question, “Who came looking for who?” Peter, wanting comfort and familiarity, had gone back to being a fisherman, the profession he was in before the Lord called him to be a “fisher of men.” Even though we read in the Gospel accounts that after His resurrection Jesus appeared to the Disciples three times before this particular one, Peter decided to return to his former profession and we could make the case from his actions that he thought he was unworthy to continue being a disciple of Jesus. Yes, Jesus had sent word to the Disciples to meet Him in Galilee but He never said stop being a disciple. Why wasn’t Peter out telling everyone that Jesus had risen? Ask yourself, why do you lose faith and stop professing Jesus Christ as your Lord when you are discouraged or think you have made too large of a mistake to be of use to Christ anymore? When your world seems to close in and you cannot seem to fight your way out of the darkness? We are not different from Peter, but if we are discerning and truthful we will find that Jesus actively comes looking for us. It may be through a friend who has an encouraging word, a Bible passage we read as we struggle to come out of our darkness, a praise song or Hymn that comes into our mind, an “out-of-the-blue” phone call, email or letter. It doesn’t matter how, what matters is that Jesus comes looking for us, just like He came looking for Peter.
What To See At Mensa Christi
A Mensa Christi, in addition to the Luke 5: 5 plaque mentioned above, there is a beautiful Franciscan church, built in 1933, which is constructed over two earlier churches from the 4th and 5th centuries. Egeria, the Spanish Nun, who traveled through the Holy Land around 380 AD, confirms in her account that the Mensa Christi site is where Jesus met His Disciples after His resurrection. In addition, a 10th or 11th century text confirms that Queen Helena also visited this site during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and had a church built, one of several in the Holy Land commemorating Christ’s life and ministry.
Excavations of the area began in 1968 and confirm the ruins of the early churches, which are built over the rock believed to be the one where Jesus cooked breakfast for the Disciples. The early churches were known by several names, including Mensa Domini, Tabula Domini, The church of the Twelve Thrones, and Church of the Charcoal Fire. Both the early churches survived until the 1200s, the longest of any churches in the area. Outside the church on the shoreline are six heart-shaped rocks that call us to remember the twelve Disciples. Occasionally the rocks are submerged and not visible due to the height of the Sea of Galilee.
Table of Christ at the Seven Springs
Mensa Christi means “Table of Christ” it is in an area call Tabgha, located at the foot of the Mount of Beatitudes. The word Tabgha is a form of the Greek word “heptapegon” which means “seven springs.” Several warm sulphurous springs enter the lake here, close to the mouth of the Jordan River. The warm water attracts fish and fishermen to this area of the lake, in the 1st century and today. With Capernaum, Christ’s ministry headquarters, only a few kilometers away, Jesus would have been a familiar figure in the area. So finding and calling Peter, his brother Andrew, and the Zebedee brothers, James and John, here as they fished makes sense. As you look from the church across the lake, it is easy to imagine Jesus speaking to the crowds from a boat anchored in the little bay.
One thing is certain as we stand on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in this beautiful spot, Jesus stood here also. He may have picked up pebbles, just as we will do, He may have relished in the peace and calm, just as we will do and He may have prayed to His Father, just as we will do.