I’m not a great cook. Well, apart from rosybake chicken, upside-down lemon pudding and ice cream that is. And – of course – pancakes. Breakfast pancakes. Breakfast pancakes with maple syrup. I have them every Saturday morning. In fact, I’m a pancake expert: maybe that’s because I practise so often or maybe it’s because of the great recipe I use. It’s an old one, from Philip Harben. If you are of my vintage you may remember that name: he was the first television cook, the Mary Berry of the 1950s. The recipe is easy to remember; it’s just 1-3-5. One egg, preferably a large one. 3 oz, or more simply, 3 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour. And 5 oz milk: I’ve no idea how many ml that is as I use an ancient measuring jug along with the ancient recipe. And a dash of salt. Whip it up and leave overnight. Easy. So – as soon as the original lockdown was lifted, I started inviting friends to ‘come and have breakfast’ pancakes with me on Saturdays. Sadly, only two people managed to share my scrumptious crêpes before such simple pleasures were once again denied us.
By now, you are perhaps wondering why I am waffling on about pancakes and breakfast? Well – I was running out of ideas to encourage my house group as straight Bible Studies didn’t seem to be hitting the mark; the members preferred to chat instead – something I could – and possibly should – have anticipated. So, I came up with the idea for one week of suggesting that each one come prepared to share a favourite meal or recipe and alongside that a Bible passage about food. Guess what I chose? “Come and have breakfast”.
That story is found in John’s gospel chapter 21 verses 1 to 14. Jesus, who had recently risen from the dead, had previously told his disciples that he would meet them in Galilee, but when they arrived there, they didn’t immediately find him. So, they decided to go fishing on the lake, but even though they were out all night, they didn’t catch anything. Early the next morning, probably tired, cold, fed up and hungry, they were about to give up when they spied someone on the shore, who hailed them and suggested they should cast their nets on the other side. When they did that, amazingly they discovered a huge shoal of fish. Then John recognised the mystery man on the shore as Jesus, and Peter, being Peter, immediately jumped out of the boat, leaving the others to haul in the catch. More slowly, the others brought the boat to the shore and landed the bumper catch – all 153 fishes. That was when Jesus invited them to ‘come and have breakfast’. Accordingly, they took some of the fish they’d caught and gave them to Jesus who added them to the bread and fish he was already cooking over a small fire. After that, they shared breakfast – and fellowship – together.
As I thought more about this meal, several things struck me, so I’d like to share them with you. Overall, the whole incident reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son, but there are also 3 more specific points…
No. 1 The invitation came from Jesus, just as it was the Prodigal Son’s father who rushed out to meet him and then fixed up a fantastic celebration feast. He was so glad to welcome him. Today, unlike us, Jesus is not bound by any lockdown restrictions but can still invite us to meet him. Of course, we cannot physically eat bread and fish – or pancakes – with him but we can spend time in his presence, enjoy being with him and chat with him. Quite simply, that’s what prayer is.
By now you might have guessed that I have a meal motto: ‘If in doubt, have breakfast!’ Perhaps I need a prayer motto too: ‘If in doubt, join Jesus for breakfast!’
No. 2 The meal was contributed to by both Jesus and his disciples. The sad thing about that parable I mentioned was that the older son neither contributed to nor participated in the family feast. However, I’m sure that most of you, like me, if we get invited out for a meal, take a small contribution either to the meal itself or for the food cupboard of our host. This meal too was not just one-sided: Jesus had already started the fire and was roasting some fish by the time the disciples handed over some of their freshly caught fish. True, Jesus had helped them find that amazing catch but then they were happy to contribute from it. That’s also like prayer; contributions and participation from both sides, although I have to confess I too often tend to dominate the conversation and don’t always listen to what the Lord might want to say to me.
In reality, we all know that meals and fellowship are both better for being shared, but that’s exactly what we’re missing at the moment.
No. 3 After the actual meal, Jesus had something special to say to one of the disciples who was sharing this time with him – Peter. Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to state 3 times that he loved Him – in contrast to the 3 times Peter had earlier denied Him. I wonder if that was why Peter had jumped out of the boat: was he anxious to put things right with his Lord before the other disciples arrived? Quite possibly. But in the end, it all happened in front of them – embarrassing but exciting and encouraging. Of course, this didn’t turn the clock back for Peter any more than the Prodigal son could undo the years he had wasted: nothing can do that, but it did enable Peter to move forward into the future in real fellowship with Jesus. Then I got to wondering: perhaps Jesus also had special messages for some of the other disciples, although of course John doesn’t record them. Maybe. What I do know is that when like Peter we accept Jesus’ invitation it provides an opportunity for us to discover whatever special he has in store just for us. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
So, who’s for pancakes with Jesus? I’ll bring the maple syrup. See you there!