In Tabgha, Israel, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is a Franciscan Church known as the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. It was built in 1933 on the foundation of a 4th century church where it is believed the events of the Gospel of John, chapter 21 occurred.
|Church of the Primacy of St. Peter near the Sea of Galilee.|
|View of the church from the shore-line of the Sea of Galilee. The mortared rock near the foundation are part of the foundation of the 4th century church that was here.|
|View of the tower.|
John Chapter 21
Seven of the disciples of Jesus, including Peter, James, John, Thomas and Nathanael, had been fishing all night in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and had caught no fish. The next morning, Jesus arrived, post-resurrection, and started a cooking fire with coals and began roasting fish. Then he called out to his disciples in their boat, about 100 yards off-shore, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” They answered, “No.”
|A boat on the Sea of Galilee|
|The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is in the foreground and the fishing boat is in the background.|
So Jesus yelled out to them to throw their net on the other side of the boat, which they did. They caught so many fish they couldn’t haul the net up on the boat. Perhaps remembering his call to the discipleship in Luke 5:1-11, near this same spot, when Jesus similarly asked Peter, James and John to cast their nets after an unsuccessful night of fishing, John turned to Peter and said, “It is the Lord,” and Peter immediately jumped into the water and started swimming for shore for Jesus. The rest of the disciples started the boat back to shore dragging the net full of fish through the water. As they got to shore, the rest of the disciples recognized Jesus as he invited them over for a breakfast of roasted fish and bread. As he did so, Jesus asked them to bring some of their fish over with them as well. The account notes that this was the third visit by Jesus to his apostles after his resurrection.
After eating breakfast, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Peter responded, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus responded, then “Feed my lambs.” Twice more Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, with the same response from Peter, followed by Jesus's command to Peter to “Feed my sheep.”
Compare the Denial of Jesus, the Call to the Ministry and the Feeding of the Multitude
This three-fold duplication of Jesus's question, followed by Peter's response and Jesus's ultimate command immediately brings to mind Peter's three-fold denial of Christ in Jerusalem outside the Palace of Caiaphas. Was this Jesus's way of rehabilitating Peter and preparing him for his future ministry? At least one of the messages that Jesus was conveying to Peter is that actions are stronger than words.
During their call to the ministry when Jesus had asked Peter, James and John to cast out their nets near this spot and they had hauled in a net-full of fish, Jesus told them that from then-on, they would be fishers of men (Luke 5:10). This was a reminder, a second call, that they should no longer be fishing for fish.
This was also near where Jesus had fed a multitude with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. Here Jesus fed the disciples, but apparently did not have enough for them. This time it was the disciples who added their fish to augment what Jesus had available. As Jesus had helped them provide food for this breakfast, he would also be able to help them feed his sheep.
Church of Primacy of St. Peter
Inside the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter is a large limestone rock where tradition holds that Jesus served the disciples the breakfast of fish and bread. The rock is known as Mensa Christi, Latin for “table of Christ.” It is also where Jesus told Peter three times to feed his sheep. As I understand it, the Catholics believe that Christ's command to Peter to feed his sheep reinstated Peter as the head of the church, after his pitiful denial, and thus the term "primacy" or preeminent is applied to this spot.
|I love that the limestone rock is left bare in the center of the floor, not encased in clear plastic like the Rock of Calvary in Jerusalem.|
|View of the front of the church. Note the metal reliefs on the open front doors.|
|The metal reliefs on the front doors signify the events that occurred here, including the visit of two popes to this church: Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 2000.|
|Metal insignia on the inside door of the church.|
|The Franciscan symbol on the inside of the door in the church.|
|A statue just outside the church commemorating Jesus's command to Peter to feed his sheep.|
|A closer view of the statue.|
|A Franciscan priest sitting on a bench outside the church.|
|The Sea of Galilee off Tabgha|