Broken Bread For Broken Spirits (John 21: 10-17)

By | June 3, 2012

After Words: #5
What Jesus Taught After The Resurrection


     A man was having breakfast with his best friend and began telling him about an argument he’d had with his wife. He confessed, “Man, I hate fighting with my wife. Every time we argue; she gets historical.” The friend replied, “You mean hysterical, right?”

     “No,” he insisted. “I mean historical. Every time we argue she drags up everything from the past and holds it against me!”

     Have you ever had an argument with a friend or family member or your spouse? Of course you have, you’re human. But most arguments sort of blow over don’t they? We get over pretty quickly. But not everyone does that. Sometimes in the heat of our anger we do something to spite the other person. But when you do that it’s sort of like letting yourself be stung to death by a single bee. It’s slow and painful.

     Do you know what the best way is to have the last word in an argument? Apologize! That’s one of the things we learn as Christians. We learn how to forgive and how to seek reconciliation from Jesus who came to Reconcile us to God. He did that through the ultimate act of forgiveness, by giving his life on the cross.


     Have you ever heard of Spite House? I remember reading a story about a Spite House years ago and in my research found a whole boatload of Spite Houses.

     According to Wikipedia, a spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbors or other parties with land stakes. Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighboring buildings, or as flamboyant symbols of defiance. Because long-term occupation is at best a secondary consideration, spite houses frequently sport strange and impractical structures.

     Let me give you a couple of examples.

     First there is Skinny House: In 1874, two brothers in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts got into a dispute. Each had previously inherited land from their deceased father. While the second brother was away serving in the military, the first brother built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that the first brother felt certain was too tiny to build on.

     When the soldier returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built a wooden house at 44 Hull St. to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view. The outside of the house spans 10.4 feet and tapers to 9.25 feet in the rear. The house may only be entered via a small alley beside it. The Skinny House is still standing and occupied today. It stands near the top of Copp’s Hill, across the street from the historic Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and within sight of Old North Church, both official stops on Boston’s historic Freedom Trail.

     Second is the Alameda Spite House: At the turn of the 20th century, the city of Alameda, California took a large portion of Charles Froling’s land to build a street. Froling had planned to build his dream house on the plot of land he received through inheritance. To spite the city and an unsympathetic neighbor, Froling built a house 10 feet deep, 54 feet long and 20 feet high on the tiny strip of land left to him. The Alameda Spite House is still standing and occupied.

     The third one, Montlake Spite House, is my favorite. This is the one I read about so many years ago but if you look it up on the internet you’ll find two different stories. The first says that in the 1920s there was a “nasty divorce”. The judge awarded the husband the house and the wife the front yard. The wife took her property and built a house on it. However, that’s the legend and not true at all.

     If you look you can see the plot of land we’re talking about from the aerial view and the City Platte.  The true story of this house is that in 1925, a Montlake, Seattle, Washington neighbor made an insultingly low offer for that tiny slice of land. Out of spite for the low offer and the insulting way in which it was made, the builder built this house.

     That looks like a rather nice house doesn’t it. And it is until you realize that it is on 860-square-feet and has a rather peculiar shape.

     The house is only 55 inches wide at the south end, barely big enough for a door.

     And it’s only 15 feet wide at the north end. How do you live in a slice of pie shaped house? And yet the Montlake Spite House is still standing and it’s occupied.

     If it hadn’t been for the events of the passage we’re about to look at, Peter would have just stewed in the juices of his guilt and shame and A wall of bitterness and resentment could have easily been constructed. He never would have been able to rid himself of his regret and remorse. But thanks be to God that Jesus is all about reconciliation. Let’s look at the passage from John 21: 10-17

[10] Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”  

[11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.  

[12] Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.  

[13] Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.  

[14] This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.  

[15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  

[16] A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  

[17] He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

     Because of his actions, because of his denial, Peter was crushed and broken-hearted. He did the one thing he swore he would never do. He was broken and the only way that brokenness could be healed was through reconciliation. There on the beach that morning, Jesus offered that reconciliation.


     A. It’s no coincidence that Jesus chose to offer this Reconciliation over a meal. Because of our Western Culture we miss out sometimes on a lot of the subtlety of Scripture and ancient practices. Reconciliation in the Middle East always took place at a table and with food. When you watch the news and they show peace talks or the signing of a treaty in the Middle East, see how much food there is on the table. If there is fruit and coffee it’s important, the more fruit, the more important the treaty.

     Think about David’s words in the 23rd Psalm: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I’ve heard people say that means that we get to eat while our enemies watch as sort of an in your face kind of thing; a nana nana boo boo from God.

     In actuality, the “table” that God prepares represents peace, union, fellowship, and reconciliation. Think about how many times Jesus chose to eat with people. He told Zaccheus to come down because he wanted to have lunch with him and that meal transformed Zaccheus.

     The father in the parable of the prodigal prepares a big feast to welcome his son home. On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus revealed himself when they broke the bread at supper. At what we call the Last Supper, Jesus offered reconciliation to Judas through the dipped sop.

     B. There was and still is an actual ritual of reconciliation called a “sulha” that probably took place. A meal was prepared for the two parties to come together to discuss the reconciliation. The guilty party confessed the wrongdoing, and the injured party accepted the apology. Often they then negotiated a suitable recompense for the misdeed or offense. That negotiation could go on for a day or more, until everyone was satisfied. But more than likely, the terms had been agreed to beforehand thru a mediator.

     All this time, the parties are “at table” eating and drinking together. Today, at the conclusion of the “sulha” negotiation, strong sweetened black coffee is brought to the table, the injured party drinks first as a sign of forgiveness and the offender then drinks as a sign of reconciliation. In the first century, wine was used instead of coffee.

     Once the “sulha” was concluded, the two parties or families were fully reconciled, the offender was made part of the family. It was almost like an act of adoption. Because of this act of reconciliation, no one could bring up the misdeed or offense again. It became as if it never happened. (1)

     That’s what happened that morning on the beach. With broken bread and grilled fish, Jesus offered Peter the opportunity to be forgiven. Jesus offered Reconciliation.


     That’s what happens every time we gather to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. First we are invited to come and to sit at the Lord’s Table. There a sumptuous feast has been prepared for us; a feast of grace and forgiveness embodied in bread and wine symbolizing the sacrifice Jesus made for us while we were yet sinners.

     As we sit at table with Jesus, His presence is revealed in the breaking of the bread. And then He offers us the cup of Reconciliation; the cup from which He willingly drank when He gave His life for us on the cross. He offers us the cup of Reconciliation and in the same loving tones with which He spoke to Peter, Zaccheus and countless others, He asks” “Do you love me?”

     When we answer “Yes,” and take the cup, when we drink from this cup of Reconciliation, not only are we forgiven but our offenses, our sins, our misdeeds will never be mentioned again.

     And if that isn’t enough, there’s one more thing. Because of our Reconciliation with God through Christ we are adopted into God’s family. We become heirs of the Kingdom, brothers and sisters with Christ. We find our home with God.

     Reconciliation, that’s what Peter experienced that morning on the beach through bread and grilled fish. His broken spirit was healed through broken bread. And that’s what happens when we come to “The Lord’s Table.” We come with broken spirits but we leave free. WATCH


     This morning Christ invites each of us to come to His Table. He has prepared a feast of forgiveness and grace just for you; a feast of reconciliation and redemption. He offers Broken Bread for Broken Spirits. Like on the Road to Emmaus He will reveal Himself to you in the broken bread.

     Like the Prodigal Father, He has prepared a feast to celebrate your homecoming.

     Like His meal with Zaccheus only He will know the conversation you will have across the table.

     And like Peter, you will experience true forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus will never get historical with you. You will be set free from the burden and guilt of your sin. And you will be empowered to live for Christ. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ will live in you.

     It’s Suppertime. Come, eat.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.