Jesus Appears in Galilee
from the Drogo Sacramentary
French (Metz), 9th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9428, fol. 65v
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee's sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you."
So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught."
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
Of all the apparitions of Jesus in the time between the Resurrection and the Ascension, this is both one of the most mysterious and one of the most real. It takes place in a familiar location, the Sea of Galilee, where so much of Jesus’ ministry had taken place, the area that was home for most of the disciples.
The scene opens with the disciples, returned from Jerusalem, following Peter’s lead “I am going fishing”. After an unproductive night, as they return to harbor, they see a figure on the shore, probably indistinct in the early morning light. He instructs them to cast their nets again and they make a huge catch. In the catch they recognize a situation they have experienced once before (Luke 5:4-11) and they realize that the figure on the shore is the same person that had been with them then. When they arrive on shore they find that He has prepared breakfast for them and He feeds them.
The setting on the shore of the great lake, the misty morning light, the catch, the recognition of the Risen One, the sharing of bread and fish, recalling both the miraculous feeding of the multitudes and the Last Supper combine to create the mysterious reality of this apparition. Ghosts may appear, but they don’t cook and share meals with their friends.
It is surprising, then, that these verses have not inspired more works of art. One of the aspects of this passage, which may have caused difficulties for artists and their advisors is how to distinguish this scene from other, very similar, scenes, i.e., the miraculous draught of fish associated with the calling of the apostles or the scene in which Peter leaves the boat and attempts to walk on water. The differences between these scenes and that of the post-Resurrection encounter described by John are sometimes subtle.
Among the elements that hint at the post-Resurrection scene are: Jesus stands on the shore, not on the water, the sea is calm and not stormy (although this is not always so), Peter jumps into the water when the boat is near the shore, there are often elements of the meal Jesus invites the apostles to somewhere in the picture.
|Michiel van der Borch, Miraculous Draught of Fish|
Rhimebible by Jacob van Maerlant
Dutch (Utrecht), 1332
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS RMMW 10 B 21, fol. 151r
|Lluis Borrassa, Peter Reaches Christ on the Shore|
Spanish (Catalan), 1411-13
Catalonia, Terrasa_Sant Pere
|The Risen Jesus Appears on the Sea of Galilee|
Chronicle of the Kings of England from William the Conqueror
to Henry IV
English, c. 1430-1440
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 75 A 2-4, fol. 62v
Konrad Witz, Apparition of Christ in Galilee
Geneva, Musee d'Art et d'Histoire
|Master of the Harley Froissart|
Christ Appearing to the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee
from Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
London, British Library
MS Royal 15 D I, fol. 368
|Attributed to Colijn de Coter|
Christ Appearing to the Apostles
on the Sea of Galilee
Flemish, c. 1500
Autun, Musee Rolin
In the sixteenth century many artists created works that more effectively distinguish this scene from the other, earlier events.
|Anonymous, The Risen Christ Appearing to the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee|
French or Flemish, 16th Century
Abbeville, Musee Boucher de Perthes
|Herri met de Bles, Final Apparition of Christ to His Disciples|
Flemish, c. 1530-1550
Buenos Aires, Museo nacional de Bellas Artes
|Joachim Beuckelaer, The Risen Christ Appears to the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee|
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
|Maerten van Heemskerck, The Risen Christ Appears to the Apostles on the Sea of Galilee|
Barnard Castle (County Durham, UK), The Bowes Museum
|Jacopo Tintoretto, Christ at the Sea of Galilee_|
talian, c. 1575-1580
Washington, National Gallery of Art
|The Grabenberger Brothers (Michael Christoph, Johann Bernhard and Michael Georg), Christ Appearing at the Sea of Galilee|
Garsten (AU), Parish Church of the Assumption
|Sebastiano Ricci, Christ Appearing to the Apostles at the Sea of Galilee|
Italian, c. 1695-1697
Detroit, Institute of Arts
|James Tissot, Jesus Appears on the Shore of the Sea of Galilee|
New York, Brooklyn Museum
|James Tissot, St. Peter Alerted by St. John to the Presence of the Lord Casts Himself into the Water|
New York, Brooklyn Museum
|James Tissot, Meal of Our Lord and the Apostles|
New York, Brooklyn Museum
© M. Duffy, 2011, amended 2017
- He also prepared another series of paintings between 1896-1902 of the Old Testament. These are also in New York, at the Jewish Museum. These two cycles probably make James Tissot the artist who has most thoroughly illustrated the Bible. Most interesting is that Tissot spent considerable time in the Holy Land during the years in which he was working on these series. At this time the area was still largely untouched by the changes of the modern world. However, considerable archaeological activity had taken place to unearth at least some of the material culture of Biblical times. For these reasons they are probably as close as can be imagined to illustrating the world of the Bible as it was.