John 21:1-19 New International Version Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish 21 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. Jesus Reinstates Peter 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Sometimes when I am on holidays at the coast somewhere I get this feeling like I need to really unwind and relax in an environment that I don’t get to experience very often living in Dalby. When it’s therapy time, when it’s relaxation time, there is pretty much only one thing that works for me.
I’m going fishing.
I will sometimes pay to go out on a charter boat on a reef somewhere. Out on the water where the phone doesn’t ring, where the waves lap gently against the boat, and the smell of bait and diesel fumes mixes with the salt air that makes you a bit sleepy, until the fish start to bite. Out where I have seen whales and sea-snakes, and a school of electric-blue dolphin-fish jumping out of the water in their hundreds. Where I saw a chain of jellyfish 30 feet long, where I have seen colours that make you believe that each sunrise exists only for God to invent new shades for his paint-palette and each sunset is a show made just for you to sit and enjoy a beer.
Out where I have seen beauty and savagery that I cannot describe, where the fear of some of the things that live beneath you make you glad you are on a sturdy boat.
Sorry, I was forgetting where I am. It takes me away. I grew up near the ocean, so I feel an attachment to it. I can sit on a rocky headland and watch it for hours, like it is a living creature.
Could you imagine what it would be like for a professional fishermen who had not been to sea for three years?
Some of the disciples must have felt the salt water in their blood running thin, the yearning for the sea must have drawn them home, and Peter, when lost and confused said and did the one thing that made sense to him:
That’s it: I’m going Fishing.
Simon Peter went back to what he knew, to something that he could do from instinct, to keep his hands busy. He needed to get away. The disciples had been hiding together in locked rooms and by now everyone would have sat around and shared every possible theory about what had happened to Jesus, what it meant, what would happen to them…
Peter needed to get away from talking, to go out and be alone in his mind with the elements again. And I thoroughly get it
I am going fishing.
It doesn’t sound like he asked the others to come with him, they just said “We will come too.” They must have thought that it sounds like good therapy.
And they didn’t catch a thing.
Fishing with out catching a thing: For some, the ultimate in frustration, for others, the ultimate in peace. A chance to relax. Were they trying to catch fish to make their living, like they used to? We don’t know. Was Peter wondering what the rest of his life would bring, and looking for direction? Could he go back to the sea, to the nets that he left three years ago when the carpenter from Galilee called his name?
What would he do?
I am going fishing.
“Maybe I will go back to this for good. It’s all I know.
I failed our Lord on that night, I might As well stick to fishing: but at the moment I can’t even catch these blasted fish! Can’t I do anything right any more?”
Jesus interferes with his musings, after his night on the sea. He gets him his fish, but then he eats with him again and gives his life a new direction.
It must have been an amazing feeling of déjà vu for Peter, when once again Jesus, talking to him by his nets, near the sea of Galilee, asks him to follow him.
Where will he follow him now?
What does the life he is being called to involve?
In what land will he end up, and at what cost?
Well Jesus doesn’t try to fool him, he tells him straight away that it will cost him his life.
Last time Peter’s life and safety were in danger, he denied his Lord. What will he do this time?
Jesus once again needs him to be a fisher- of men.
What would you do, knowing that it would take your life?
Would you go fishing?
Would you stick with fishing in the sea because it was what you knew, or among the more dangerous creatures on land, where Peter was being called to by our Lord?.
Fishing back then was a pretty dangerous game. Not many people knew how to swim, and the hills around the sea of Galilee whipped up storms with no warning. It was tough physical work, and people were lost at sea while fishing.
The Apostles knew the risks, yet that was where many of them had spent their lives.
But three years ago Jesus had promised to make them fishers of men.
That promise must have seemed so hollow to Peter, who had spent three days remembering that the last thing he did in the presence of his Lord was to deny that he knew him. Some fisher of men he had turned out to be.
He couldn’t even catch fish any more. A whole night with nothing. But then Jesus gives him a lesson. By obeying his words the nets were full.
Jesus reinstated him using different words, speaking not about fishing but about shepherding his sheep, but he still had the same message for Peter:
I need you to go fishing
And the other lesson Jesus gave him is that by ourselves, we can miss the mark and come up with nothing. We can be a few metres to the wrong side of the fish. We can lose faith and deny our Lord. Jesus comes back again and again with words of reinstatement.
I need you to go fishing
I need you to be a fisher of men. Do some dry-land fishing, as my Father calls it.
Now in the ocean, when you fish, you will meet natural forces. The wind and the tide, the swell and the chop all will put you off course. The rain and the barometer all effect whether you will catch fish or not, but by human ingenuity all those things can be beaten and we can still catch fish.
It is so much easier than going out after people, fishing for men. You can’t see a full esky at the end of the day, you don’t know if you have had a tentative bite or not until you see the person maybe only in heaven.
And you don’t just fight natural forces.
But then again, you don’t just do it by human intelligence and strength either. We don’t just use our own brains and know-how to set the lines. Jesus showed his disciples this with this very memorable lesson. Do we need another one today?
With a word from him, the nets were full.
One move by his power accomplished far more than a whole night’s work by human means.
When we are called to go fishing, to cast the net of the gospel, to show hospitality, to make disciples, how do we go about it? With programs and structures put into place, with committees and councils? And how do we measure whether we have succeeded?
Listen to that, whether WE have succeeded.
We can’t fall into the trap of thinking that we can do anything! If God chooses to use us to reach thousands of people, that is fantastic. But if he decides tomorrow that you and I will never reach another person with this word, and he stops using us: then thank him for the time we have had in his service and move on.
But we will never know God’s will, and we will never fall in line with it, and be able to use his power to reach people, except by prayer, and by his word, through which his power flows.
Those of you who spend time in prayer while you are at work or at home, pray for the people of your congregation, pray for them all by name, but pray that they might be fishers of men. Don’t just pray for them, but for those whom they will reach.
This is not the mission field. This Parish does not exist to serve each of you. It exists because of each of you, but it exists for others. This church is not here just to minister to you, but to strengthen you so you can go out and minister to others.
Let’s go fishing! Put out the nets.! Amen.