This post is written in honor of my firstborn son who died way too soon at age 30. He was the angler in our home. My children were very young when introduced to the fine art of fishing for fun ~ catch and release. They got into it and made many canoe trips down lakes and rivers seeking the best and biggest fish for bragging rights. Maybe they will get to pick up where they left off in heaven.
After this, Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Simon Peter said to the others, “I am going fishing.” “We will come with you,” they told him. So they went out in a boat, but all that night they did not catch a thing. John 21:1-3
If someone were you ask you to give a physical description of Jesus’ appearance, how would you imagine him? Would you naturally go in your minds eye to the form of the typical Jesus? Isn’t he usually a baby in a manger with a sunbeam over his head, surrounded by parents and cattle? Or the figure of an emaciated Jesus suspended on a cross, with blood running down his side, deathly pale, gaunt, and with his eyes looking upward ?
I’m not condemning either picture, but could there be others? According to my reading of the Gospels Jesus had muscle. After all, didn’t he flip over tables sending coins tumbling and money changers scrambling? He showed his temper too didn’t he? Well, what about the possibility of a playful Jesus? Does that seem rather out of place? Do you think that he and his disciples ever had any laughs in the three years they were together? Just for fun let’s explore a fish story tucked inside the book of John in the Gospels. There were several fish stories, but let’s explore the one in John 21 and if you will allow a little imagination . . .
It was late. The sea of Tiberias (or Galilee) was as smooth as silk and it beckoned. It had been a rough few days and the boys were exhausted. Their Master had been tortured and executed by Crucifixion and they either watched or ran. They had left their livelihood and families behind to follow when He had invited. Apparently His mission had been accomplished and theirs would soon begin . . . without him. They needed some time to unwind. What better way than to go fishing?
“I’m going to take dad’s boat out and cast some nets. You in?” Peter tossed out the question as the guys polished off a late meal this moonlit night. “Yeah, let’s,” they chorused. Nothing like going fishing to clear your head. But other than some good conversation with intermittent dozing throughout the night the sea had kept her secret stash. They did not catch a single fish all night long. Bummer. Now it was dawn and muscles ached from being scrunched in tight positions; their bodies clamored for a good stretch. Perhaps it was time to pack it in.
Their whereabouts was not unknown to the beach comber on the shore. He was keeping an eye on his friends as he grilled breakfast. From the distance and in the foggy morning mist the guys saw a loner on the beach, but that was common. They didn’t suspect it was Jesus and he didn’t bother to clear their vision. He took pleasure in keeping his identity a secret for the moment.
Jesus had been turning the fish on the grill, but now he got to his feet and stretched. He thrust his hands deep into his jean pockets and watched his mates intently while chewing on a piece of dried reed. He knew they had caught nothing. Tossing the reed, he cupped his hands around his mouth and called out to the fisherman, “Catch anything?” Peter yelled back, “Naw. Lousy night.”
Jesus could have staged a show-stopping, pyrotechnic display to arrest their attention and fill the heavens but that was never his style. Not at birth and not now. Instead we see a side of Jesus probably only known to the disciples who were along side him day and night for three years. Because they recorded their stories in the Gospels we have snapshots of sometimes a playful Jesus. And here was one of those moments where Jesus let the drama play out, no doubt enjoying every second.
Now the beach comber hollered, “Why don’t you cast your nets on the right side?”
What? Who had said that to them before? Who else could it be but their Lord! Smiles broke across their faces like the dawn. It’s Jesus! They hustled to cast the nets anticipating what would happen ~ just like old times. In seconds the nets were bursting with a writhing catch. With biceps bulging and backs straining they hauled the catch into the boat and before it could sink and they lost it all, they headed for shore. Of course, impatient Peter couldn’t wait that long so pulling on his clothes he dove in and swam to shore. Dragging his soggy body unto the beach, he grabbed Jesus in a wet bear hug. Can you picture it?
The rest of the disciples pulled the boat up on shore. They’d take the count later. Their bellies were empty and the smell of grilling fish hit their noses. Yum. Breakfast fit for a king and cooked to perfection by the King! How wonderful to see their Master again. They all grasped him in bear hugs. This was the third surprise visit since his resurrection and they loved it. Perhaps still not fully comprehending all that had taken place they were learning they could trust Jesus completely.
With bellies full, they relaxed around the fire ~ sometimes chatter ~ sometimes silent in private thoughts. The boys knew Jesus would soon return to heaven to carry out his work from there while they took up the mantle and carried the Good News far and wide. They had gotten to know Jesus and by knowing him, they met his Dad, for Jesus had said, “ If you have known me, you will also know my Father. From now on you know him through me and have seen him in me.” John 14:7, GW
Thoughts for this story came from “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge. It is a wonderful book about the unexpected, playful, light-hearted Jesus. It’s so human, to real, so not religious; a far cry from the serious, stoic Jesus we usually read about. I can’t do this story justice, but if it creates in you a thirst for more, you won’t be disappointed.
We can add one more tidbit to this playful side of Jesus. Fishermen do not dally when hauling their catch to shore. You can’t sell stinky fish, so the boys knew they had delayed this chore long enough. “We’d better get the catch counted, boys,” one of them stated. “Yeah,” called another, “we’d better,” as they unwound their bodies and got to their feet.
Jesus spoke up softly, “There are one hundred and fifty-three.” Oh, yeah. Right. We have Jesus with us. No need to count this catch. There had to be high fives, back slaps and grins all around.
They were a band of brothers who personally knew the King.
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“Cast your net with all the might of your faith into the waters of His will. Send it deep into the sea of His promises, into the waters of His abundance, into the depths of His supply. As you do, you will gather ~ more wonders than you have ever seen, more surprises than you can ever imagine, more blessings than you can ever hold.” ~Roy Lessin