Tuesday, April 20, 2010

153 Fish

Jesus died and rose again.  The disciples were there to see it all.  A couple of times for the Risen Jesus.  So what did they do in response.  They went fishing.  When faced with things too much for us, we often resort to the familiar, to the routine things of life, to find comfort, solace, and some time to crunch the numbers in our head (the Lutheran question - "What does this mean?").  So Peter and the rest of the disciples are having coffee and Peter suddenly gets up and pours out his cold coffee on the ground and announces, "I am going fishing."  And they all jump up with him.  "Me too."  At this point the story sounds very Midwestern and very Lutheran.

They caught nothing.  For all the hard work of it, maybe their hearts were not in the goal, just the process.  Whatever.  They caught nothing except a back ache and nothing in their upset hearts and minds was made any clearer either.  No resolution.  Maybe a few beers thrown in to ease the nerves but that was not so satisfying either.

A stranger on the shore says to them "Hey kids, how'd you do?"  Ouch.  Bad enough to fish all night and come up empty only to have some guy on the shore call you a child, a novice, a baby at this game.  "Put your nets on the right side of the boat."  More insults.  Sure, we know that fish prefer the right side of any large floating object so it is reasonable to assume that this would make all the difference.  But, what the hay... get it a whirl.

And then the net strained, the boat would have sunk if they had hauled it in, and it was clear this was no ordinary bloke on the shore.  "It is the Lord!"  Gadfry, you just can't get away from this Jesus -- neither locked doors nor a boat out on the water can keep Him away.  Peter forgot about the boat, the fish, and the disciples out there and took off in the water toward Jesus.  Thankfully, the other disciples were not so rash.  They stayed with the boat and the fish to bring them both in.

And there is Jesus, making breakfast on the shore, with a little grill and some fish, and maybe a bagel, yea, that would be good.  "Get some of your fish and we'll eat together," said Jesus.  Oh, the fish.  Yeah, right.  And Simon Peter doubles back to finish bringing the catch in.  153 fish.  Every fisherman knows how many he catches no matter what kind of lies he tells afterward.  153.  And big ones.  Not bait fish but the real big ones that, if they were not so valuable, you might have mounted above the fireplace in the den. 

Again nothing is resolved.  They did not ask Jesus anything.  Jesus did not tell them anything.  They ate in good Lutheran fashion.  Quietly.  Deliberately.  All the while thinking and thinking.  But that was the genius in all of this.  It was not words that would explain it all but being with Jesus, in the familiar setting of the boat, the fish, and the early morning bite on a beach.  Yeah, it was familiar enough alright.  By golly, it was Jesus.  Yeah, it was Jesus.  He wasn't dead either.  He looked pretty alive to me.  What about you?  Me, too.  You know, it seemed like things were over with... except for the ghost appearance... but, you know, it is not over.

That was all they needed to know.  It was not over.  There was still work for these disciples and not out there on the water, either.  Feed My lambs... Tend My sheep... Feed My sheep... it was not over.  They had a job with God after all.  Long term employment at that.  Job security.  Lots of stray sheep to gather in.  Lots of hungry sheep to feed.  Lots of lambs to wean and grow.  Lots of green pastures to lead them to and quiet waters to visit and sheepfolds to gather them in... 

What had seemed like a fishing trip to escape from it all and reason it all out became one more mission encounter with the Good Shepherd who also knows something about fish and fishing.  The disciples did not have to understand it or rationalize it to the world.  Just proclaim it.  Preach the Gospel.  Follow Jesus.  That was it...  still is... even though sometimes we forget what it is all about... this life in the Kingdom...

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