“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
- Mark 16:6-7
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “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.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
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.
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. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 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. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
- John 21:1-14
First, this is an extra post, to share an unusual moment from yesterday. I was shaken by something while eating a meal.
This passage from John 21 is one of my favorites in Scriptures. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe about the only good times that I shared with my brother growing up (nine years my elder), just the two of us, were on fishing trips. But, when you read this as a “fish story,” instead of a story in Holy Scriptures, you might get a glimpse of what the story means to me. It is a story of deep love among friends, far deeper than the facts in the story.
The tie-in to what the ‘angel’ said to the women is important (Mark 16:6-7). The young man in the white robe (come on! The angel) told them that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. He had gone ahead, to Galilee where He would meet His disciples. What does a guy do if He goes out alone to a lake, to have His friends join Him later?!?! Think about it. He’s gone fishing. There is proof, in that after the disciples had fished with nothing to show for it (note the similarity to when Jesus called Peter the first time, Luke 5:4-11), Jesus had them cast their nets again, but Jesus already had fish on the fire (John 21:9). Jesus went ahead of His disciples to “go fishing.”
Of course, we have no idea what else Jesus did or where He was in the meantime, but the proof that He had caught some fish is in the Scriptures.
It escapes me which C. S. Lewis book talks about how good fish can be when out of the pan so many seconds ago and caught so many minutes ago. I think it is in the Narnia series, but eating fresh fish over a fire is a relatable moment, a moment that friends have shared over the centuries.
Another interesting point to make about this story is the number. You know what I mean! They caught 153 large fish when they cast their nets at Jesus’ request. Picture this for a moment. Seven of the eleven disciples caught fish, a lot of fish. While six of the disciples sat near the fire and ate fresh-cooked fish with Jesus, one disciple, probably with profound obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sat in the boat and counted 153 large fish. How ridiculously funny and absurd is this picture! This story even hints that the OCD disciple probably threw back the small fish, because they weren’t in the count. There had to be small fish mixed in.
Now that you have the mental image, here Jesus is, standing among them, having a “guy moment.” This isn’t the first pop-in moment where He pops into the upper room, and then pops out. This isn’t the second pop-in moment, given for the sake of Thomas. No, Jesus was sitting down and enjoying some time with His disciples. This time was limited, but the OCD disciple counted fish instead. Should I pause for that to soak in?
I’ve studied the numbers in the Bible. When I was laid off, I had no access to my personal electronic files, and without a backup, I lost my spreadsheet correlating the mention of a number versus the Bible book, chapter, verse. Yes, I should know about OCD myself, in some things, especially numbers. But in that study, I could group the numbers in two separate categories: approximate and specific. Were there 5,000 fed by Jesus and then 4,000 later on, or could those numbers be rounded off to the nearest 100? Does it matter? But here the number is too specific to be an approximation. And since the story comes from the Gospel of John, could it be that John was the OCD disciple? Maybe, in their old fishing days, Peter, Andrew, and James did the offloading of the boats while John tallied the catch. Maybe it was just out of habit. (At least, one of the Gospels suggests the two sets of brothers were partners.)
So, here you have a story that illustrates the relationship that Jesus wishes to have with each of us. A relationship where we are intimate friends. It’s only the friend in the boat with you that really knows how big the fish that got away really was. And as we tell the ‘fish-that-got-away story’ to those who weren’t there in the boat, it is the friend that leans over and pushes our hands closer together. You make eye contact, and you laugh. The close friend knows how big the fish was.
And that brings me to the meal in the photo above. I am a rebel, especially to ‘religious’ norms. Throughout the Lenten season, when everyone around me, Catholics and Protestants in SW Pennsylvania, were eating fish on Friday, I had a couple of cans of tuna and that fish never on Friday. But to break my ‘fast’ of not eating fish. I had fish for my Easter lupper. (Brunch is the meal between breakfast and lunch. Our elder son dubbed the meal between lunch and supper as ‘lupper.’)
On my new diet, I found a recipe for Cod Puttanesca. I could not find cod at the wholesale store. My wife told me to not get fish anywhere else, since the wholesale store showed where the fish was caught, and where the fish was processed – thus avoiding countries that might not have adequate standards.
Thus, the substitutions began. I prepared Halibut Puttanesca, just for the halibut. (I apologize, but those who know me, knew I would go there.) Puttanesca sauce is a sauce, usually served over pasta, or polenta, or, in a pinch, rice. I used spiralized carrots as my ‘pasta.’ It was great. But puttanesca usually contains tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and anchovies. Since I had halibut, there was no need for the anchovies. And I eliminated the garlic – not allowed on the diet. I also used ground cayenne instead of the red pepper flakes, and fresh cilantro instead of parsley. The dish had some kick to it.
Since I was alone, I cooked the food, took a few pictures for my wife to see what I had prepared, and then sat to eat. My wife was afraid that my lack of cooking skills would be a problem while she was away. Thus, the pictures.
As I was eating, a voice chided me. “What does this have to do with Easter? Why this dish? Are you just showing off?”
I thought, “Showing off!!?? I’m a novice at this cooking thing. I followed a recipe with a few substitutions. I’m lucky that it’s edible. My wife has done the cooking for over 45 years. No showing off here.” But I started wondering. “God, what should I have done?” I had chosen this meal, almost out of pure rebellion. Choosing this meal was almost as if I were saying, “Take your church rules and stuff them, Pharisees! What do those rules have to do with Scripture, anyway?”
Then a nice Voice spoke up, with a little mirth in His Voice, “Well done, faithful servant. What did Jesus do when He had His visit with His friends along the Sea of Galilee?”
I put my fork down. John 21 came to mind. The casting of the nets with no luck. The shout from the shore to cast the nets on the other side (the right side). The monstrous catch of large fish. Peter’s mad dash for shore. The OCD disciple counting fish. All of it flooded through my mind. I nearly cried. My eyes watered a bit.
I was not alone. Jesus was sitting down with me, and we were sharing fish stories.
“Jesus, do you remember that time when I was wading in a mountain stream in Wyoming, visiting my uncle, and I caught a rainbow trout while fly fishing, and the fly reel broke, but I landed the trout, pulling it in, hand-over-hand, using my teeth to hold the line, to keep from losing ground? You were with me then, too, weren’t you?”
It is okay to have a violation of social distancing with Jesus. No viruses are shared. But His Love is contagious.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.