June 20, 2021 – “Gone Fishing”
Grace and peace to you!
Happy Father’s Day! We welcome our online worshippers,
as well as those here in the sanctuary at West Tulsa UMC.
It’s never fun to fish all day (or all night as in the case of Apostle Peter in today’s Gospel reading)…and go home empty handed!
Even if you’re a “catch and release” type fisher person, and least you have
“fish-tales” to tell…IF you’ve caught something.
But striking out? It really makes you question things.
In John’s Gospel, Peter and six other disciples seemed to be following Forrest Gump’s advice when he said, “Whatever you do, try to have a reason to do it.”
Following Jesus’ death on the Cross, Peter and six other disciples thought the story was over. They returned home to do the one thing they thought they could do…Fishing.
So, when Peter decided to put his guilty feelings and the past behind him, he announced to his friends, “I’m going fishing.” The problem is, they didn’t catch a thing until a “stranger” hollered across the water,
“You ought to cast your net on the other side of the boat!”
Everybody’s an expert when our plans aren’t working out, Right?
Well, his advice worked! They caught so many fish in their net that they weren’t able to get them all in the boat! That set off a whole chain of eventful lessons that we can still learn from today. We’ll do that shortly…But for now,
We are here to worship God!
Let’s dedicate this service, our hearts, and our minds to the Lord in prayer
before we sing our first song, “In Moments Like These”
Most of you know how much I enjoy getting away to go
fishing in an Ozark river or stream.
Believe it or not, there’s been a few times that I’ve continued
doing that later in the day than I should have.
Of course, that tends to land me in a different kind of water, (hot water) because having not heard from me, Theresa gets concerned about my safety.
But, it’s a Catch-22 situation for me when it comes to fishing. Either I’m having so much fun catching lots of fish that I don’t want it to be over.
OR, I’m not doing so well, maybe even getting shut out,
so I can’t get myself to quit until I catch some fish.
Fish can be fickle. Sometimes the conditions are right, the fish are hungry, and they’re biting…Other times, I can try every size and color combination of lure I have with me; and get no response.
It’s frustrating when that happens. I get to thinking, “Maybe I don’t have the skill at this that I thought I did! Maybe my fishing days are over.”
I just have to think that Jesus’ followers felt something like that following the events at the end of His earthly life. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” they followed Him for three years. They had seen Him perform even more signs and miracles than are included in the Bible.
They had grown to love this Special Rabbi. They walked in His footsteps. Despite their human failures, they learned from Him. And when His life was over, they thought the story was over.
Each of the four gospels have a slight different ending of the story.
In Matthew, on Resurrection Sunday, outside the Garden Tomb,
the Risen Christ tells the women:
“Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee;
there they will see me.”
(Mt. 28:10 NRSV)
In John’s Gospel, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb, and then to the other disciples in the Upper Room…He reassures Thomas, and then sometime later, maybe a week, we don’t know; Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
(Luke’s version is quite different. Jesus appears to His disciples on and off for 40 days after His resurrection. Then before He ascends to Heaven Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem, where they will receive the Holy Spirit.)
So, according to Matthew, Mark, and John; Jesus’s disciples went back home north to Galilee. They went back to their comfort zone. They thought their days as “fishers of men” were over, so they returned to their old
fishing grounds to fish for fish.
So, as I mentioned, I just have to think that at that point, Jesus’ followers were somewhat despondent. Their world had collapsed around them.
Even though Mary had told them that she had seen Jesus, and at least some of the men had seen Him after the Resurrection, they didn’t have any idea of the significance of the Resurrection for their own lives.
At this point they are still confused. As they walked from Jerusalem back to their homes in the fishing villages on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, they wondered, “Is it over?”
All they knew to do, was to do all they knew how to do. They went fishing.
It was Peter who instigated it. He had a lot on his mind. Actually, I think he had a lot that he wanted to forget. Given that he had seemed to forget that he knew Jesus on the night Jesus was arrested.
Anyway, Peter was not one to sit around doing nothing.
He told his friends, “I think I’ll go fishing.” And the the six men
with him all said, “I’m ready to jump in the boat too!”
They fished the way they always had before Jesus called them.
As someone held a lantern over the water at night, other fishermen would toss the net to catch the fish that had been attracted to the light.
(Metaphor! Fishers of people attracting people to the Light)
Time after time the fishermen cast the net…Time after time, they reeled it in empty. They struck out. They got shut out. They didn’t want to go home empty handed. If they did, all they’d be able to talk about
is the ones that got away.
Maybe they weren’t surprised at their bad luck, given how things were going lately. Regardless, they were terribly disappointed.
Now, they aren’t even successful doing what they know how to do.
Maybe they’re asking again, “Is it over?”
The Good News today is:
“Just when you think it’s over, it’s NOT over.”
Who do you think showed up on the shore just after daybreak?
(It was Jesus) The fisherman didn’t know it was Him at first. Jesus asks, “Catch anything?” That’s the first question I know I’m always going to be asked when I get home. (Which is why I have to stay late sometimes! I don’t ever want to say, “Well, I got skunked today.”)
Peter and friend’s answer is typical of fishermen. They say, “Not much action out here today.” They fished all night and caught nothing,
but they didn’t want to say so.
The stranger then says, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat.” They do it, and catch a whole mess of fish. The disciple named John says to Peter, “It’s the Lord! It’s gotta be the Lord! There’s only one person who can fish like that!”
The text says there are a hundred and fifty-three fish in that net. 153 is the number of species of fish that the ancient world believed existed in the seas. Jesus set a world record that day! He’s the only person ever to
catch one of each species with one cast.
The thing is, I’m sure we’re NOT supposed to take the number literally. When numbers appear like that in the Bible, you can be sure that we’re
supposed to interpret it allegorically.
What this is saying is that without Jesus empowering and guiding us, we, as disciples, are ineffective. We are impotent without Jesus’ presence with us. With Jesus present with us, which is what the Resurrection makes possible, disciples can bring all humankind into the Kingdom.
A hundred and fifty-three species equals, allegorically, all the races, all the nations of the world. Jesus is saying that ALL people can be
captured by the preaching of the Gospel.
That’s the way John’s fishing story opens. We can interpret this story to mean that Jesus is with us to empower us and to guide us in doing what he has called us to do. Without Him, we can’t do it. That is the first part of this story.
The second part of this story is about redeeming Peter,
the captain of the fishing boat.
The disciples get off the boat, and join Jesus on the beach. Jesus is standing by a charcoal fire. This is a really important detail that John includes in the story. This is no ordinary fire. This is a charcoal fire. The last time we read about a charcoal fire in John’s Gospel account, it was outside the palace of Caiaphas,
the high priest of Jerusalem.
Roman soldiers were standing around a charcoal fire, warming themselves. Peter was lurking a little ways off. The soldiers see Peter hiding in the shadows. The light from the fire illumines his face. They think they recognize him.
They ask him, “Aren’t you a disciple of Jesus?” Peter said, “No.” They asked him three times, beside a CHARCOAL fire, “Are you a disciple of Jesus?”
And three times Peter said, “No.”
Peter impulsively jumps out of that boat when he sees that its Jesus, and runs through the shallow water to the shore
I wonder if he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Jesus standing beside a charcoal fire…I wonder if it sent chills running up his spine.
I wonder if he thought to himself, “Oh no, it really IS over for me now!”
But Jesus doesn’t say anything to Peter. He took the fish and cooked breakfast. Then he took the bread, broke it, and gave it to the fishermen.
Now they know. They know for sure now. This is the Lord!
A week or two earlier, these guys had all been at the Last Supper. This is the:
At the Last Breakfast something amazing happens. When the meal is over. Jesus turns to Peter, and asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”…“Then feed my lambs.”
A second time He asks, “Simon, do you love me?”…..
“Yes, Lord; I love you.”….”Then tend my sheep.”
A third time Jesus asks, “Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord.”….”Then feed my sheep.”
Three times Peter denied Jesus around a charcoal fire. Three times Jesus forgives Peter around a charcoal fire. That’s what is happening here.
Forgiveness is happening here.
The Good News once again: Just when you think it’s over, it’s NOT over.
“Feed my sheep” means, you’ve got your old job back.
It’s Jesus saying to Peter, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea,
and you’re the Captain of my fishing fleet.”
Forgiveness means forgetting the past and starting over again.
Peter was carrying tons of guilt before this breakfast in Galilee.
He despised himself for denying 3 TIMES that he ever knew Jesus.
The problem is, guilt chains us to the past. We can try to bury it, subdue it,
or run from it…but guilt will always be there until we let it go.
It smolders and simmers inside of us, ready to boil over.
Guilt drives us to do things that we wouldn’t do otherwise. It weighs us down because we are chained to something in the past that imprisons us so that we cannot be free to live the way we want to live.
Guilty feelings that we don’t give to Jesus…
hold us back from serving Jesus like we should.
We owe Him something BETTER than that.
Forgiveness means that sin no longer weighs us down.
“Feed my sheep” means, we have the opportunity to reclaim a better future.
I think that’s the meaning of the Last Breakfast charcoal fire.
Peter’s seaside chat with Jesus is a scene of forgiveness. This is a scene of redemption and forgiveness that you and I can claim. And we should claim it!
I really don’t believe our chains will be gone, until we ask Jesus to set us free.
I really don’t believe this is something we can do for ourselves.
Jesus is the One who is anointed by God to:
“Bring good news to the oppressed,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and freedom to the prisoners.”
(Isaiah 61:1 HCSB)
Maybe we know of a weakness in our own lives. It could be guilt, or it could be something else. We don’t want anybody to know about it.
We lie about it, or we find some way to cover it up.
For a while we think our cover-up is successful, because nobody says anything.
Or if they do, our denials cause them to back off, and pretty soon we’re spending an awful lot of time and energy pretending.
Today is the day of the Lord’s favor! This is the day the Lord had made to set the prisoners free! If this is the day that you’d like to break free of the chains of guilt, then I urge you to give it to Jesus. He took our sins on His back…Jesus is strong enough to carry whatever it is that is weighing you down and holding you back.
Let Him have it. There’s still time. The story ISN’T OVER yet! Don’t go back to Galilee. Don’t go back to what is familiar, comfortable, and routine. Row in from whatever hot water, or stormy water you’re sailing through, sit down across the charcoal fire from Jesus, and be blessed with the forgiveness that Jesus wants to give you.
I believe that’s what this fishing and catching nothing, and then
Jesus showing up to show them how to do it, means.
It means that we need God’s grace to be the people we were created to be.
And at some point in our life, we’ve got to reach the point to able to say,
“I am a sinner, and I cannot do this on my own; come Lord Jesus, help me.”
May TODAY be that day for us.
The disciples were in their boat, fishing. A stranger on the shore tells them where to find the fish. They couldn’t do it on their own.
Then He renews the life that he gave them years before. He gives it back to them.
He just appears from nowhere and gives their life back to them. A life they thought they had thrown away. They know now they could not have done it by themselves.
But because He started with them, He finished with them. Jesus will continue to sit down at the forgiveness fire with anyone who joins Him…until the end of time.
You may THINK that Yogi Berra coined the phrase:
“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Maybe it was really Jesus who coined that phrase. I think Jesus said something along the lines of “It ain’t over ’til I SAY it’s over, Peter!”
And Jesus speaks the same blessing over us.
Because, “Just when you think it’s over, it’s NOT over.”
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.