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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Scripture Reading: John 21:1–14
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (NRSV)

Jesus’ third resurrection appearance in the Gospel of John is a scene that practically begs a reworking of an old joke: “How many disciples does it take to catch a fish?” “Seven, but even then it would take a miracle!” Despite the fact that several of the disciples in this passage had a background in that type of work before they even began following Jesus, their time spent as disciples somehow seems to have severely eroded their fishing skills.

All jokes aside, this epilogue to the Gospel of John likely was a powerful message for the many small Christian communities struggling in the later part of the first century. Many evangelists likely would have empathized with the disciples’ fruitless labors: trying to preach the good news to an audience that didn’t know or didn’t care to know about Jesus had to be an exhausting undertaking. And yet these “fishers of people” kept at it—preaching and teaching and sharing what they knew in the hopes of impacting the world around them for the better.

But for those early Christian communities—and indeed for us today—the message of this passage still rings true: if we are not willing to take guidance from Jesus’ words and teaching, our labors may continue in vain. I can imagine what the disciples thought when they heard this man calling to them from the beach (surely they must have tried the right side of the boat at some point that night, right?), but it was in their willingness to be guided that they found true success. May it be the same for each of us.

Dear Lord, please help my life to be shaped by your words—even, or perhaps especially, in the places where I feel most in control. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Minister for Children and Families

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