Read John 21
We have arrived at the last chapter of John. We celebrated resurrection. We should celebrate it every day, but sometimes we regard one day more than another.
Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared to Mary and the disciples and surely others, but as this chapter begins, some disciples are out fishing. That had been the trade for many of them until the last few years, but they seemed to have lost their touch.
Peter, John, Thomas, James and John, Nathanael were those who were named. Peter had inspired them to go fishing the night before but that had not been productive at all.
Then early in the morning they see and hear a man calling to them from the shore. “Y’all catch anything?” That’s from the Southwest Standard Version.
With a negative reply, Jesus—whom the disciples had not yet recognized—said, “Try the other side.”
Without further conversation they do as instructed and the net becomes so full they can’t bring it into the boat.
John’s awareness kicked in first. “It is the Lord!”
Peter was the one who dived into action. Actually, he put his going ashore clothes on and jumped into the water and swam and walked to shore. They were just a football field from the shore.
It might sound sort of strange to put your clothes on first but if you were out on the boat fishing, you likely hanged your outer garment while you worked. You wouldn’t wear boots and jeans to have a lake day these days, would you?
And you wouldn’t wear your bathing suit to go to Walmart—ok, bad example—to go to United or Atwoods, would you?
When Peter put on his clothes, it was to say, “I’m not coming right back. You guys deal with the fish.”
They did. They had to walk the nets in. This was a catch. You know how fishermen exaggerate. “Yeah, that was a catch!” They decided to count them. There were 153.
You can find commentaries about the significance of the 153. They are interesting but don’t seem to contribute much to what would take place ashore. I just leave this with it being an incredible catch and just as incredible, the net didn’t break in any place.
Sometimes, something is just so incredible, you have to measure. You count. About 45 years ago I was at Quantico, Virginian for Officer Candidate School. This training took place at Camp Upshur. There was nothing there but Quonset huts and they were a long way from any signs of civilization.
The place had all it needed: heat, humidity, and hills.
Nobody expected to get a weekend off, but this was 1976—the bicentennial of our nation and everyone would have that weekend (Independence Day Weekend) off, even the lowly officer candidates.
Did I mention that this place was in the middle of nowhere? Even on the East Coast of the United States, there are still places in the middle of nowhere and you didn’t get to bring your car to OCS. We were told that anyone who wanted to leave the camp for the weekend was to muster in the gravel parking lot near the Quonset huts at 0730 the next day.
As you might guess, nobody wanted to stay behind, so many gathered that morning to catch a ride. The Marine Corps has this thing called a cattle car. It is essentially a 40-foot trailer with double bus doors in the middle and a bunch of pipes inside to hold on to during transport. The passenger limit was 80. We had more than 80.
When we were full, but there were still others waiting to board, we said, “we can do one more.” We kept doing this until there was nobody left. The young Marine driver knew that if the MPs pulled him over, he was going to the brig. The cattle car only took us to mainside in Quantico. We had to wrangle our own transport from there. Most went to Washington, DC. It was, after all, the bicentennial.
As we were riding in this sardine can of humanity with some people stacked on top of others and others balancing on one of the bars designed as a lateral handrail, somebody said, “This has to be a record.”
So, we counted as we disembarked: 218 had made that ride. Sometimes, you just have to count. Somethings were so amazing you just have to stop and count.
The disciples counted the incredible catch and found Jesus was cooking fish on the fire when they arrived. Jesus told them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal that was already prepared.
Cast your next on the other side.
A huge catch for a small boat.
Peter getting dressed and jumping in to get to the shore.
Breakfast waiting for the disciples.
The third time that John noted Jesus had appeared to the disciples.
That was the transition to what followed. And what followed?
Directions to share the gospel, to feed those who sought Jesus, and to be his disciples even while he was away, that’s what followed.
And it has been pretty much the same through this age. Take God’s love and life in him to the world.
Our celebration was in last week’s reading. This week tells us it’s time to get to work living for our risen Savior.
It’s time for discipleship!