Monday, April 11, 2016

Children, Do You Have Any Fish?

21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 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. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on 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 of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14 (ESV)
“Children, do you have any fish?”
It was a scene that had played out before in the life of these disciples.  It had played out at the beginning of their relationship with Jesus. Now it plays out at the beginning of a new relationship with Jesus, a relationship that has changed, matured and comes to have new meaning in the resurrection. Now the promise Jesus made to the disciples when he first called them to follow him from the shores of Lake Galilee, now that promise becomes a reality. Now they were ready to become fishers of men, to walk in the good deeds prepared for them, to produce the fruits for which Christ had cultivated them.
“Children, do you have any fish?”
A long dark night fishing, a morning of disappointing despair. It was man’s work and coming up empty handed wasn’t the idea they had in mind when they set out the night before.  The disciple didn’t quite know what to do. Jesus had shown himself to them a few times after the resurrection, but they were still a bit confused as to what they should do now that their friend was gone. Jesus had a habit of disappearing in the same way he appeared. Spending brief moments of time with them. And then leaving again, giving them time to absorb the reality of the resurrection and their new life in him.
“Children, do you have any fish?”
Jesus calls them children. He often called his disciples children, for they had received the kingdom of God like little children. He loved them dearly like a father loves his children.
“Children, do you have any fish?”
No, they had no fish. The whole night they had been laboring, their loins girded stripped so the sweat and labor would not soil their garments. Toiling in the humid heat of a summer’s night. It’s the kind of night filled with frustration and uncertainty, the questioning of life choices, and what have I gotten myself into? I can imagine Peter asking himself, is this really what I want to do with the rest of my life? But what else is there? Perhaps he is coming to grips with grim reality. He always thought he had something to fall back on if this “fisher of men” thing didn’t work out. Now he is learning that he isn’t cut out for the fishing gig anymore. But did he really have it in him to go fishing for men, to carry on the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth? Was he worthy to do that? Really? Had he not failed? He had abandoned Jesus to torture and death. In the midst of Christ’s darkest hour he had denied even knowing the man, sealing his testimony with the foulest of curses in the name of God. And now he can’t even make a living doing what he did before.
“Children, do you have any fish?”
The question had to sting the soul. All their efforts for naught. Of course, the story illustrates with a vivid picture where your efforts get you without Christ. You never catch any fish on your own steam. Apart from Christ, all your efforts fail to produce even one good work. When you toil in the dark that is life without Christ, the answer is always an embarrassed, no.
And there are times when we do that even as Children of the heavenly Father, wrestling with our doubts, thinking we know better than God what is best for our lives, falling back on the realities of life we know rather than the ideals we believe. And the morning breaks with disappointment and despair, and one wonders how it could be that God would concern himself with me. “I am but a worm and not a man.” As the psalmist says.
But it is precisely then as the dawn breaks to dispel the darkness. Then Christ is there saying “Children, have you any fish?” Yes, he calls you child, his child a disciple of the Lord who confidently cries “Abba, Father” hallowed be thy name. He calls to you and says but only cast your nets to the right. Listen to me, my children. Trust in me and you will have more than you know what to do with. Then he extends also to you the bread of life and the cup of joy, that the joy of salvation would be restored to your soul. Then he will no longer ask, “Children, do you have any fish.” But will merely turn and say, bring me some of the fish you have caught.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

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