Summary: How Jesus uses a catch of fish so the disciples would catch on (get it - catch on? insert belly laugh here) to who their friend was on the shore
April 25, 2004 John 21:1-14
The Greek word for fish is ixthus. You often see that word on the back of cars within the shape of a fish. If you’ve ever wondered what that is supposed to symbolize - it’s not just for people who like fish. The five letters that spell fish - iota, chi, theta, upsilon, sigma - are also letters that describe our Savior. Iota is the first letter of ihsus - for Jesus. Chi is the first letter for xristos - Christ. Theta is the first letter of theos - for God. Upsilon is the first letter for uios - Son. And sigma is the first letter for swthr - Savior. Jesus Christ, God, Son, and Savior. So the fish is used as a symbol for Christ. I don’t know who or why they chose the symbol - but it fits - at least when you look at today’s text - for Jesus uses some fish to prove that He was Jesus Christ, God, Son, and Savior - risen from the dead.
1IXTHUS > 153 ixthus
I. We seek physical ixthus
The reading for today takes place after Jesus had appeared to the disciples and to Thomas - again proving that He had risen from the dead. Apparently in between these appearances Jesus would leave them for a time. When you try to take a child from the bottle, you do it in increments. You start giving him or her a sippy cup at lunch. Then gradually you start giving a sippy cup in the evening, and finally at night. It takes a little time - but after a few tears and temper tantrums you’re home free. That seems to be what Jesus was doing with these appearances. For forty days He didn’t constantly stay with them - but weaned them from His presence. It doesn’t say how long of a period it was between these appearances, but it appears the disciples got a little restless. So Peter, in keeping with his personality, decided that he had to do something. He said, “I’m going out to fish.” Six other disciples decided to go along.
It might seem strange to us that the disciples would make this decision to go fishing. After all, they had already seen Jesus raised from the dead. You might expect them to be out telling people about Jesus. Yet they go fishing. It appears that at this point Jesus had not told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit - nor had He given them the Great Commission - to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Maybe they thought Jesus would come walking out to them on the water - like He had previously. In all honesty, I don’t think they knew what else to do. They didn’t have Jesus to follow around. Life without direction left them searching for something to do - anything. They didn’t just want to sit around and wait, so they decided to temporarily go back to what they knew best - fishing.
If you think about your life - and what you’re doing with your life right now - maybe some of you feel like you are in the same place as the disciples. God hasn’t appeared to you and given any great directives in life - and you don’t exactly know what you should be doing. I kind of compare it to getting up on a Saturday morning. It’s about 8:15, and you have about a hundred things you could be doing. So what do you do? You lay there in bed a while, roll over, close your eyes, and contemplate all the things that could get done. The garage needs to be swept out, the garden needs to be tilled, the basement needs to be vacuumed. But then you turn on the TV - get wrapped up in a show and realize that you just wasted your whole morning. That’s seems to be how we treat our Christianity at times. We could go visit someone at a nursing home, call an old friend we heard was having difficulties, or maybe do a little extra Bible study on a book we hadn’t read in some time. But it all seems so difficult because we are so “busy.” I mean, we’ve got a hundred other commitments that we’ve promised to do. But are they really that important? Do our kids have to belong to soccer clubs? Do we have to watch the final two episodes of Friends? Is it really that important that we own a new car - that we work overtime just to pay it off? Is this really essential stuff? Of course not. But we act like they are the most important things in the world. Why? Because we don’t feel like we have anything else to do. Even though God’s Word says to feed the poor, care for the dying, preach the good news to all creation, we act as if we had no commission but to go fishing. So we find ourselves doing what the other humans do. What’s worse is that our fishing isn’t to make a living. It’s for pure leisure. Yet we act like it’s our right - our privilege - and nobody else’s needs or wants better get in the way of what I want. I want my IXTHUS.