Summary: With his appearance and miracle by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus assures his disciples of everything they will need to keep on following him and be fishers of men.
April 25, 2004 — Third Sunday of Easter
Christ Lutheran Church, Columbia, MD
Pastor Jeff Samelson
153 Life-Changing Fish
I. Jesus meets us where we are
II. God can and does take care of our every need
III. Christ repeats his miracles in our lives
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Word of God for our study this Sunday is found in John 21:1-14, as printed in your bulletin and already read.
[Afterwards Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called 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.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (NIV)
This is the Gospel of our Lord. ]
Dear Fellow Disciples of our Risen Lord:
What are the numbers that that are most important or most memorable in your life? I suppose many of us would answer that question practically — we’d think of our PIN or Social Security numbers. Others of us would answer sentimentally — maybe a girlfriend’s phone number, a wedding date, or a once-in-a lifetime bowling or golf score. There are, of course, negative numbers in our lives, too — debts to pay, losing scores, and unpleasant anniversaries like 9/11 — but those we usually would rather forget.
Now if I were to ask the average Christian to tell me the most important or memorable numbers from the Bible, I’d probably hear a lot of 12s and 40s and 3s — 12 Sons and Tribes of Israel, 12 Disciples; 40 Days of Rain in the flood, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness for the Israelites, Jesus being tested in the desert 40 days; and Jesus’ rising on the third day, Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days; and so on. And of course we have the 10 Commandments, and the feeding of the 5000 — and an entire book of the Bible called “Numbers.”
But I imagine that few Christians would readily remember a number that very obviously stuck in the Apostle John’s mind and that he felt was important enough to record in our Gospel today. John did not tell us that the net was “full of fish,” or that they caught “many fish”, or “over 150” fish — no, he gave us the exact number, 153. People throughout the ages have tried to find some symbolic value in that number, but that’s missing the point. The number was very important and very memorable for John and the other disciples because those 153 large fish were the very real evidence of a miracle — a miracle that Jesus used to inspire and assure them as he sent them out, on their own, as his servants and apostles. Lying there in the net, they might not have seemed like anything but ordinary fish, but once you considered how and why they got there and filled that net, you would have realized: those were 153 life-changing fish.
I. Life-changing, in the first place, because of Who put them there. This was not dumb luck, and it wasn’t because Jesus just happened to know where the fish were that morning. This was a miracle from God, and it was Jesus Christ the living Son of the living God who had caused these 153 fish to fill the disciples’ net. But the first life-changing thing about this miracle was simply that Jesus was there.