Summary: Today I want to tell you about a fishing trip that took place after the Resurrection.
Hi, my name is Simon Peter. You’ve probably heard of some of my most embarrassing moments. It would take me all day to tell you about how my mouth has messed me up, and about how I let Jesus down, as well as the other disciples. Today I want to tell you about a fishing trip that took place after the Resurrection. My buddy John wrote about it in some detail – you can follow along if you’d like in John 21:1-14.
Jesus told us to go to Galilee, where He would meet with us (Matthew 26:32). It was amazing how Jesus would appear briefly and then go away. He first made Himself known to Mary Magdalene and the other women, but we didn’t really believe their report. He then appeared to me and then revealed Himself to two disciples as they walked to Emmaus. I’ll never forget that day; I only wish He would have stayed longer because I still felt so bad about my failure. On Easter Sunday night, Jesus came through locked doors and proclaimed peace to us. One week later, when Thomas was present, He visited with us again. But then Jesus was gone. As I think back, it was almost as if He was weaning us from His presence.
As we headed to Galilee, I was pretty down in the dumps. The other disciples couldn’t believe how quiet I was. I was disappointed in myself and frankly felt like giving up. When I saw the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee, my heart starting racing as I remembered how successful I had been as a professional fisherman. I even had hired men working for me. The smell of the water and the sound of the waves did something to me. Since I wasn’t any good at this “disciple” thing, maybe I could go back and just catch fish again. I announced to the six others that I was going fishing. They could tell from my tone of voice and the words I used that I was ready to retire as a follower of Christ. Part of me just wanted to relax, but another part of me felt rebellious. I was surprised when they all said they would join me. I guess I still felt like they wouldn’t want to be around me because of what I had done.
At first I was pretty pumped up to fish but the feelings faded quickly. I had forgotten how hard it was to hurl the nets into the sea and then drag them back into the boat. It all seemed monotonous, especially since we got skunked. We had worked all night and didn’t even catch a pan fish! This made me feel even more discouraged as the empty nets were a metaphor of my life at that moment.
As the sun was beginning to come up, we saw someone standing on the shore, but we had no idea who it was. He then called out to us, in a voice that sounded vaguely familiar, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” This was disarming for two reasons. First, fishermen never like to admit that they’ve not caught anything. Second, this man used a term that literally meant, “children.” I had heard that before. When we told Him we had not caught a thing, he told us to throw our nets on the other side of the boat and we’d find some fish. We decided to listen to him, and when we did, we couldn’t even pull in the nets because they were so full!
As we strained at the nets, my mind went back three years earlier to a very similar scene. I had déjà vu, all over again. After fishing all night and catching nothing, Jesus used my boat as a pulpit – it certainly wasn’t good for much else. When he was done teaching, He told us to go back out in the boat and drop our nets in deeper water. What does a carpenter know about fishing? I lot more than me, actually. We caught so many fish that we had to ask for help because the nets began to break. When I realized what had happened I was so overwhelmed by my sinfulness in the presence of holiness that I asked Jesus to depart from me. Jesus told me not to be afraid and commissioned me to catch men. I pulled my boat up on shore, left everything and followed Him. And now I was back in that same boat…
John put into words what I was beginning to formulate in my mind: “It’s the Lord!” That’s all I needed to hear. I put my outer garment back on and jumped into the water, and started swimming to shore. Being in the water reminded me of the time Jesus allowed me to walk on the waves. This time I was making waves as I yelled and screamed and thrashed around. When my feet hit the shore, I raced over to Jesus and saw that He was cooking breakfast for us, over a charcoal fire. And then my mind filled with failure again as the fire reminded me of how I was warming myself right before I denied Jesus three times. Just then Jesus shouted out, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught!” I raced back to the water and helped drag the net ashore. It was full of fish, 153 in all (you know how fishermen like to count their catches).