[First published 2018]
Not long after Father God brought Jesus the Messiah back from the dead by His Spirit, the One who’s the radiance of His glory went once again in search of His ex-fisherman friends. Of the two sets of brothers who’d been partners in the fishing trade on the Sea of Galilee before deserting their nets to follow a peripatetic teacher, their boss had an exceptionally severe crisis of self-confidence.
So this ‘son of Jonah’, named Simon, decided to return to the simple life of sitting in a boat with buddies and dragging a net in the hope of getting a catch – but it proved to be an exercise in futility!
A few years earlier on that inland sea, the four fishing partners encountered and had been ‘called’ by The One to follow Him. Jesus amazed the crowds there with His teaching and had asked Simon if He could address them from his moored boat. Jesus knew the men had worked hard all night without having caught anything because, when He’d finished speaking, He told Simon to sail into deep water and lower his nets despite the fruitless night – Simon was overwhelmed by the result! They’d got such a large number of fish that another boat was called for – then both began to sink with their massive weight!!
So Simon changed his tune. Upon hearing Jesus’ instruction he’d objected because of the poor night, yet respectfully referred to Him as “Master” – but in amazement at the fresh catch breaking nets and sinking boats, Simon addressed Him with the superior term of “Lord”; thus suggesting he was beginning to understand the status of this astonishing teacher. In the account by one of those partners, John, they’d previously met Jesus immediately after His baptism in the river Jordan and Andrew had brought his brother Simon to see Jesus, who then spoke of his identity and implicit destiny, “You are Simon son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas,” (which is translated ‘A Stone’, Petros/Peter: John 1:42).
After that huge catch of unspecified quantity, Jesus called Simon into his destiny: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men!” That is, a fisher of men. When they’d landed their boats the four forsook all and followed Him (Luke 5:10-11).
This event would be replayed later but at a higher level when, once again, Simon will be caught by surprise! But before that, the four fishermen disciples were to become part of the twelve chosen as ‘Apostles’, who were given power and authority (Matt 10:2). And Simon was to have a personal revelation of Jesus’ real identity. He blurted out “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” to which Jesus responded, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Also, he was further blessed to see Jesus’ transfiguration and hear Father speak about His beloved Son and instruct Peter, James and John to heed Him (Matt 16 and Matt 17).
Yet this same Peter later earned a severe rebuke from Jesus because, in his devotion, he was shocked upon hearing Jesus speak of His destined execution and in dismay he spoke against God’s plans! AND then, when that dreadful event transpired, poor Peter was distraught during Jesus’ trial to hear himself thrice deny his association with Him! Even so, he was again blessed when Jesus visited, instructed and commissioned the Twelve (minus Judas the betrayer) after His miraculous resurrection from the dead.
However, Peter must have considered his thrice-denial would cost him dearly in losing his standing with his Lord. Hence, a critical crisis of self-confidence for Peter.
So, why not go back to fishing – and far away from Jerusalem? His ex-fisherman friend John records Simon Peter as having told him and five others – seven in total – he was going fishing – and they replied, “We’re going with you!” (John 21:2-3). In fact, Peter was heading into his own resurrection: that of his own self-worth, identity and calling!
John continues: ‘They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children have you any food?” They answer Him, “No” and He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” So they cast, and were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish…
‘Then as soon as they came to land they saw a fire of coals there and fish laid on it, and bread (Note:) Jesus said to them “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three, and although there were so many, the net was not broken.’
Believing readers will be very familiar with the wonderful reinstatement of Peter. When John recognised who the man on the beach was he told Peter and, being determined to be back with Him, Peter donned his outer garment and dived fully clothed into the water and swam about 100 meters to shore.
This dear man, so like all of us as imperfect disciples, is asked thrice if he loves the Lord much more than his fellow disciples – that is, with ‘agape’ love: the unconditional, unconquerable, benevolent goodwill, as given by the Father and Jesus. Peter, rescinds and over-rights his previous thrice-denial to profess a less emphatic love (‘phileo’) that he knows he can give. In repeating His question at that lower level Jesus accepts but tests his profession further, thus giving him a threefold commission to be His under-shepherd.
[Note: ‘agape’, a word to which Christianity gave a new meaning, for outside the NT it rarely occurs in existing Greek manuscripts of the period. It means a love by choice and refers to will, rather than ‘phileo’, a brotherly love by chance and emotion – New Spirit-Filled Study Bible.]
Read more deeply, if you’ve not already done so, about the significance of the specific size of this ‘resurrection’ catch in Joanne Rolston’s 153, Signs and Symbols. In part 2 we will go deeper into them as we look into the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…
[Photos: ‘The Life of Christ’, Wintershall Players, copyright Richard J Barker]