“After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 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.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 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. 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. 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.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 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.”
“I’m going fishing,” Peter said.
This was more than a statement about a weekend getaway. This was Peter-code for “I’m done.”
What do you do when your plans and dreams and hopes die?
This is the question that Peter and the others are confronted with. Even though Jesus had been raised. Even though hope was alive again. Even though he had already seen Jesus in the Upper Room. Peter goes fishing.
And, truth be told, I totally understand where he’s coming from. When things aren’t lining up the way that I think they should, I often want to escape into what I knew before. Like Peter, there are days where I feel out of my element. I know business. I don’t know cross-cultural living. I know Project Management. I don’t know how to handle getting only one-thing-per-day accomplished.
The disciples aren’t yet sure what to think about this whole death and resurrection thing. They don’t know how to process that. They just know that the ideas that they had about Jesus’ Kingdom weren’t lining up with their plans.
Jesus’ plan for His Kingdom wasn’t lining up with the disciples plan for His Kingdom.
And, so, Peter responds in the only way that makes sense to him. “I’m going fishing,” he said. The underlying message in this statement is “I don’t know what to do with this, so I’m going back to what I know–fishing
How do you respond when Jesus’ plans for His Kingdom doesn’t line up with your plan?
In my mind, the Kingdom should come rapidly. Immediate fixes to the world’s problems. Rapid results. Yet, Jesus doesn’t work that way. He healed the blind beggar, and probably passed five others along the way. He raised Lazarus, but probably walked past ten tombs to get to Lazarus’. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand the now but not yet of the Kingdom of Heaven. And, frankly, sometimes that bothers me.
My plans for His Kingdom doesn’t always line up with His plan for His Kingdom.
And, I just want to go “fishing”.
Thankfully, Jesus understood Peter’s fishing trip. And, Jesus understands our fishing trips.
Jesus’ response was to meet Peter where he was. Jesus shows up on the shore after a night of unsuccessful fishing (Peter must be really disappointed at this point), and asks what is probably the hardest question that Peter ever had to answer: “How’d the fishing go?”
This question is much harder than the three questions that follow later in this chapter. This is the moment where Peter must decide if he is a fisherman or a fisher of men. For Peter to admit that the nets were in fact empty is to admit defeat. It is to relinquish his pride.
It is to let go of his kingdom in hopes of embracing a new one.
And, to make matters worse, this isn’t the first time that Peter has been asked this question. Some years earlier, when Jesus first called Peter to follow him, this same story happens. In this moment, Peter has to know that this is not just another Galilean standing on the shore.
Peter answers, “It was the worse night of fishing in my life.” And, maybe under his breath he adds “except for that one time, a few years ago.”
This interaction is instructive for us. Jesus speaks to us in ways that we know to listen for him. He wants us to hear the message, and he isn’t going to hide the message. If we’re used to hearing Jesus in a certain way, He’s not going to suddenly change it up on us. Jesus speaks to us in ways that we will hear.
So, Peter follows Jesus’ suggestion. “Go deeper and try the other side.”
Just like before.
And, just like before, they catch more fish than they can handle. 153 to be exact.
When you relinquish your plan for His Kingdom, and embrace His Plan for His Kingdom, the fishing gets better. It still won’t all make sense, but it will be memorable.
John, now an old man, writes the story and remembers exactly the number of fish that were caught.