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Cast the Net

May 8, 2019

Raphael 1515 CE

Scripture John 21:1-14

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

John 21:4-6 NRSV

Today’s scripture is something of a fish story, or a story about fish, but it also is a story of fishermen and fishers-of-men and people. It includes the Master Fisherman himself, acting out a familiar scene in providing food and sustenance, literally, feeding his disciples. And, those same disciples took in much more than food, as they reenact the miracles from earlier in their ministry and the sacrament they received just days before in the Last Supper. Jesus is at the shore, but there was much more going on here than just fishing. If you know your Bible pretty well, especially the Gospels, you might recall that this scripture lesson takes place after the death and resurrection of Christ: The disciples have seen Jesus, but still lack any direction and seem discouraged.

A short time later, Peter got a bit restless and left wherever the disciples other followers were hiding in Jerusalem. He went back to his “comfort zone,” and initial career, of fishing. Quickly, we find Peter and the others using the boat and a net, fishing. They worked all night long and had nothing at all. At daybreak, Jesus called out to them and asked how the fishing went. They replied that they have nothing. Jesus told them to cast one more time on the right side of the boat. The result is a miraculous catch of fish, and the disciples on the boat quickly realize that this is no stranger, but Jesus, now risen. Soon, they are all gathered there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And, gradually the full impact of this appearance of Christ begins to act on them: physically, emotionally, and then spiritually. Ideally, this is what we should experience in our worship, in our prayers, in our study, and in our devotion and work and ministry. Isn’t this gradual understanding the typical way that we are nourished and fed by God’s Spirit? Isn’t this the halting, sometimes funny way that we experience God?

In our scripture lesson today, the disciples are still “in the dark” about Jesus after his resurrection. They busy themselves by returning to fish. But, without the presence of Jesus in their lives, they are as empty as their net. But, they do what Jesus recommends: They cast the net, and the result is an overflowing abundance that the net hardly can contain. The actions they took that night and early morning brought on a far more significant encounter with the Son of God, Jesus Christ. But, it was not the end of the story for any of them. It was the beginning of a new portion of their faith journey and their witness that forms the Gospel story.

Stan Reid


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