Seaside With Jesus: Fishin’ Where Jesus Says Fish - John 21:1-14
Little Johnny came to Sunday School late. His teacher knew that he was usually very prompt, so she asked him, “Is anything wrong?"
Johnny replied, “No. I was going to go fishing with my dad, but at the last minute Dad decided I needed to go to church.”
The teacher was very impressed. “Did your dad explain to you why is was more important be to in church than to go fishing?”
To which Johnny replied, “Yes, he did. Dad said that he didn’t have enough bait for both of us!”
The weather has been so beautiful the last few days, I’m sure that some folks lost the battle with temptation when it came to going to church or going fishing this morning. I’m glad to see that all of you won that battle.
Someone told me about a month ago that it was time to fish when the little yellow butterflies came to the Island, and a month ago they were everywhere. I haven’t seen as many butterflies this past week, but have seen more and more folks fishing than any other time since we’ve been here, with tales of Spanish mackerel, drum, bluefish and others being pulled in.
I like to fish…I’m one of those folks that can enjoy a day when the fish are biting right and left, you know those times, where no sooner than you drop your hook in the water, you’re having to set it and reel in the fish. I love the water so much, though, that I am also good on those days when nothing is really biting…when I can just relax by the water. Yet, those slow-biting days can be frustrating for some, particularly some members of my family, they grow restless and want to do something else. Those are the days where you fish all day, or at least for hours, and you draw a complete blank—either the pin fish take all the bait without even one coming in, or, worse yet, you never have anything, even one nibble, hit your line. Now, I’ve never been net casting for fish, but I’m sure that kind of fishing draws even more frustration when you fish all night and have drawn up nothing.
That’s the kind of frustration that had to have set in with those seven disciples on the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus had just shown himself to the disciples for a second time since the Resurrection. Peter was becoming stressed out. He couldn’t forget badly he had failed his friend and teacher, Jesus. Peter had promised that he would never desert Jesus, but he had not only deserted Jesus, he had denied knowing him three times. Now Jesus kept appearing before him and thoughts of unworthiness filled his head. Jesus treated him the same, but he felt that he didn’t deserve to be a disciple—he decided on the only other thing he knew how to do, something that would give him peace, satisfaction, and hopefully allow him to relax. He told the other disciples, “I’m going fishing.” That’s what he had been doing when Jesus called him the first time, that’s what he would go back to doing. Six of the other Disciples decided they would join him. They still looked upon Peter as a friend, and probably didn’t want to leave him alone—they knew how he was feeling, they all were feeling that way to some degree or another, for they had all deserted Jesus when the soldiers arrested Him.
Yet, a night of fishing brought them no comfort. They put their nets out and pulled them back in, over and over, but to no avail, the nets were empty. It was a lot like their last fishing trip before they started following Jesus, a night of empty nets. Just as they were packing things away for the day, they heard a voice call from the beach, “Have y’all caught anything, my children?” Almost familiar words to anyone who has been out fishing and come upon another fisherperson, “caught anything yet?”
Well, the Disciples heard this man asking the question, figuring it was just a curious wanderer and said, “Nope. Not a thing tonight. That’s why we’re packing it in.” The stranger on the beach hollered out, “Drop your nets off the other side of the boat.” Now how many of you out there think that advice makes any sense at all? Like I said, I’ve never been net-fishing, but to me, if the man had said, “have you tried fishing in a different inlet or a different point in the Sea, I could understand. But for me, if the fish aren’t on the port side of boat, they surely aren’t going to be right off the starboard side…and even if they were, don’t you think during a night of fishing that drew in absolutely no fish, they have tried casting the net off of every single side of the boat? That advice to me sounds a lot like if I were to try and give Eddie Willis fishing advice.
However, the disciples decide to take the strangers advice, probably remember that the last time someone gave them advice it was Jesus, and that morning they had so many fish it started breaking the nets. Well, just like before, they started pulling in a net load of fish. John realized who it was, and leaned over to Peter and said, “It is the Lord. It’s Jesus.” Peter, so full of excitement that Jesus was back and giving him another chance, dressed himself, jumped out of the boat, and swam to shore—with the other Disciples in the boat dragging the net-full of fish back to shore behind him, and then they all sat down to share in a breakfast meal together.
The Scriptures go on to tell us that Jesus calls Peter off to the side to reaffirm that Peter was still a Disciple, regardless of what had happened in the past. Jesus still wanted Peter to witness and bring others to the faith. Jesus echoed the words that he had spoken to Peter that first day they met, “Follow me.” Those words struck Peter in the heart, he had been forgiven. There was a chance for him to start again—there was still the opportunity for him to be what Jesus had called them to be, not simply fishermen, but “fishers of men,” or in our contemporary, inclusive world, “fishers of people.”
My brothers and sisters, whether you fish for mackerel, mullet, spot, blues, or some other kind of fish, or whether you don’t like to fish at all, Jesus calls us all to be “fishers of people.” We are called to go out into the world and make disciples of all those around us. We are called to bring them all to know Jesus Christ.
Sometimes that gets to be a difficult or depressing task. We sometimes feel as frustrated as the disciples felt that night. We feel like we’ve fished hard, we’ve worked hard, all day or all night, and our nets are empty. We have nothing to show for it. We’ve reached out. We’ve tried sharing the love of Christ. We’ve told others about Jesus, and we feel like we experience absolutely zero results.
However, I want to challenge us. I want to ask, “are we fishin’ where Jesus says fish.” The disciples fished off that one side of the boat all night long, and caught nothing. How often are we fishing in the same places, but to no avail? How often are we asking the same people over and over again to come to church, and a few might come, but more often they do not, for one reason or another? You know, if you fish the same pond over and over and over again, especially one that is not being restocked with many new fish, you’ll eventually catch all the fish that are there to be caught. Eventually you have to just quit fishing or go find a new pond. Sometimes we get so frustrated we just want to quit fishing. We may even get to the place of asking, “what is the point, we’re happy with how many fish there are in the freezer. We’re not sure we could really pack any more in.”
To that end, we reminded that as long as there are fish in the sea, we are called to fish. As long as there is one person out there that does not know Christ and has not given their life over to following him, we cannot pack the fishin’ gear away. We may have to fish in a new spot, we may have to fish off a different side of the boat, we may have to use different bait, but we’re called to keep fishing. We are called to go into all the world, making disciples of all people.
It is going to often mean going places we don’t necessarily want to go. It may mean walking through tall grass where we can’t see our feet and don’t know where we are stepping. It may mean traveling through brush and woods that are infested with ticks and mosquitoes. It may mean leaving the safety of a pier and scaling the rocks along the shore. It may mean maneuvering our boats around stumps and under trees that may have snakes hanging from them. It may mean moving out into deep water further away from home or some of the shallow water that we try to avoid for fear of getting stuck.
Paul Harvey once said, "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium." My brothers and sisters, let that not be us. Let us heed the words of Christ and follow His directions—“As the Father sent me, so I send you”…“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, from Harkers Island to Maluku, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”…“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” And may we be willing to fish, off the other side of the boat, fishin’ wherever Jesus says fish… In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.