The Rev. Frank King
April 10, 2016
Biblical scholars have always commented that the 21st chapter we hear today is a strange one.
We find Jesus coming to his disciples, and he finds them doing what they were doing when he first called them. They were plying their trade, and not doing so well...catching no fish.
And here is Peter, the one who had denied Jesus in his most eventful hour of need, leading the fishing expedition. This collected gathering were the disciples.The ones who had witnessed the resurrection. But now, we find them not preaching, but rather returned to their old way of life, their old habit of living.
They were no longer "fishers of men" but now "fairly bad fishermen." Casting their nets "to and fro" with not positive results.
Jesus appears! He tells them to cast the nets to the right side of the boat...to try something different. We know what happened!
The net overflowed...the catch was enormous...abundance for all!
In the gospel of John everything has a meaning. Even the exact number of fish in the net...153 to be exact. Many ingenious suggestions have been made as to the specific number. Cyril of Alexandria suggests the number 153 is made of three meanings: 100 for the fulness of the Gentiles that will be drawn to Jesus. 50 stands for the remnant of Israel who will be gathered in, and the remaining three for the Trinity, in the glory that all things will be done.
Augustine had another explanation. He suggests that 10 is the number of the Law of Moses (The ten commandments), 7 is the number of grace, (the gifts of the Spirit that are sevenfold), and now, 7 + 10 makes 17, and 153 is the sum of all the numbers, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 and so on up to 17. Therefore 153 stands for those either by the Law or by the Grace that have been moved to come to Jesus.
Now Jerome had the simplist of all the explanations. He says that in the sea are 153 different kind of fish, and therefore that number symbolizes the fact that some day the people of all nations will be gathered to Jesus Christ.
Also noted, that the great number of fish did not break the net...The net stands for the Church. Once again abundance for all!
The story tells us that Jesus then invites the hungry fishermen to share a meal of loaves and fishes. As, in a few moments, we too will share with Jesus a eucharistic meal.
A few years ago the big rage among 5- to 10-year-olds were plastic toys called "transformers." I learned this from my wife after I had asked my godson what he would like for his birthday. A "transformer." I asked Mick, "what on earth would he want with one of those oversized cans hanging on a utility pole?"
I learned that transformers are plastic toys. Ingenious little gizmos that looked like the average robot-like alien creature. But wih a tutored pull, twist, flip and click...small fingers could transform them into a car, or truck, or battle wagon. Wheels and wings and firepower were cleverly hidden inside the robot's body, giving them a dual identity.
Fascinated by these toys' ability to change before their very eyes, kids made these transformers enormously popular. Even I was impressed. If there was a transformed character in the Bible it would have to be Saul of Tarsus. He had enthusiastically earned his way as the early Church's "greatest enemy."
But when Saul meets the living Christ on the road, he is turned 180 degrees around...the hatred that had dwelled turned by the touch of Jesus. "Transformed" by the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.
Under the power of Christ's love, Saul becomes the Apostle Paul, our patron saint. Perhaps the most influential figure in the history of the church.
It was also Simon Peter who became the vehicle to move the church into the future, safeguarding its integrity that we enjoy today.
What about today?
Do we still find "transformers" in the church?
Individuals who can disrupt any spontaneous outgreaks of Christian love and harmony? We all know the type...they always have statistics on declining membership...can come up with a dozen reasons why evangelism won't work. And let you know that the church has just installed the ugliest carpet that they have ever seen!
However, transforming "terminators" is our legacy.
Can we, too, be transformed by an experience of Christ so powerful that it completely turns our lives around?
What does it mean when Jesus says, "follow me."
To me, it means to confess that Jesus is Lord by bearing to the truth, life, pain, death, frustration, despair and happiness...all our questions and questioning will one day find it's end in Him...He is the truth, the life, the way!
For some, that is not much comfort. At times in my life it was not much comfort for me.
However, it changed, I have been able to bear witness to the truth at those times I could not fully comprehend or understand. And like many before me, have been able to say in Jesus' name...Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. Why is it that something that sounds so simple...so difficult to achieve?
So much of Jesus' teachings speak to us of this very thing...Love one another as I have loved you...not seven times but seventy...you must forgive...love your enemies...how can you complain about the speck in your brother's or sister's eye and ignore the log in your own...repay no one for evil...a person has no greater love than this, that they lay down their life for a friend...whoever would be first among you must be last.
Jesus always put others before himself...his death gave that supreme sacrifice.
Jesus' willingness to give his own life reveals how far he was willing to go...to allow us to live in love and unity. Love and unity brings us the courage to follow Jesus.
We are those "fishers of men"...we are those sent into a questioning world to witness to those words..."follow me."