The plaque above, from http://www.QuotesDonkey.com, is similar to the one I gave my brother-in-law. He loves to fish. Being on a boat, in the middle of a lake, with its peaceful natural surroundings, casting a fishing line now and then, with only an occasional cooing of birds breaking the silence of the early morning, is a very serene thing to do for those who like to fish. My sister’s husband likes to fish on the Quabbin Reservoir.
Most people, I would say, go fishing for the calm tranquility it brings to them. I believe this is the same reason why Peter and the other disciples went fishing. Peter and the disciples just went through a week filled with experiencing a wide range of emotions; from confusion to chaos, from terror to triumph, from feelings of unshakable loyalty to fearfully lying and retreating. Peter, out of all the disciples wore his emotions on his sleeves. He must have been exhausted and a bit confused with what the future would bring. Most of us, after going through a rollercoaster of emotions, turn to some type of normalcy. For instance, after my mom’s Funeral, I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come to just get lost in watching a football game. I was too exhausted to go to church, but there were the football playoffs; something I normally watch on a Sunday in January. I believe Peter wanted to do something he was familiar with, something he knew like the back of his hand. That’s why he went fishing and allowed others to join him (See John 21:1-3). Peter liked to fish on the Sea of Tiberius [or Galilee]
While they were fishing all night and caught nothing, early in the morning the disciples heard a familiar voice calling from shore. It was Jesus asking them: “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” and they answered, “No” and Jesus told them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some” (John 21:5-6). When Peter heard those words and saw the enormous catch of fish they had just caught, he recognized that it was the Lord Jesus, so he got dressed and swam to shore (See John 21:6b-7). Peter was not going to try walking on water this time (See John 6:16-21)! The other disciples rowed the boat to shore and saw that it was Jesus waiting for them, with a “fire of burnings coals there with fish on it, and some bread” (John 21:9). With all this happening – Jesus appearing to them a third time after His resurrection and cooking breakfast for them – someone counted the catch to be 153 fish (See John 21:11-14). Maybe one of the un-named disciples was Matthew, who wasn’t into fishing as he was into numbers, since his former job was that of a tax collector. I’m just guessing.
There have been many sermons preached on Jesus making a point to talk with Peter, after that special breakfast on the beach. I have heard that Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” because Jesus wanted to let Peter know that his three denials of Him, before He was crucified, were forgiven (See Luke 22:54-62). Other sermons emphasized that while Jesus used the word “agapao” for “love”, which describes God’s perfect love for men, Peter used the word “phileo” for “love”, meaning a close friendship type of love (From “JOHN: The Gospel of Belief” by Merrill C. Tenney, p290-293). Still other preachers focus of what Jesus meant when He asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15b). Was Jesus talking about the fish or the other disciples or what? Then, there are Jesus’ three commands to Peter: “Feed my lambs” (v. 15b), “Take care of my sheep” (v.16b) and “Feed My sheep” (v. 17b). I believe that Jesus was helping Peter to focus. Maybe Peter had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or something like that (just a theory). Jesus was telling Peter that he had to love Jesus completely, in order to carry out His mission of spreading His GOOD NEWS to new disciples, as well as help the disciples already with him to grow and mature.
Personally, the most important part of the conversation Jesus had with Peter on the beach is in John 21:18-22: “‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you don’t want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’”
This is a very powerful and personal portion of Scripture for me. If I read it as though Jesus is talking to me, it sounds like He is describing my disability and what is going to happen to me as I age. Even now, I used to be able to walk, but now I need to use a wheelchair. Even now, I need more help dressing and I’ll need even more help later on in life. Even now, someone brings me to doctor appointments, something I’d rather not be doing, but there will be more of these appointments as I age. When I read this portion of Scripture, I think of the elderly in nursing homes and pray that their dignity will not be stripped away from them. I might find myself in that situation someday.
It is true that Peter died a martyr’s death. Some say that he asked to be crucified up-side-down because he did not feel worthy to die the same kind of death as his Savior. I am pretty sure I will not be called to glorify God by dying a martyr’s death, but I am called to glorify God with my cerebral palsy and with the aging of my body parts that do not work as well as they used to. I can glorify God by being kind to others who are serving me, being gracious to those who don’t know how to handle my disability, and by being a good listener. I can glorify God by using His wisdom that “gives patience” and “overlooks an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). I can glorify God by praying that, in whatever state I find myself in, it will bring me closer to the Cross of Christ, and for the same attitude Christ had in suffering, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8).
I must admit, I am not there yet. I do not like to suffer, even if it means I will have a better understanding of what Jesus went through for me. I’m like Peter pointing at John, “Lord what about him?” (v. 21). Why does he go his merry way? Why can’t you give some of my suffering to him? Or, I’m like Tevye, in “Fiddler on the Roof”: “[If I were not disabled,] Lord Who made the lion and the lamb; You decreed I should be what I am. Should it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were [an able-bodied woman]?” Yes, I am not there yet, but with God‘s help and a lot of prayer, I‘m getting closer to where God wants me to be: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God‘s will for you in Christ Jesus”
(I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Peter deserves more praise than we give him. What would I do if Jesus told me that following Him meant hardship, imprisonment and eventual execution? Peter chose to follow his Lord and Savior, no matter the cost. Some may think Peter really didn’t know that Jesus was talking about his death, but II Peter 1:13-14 tells us he did understand: “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus has made it clear to me.” In his first letter to the same group of Christians, Peter encouraged them as Jesus encouraged him while walking on the beach:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (I Peter 5:2-4).
There’s nothing like taking a fishing trip to renew the mind, body and soul!
“CAST all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7)