Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I have to confess...since I enjoy fishing, I really like all the "fish stories" in the Bible. So when the third Sunday in Easter's Gospel was the "Fish Story after the Resurrection" in John, well...I always listen to fish stories.

Now, if I’m remembering right, this is one of those stories that is only in John and not in the other three Gospels. So I’m always wondering “what is it that the author of John was trying to get across?” This is a set of verses I've heard preached upon many, many times, but it seems that I always find something different in it.

Over the years, I know the “classic” stuff in that text (mainly Jesus asking Peter to affirm his love for Him, one for each time Peter denied him, so Peter’s “even” now, in a manner of sorts) but I still always wonder what the significance of 153 fish is ...I kind of doubt that John in his dotage would remember 153 fish for any special reason so I secretly imagine the number 153 is some kind of number that becomes some aspect of the “numerology games” writers of the day like to play...but oh well... (John is a tough gospel for me b/c I keep seeing too many “distractors” in the stories....)

But the part that resonated with me was towards the end of the text, the part about a belt being put around Peter to take him where he did not wish to go. It was part of that same text that was used in the litany that was recited at the UCC congregation's service following the brutal Va. Tech murders...there was a part about “Take us, O God, to places we are reluctant to go, to the wounded places, the shattered places, the terrified places. There may we feed your lambs with compassion, tend your sheep with healing, feed your flock with hope. There, with Peter, may we move from denial to discipleship, and thus find strength in the midst of this week's sorrow and rage, to sing again the Easter song, ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen!’"

That, to me is kind of the backstory in the text: Jesus is telling Peter that he is going to be going to a place where our hearts know exists, but we don’t like to visit, and like to pretend it’s not there. That sometimes in those places we go reluctantly is where great joy exists, but only if you can go to that place and accept that what happens, happens--to allow yourself to be changed by it.

At the moment in the Gospel story, all Peter wants to do is go home and sort this all out. There must have been tremendous disillusionment in his soul with all the things that had happened in the past few days. He didn't know what to do so he went home to do what he knew he was able to do. But there is no satisfaction in it (no fish). They didn’t know it was Jesus on the beach telling them where to cast their net. You know Peter is thinking, “Who IS that bozo, yelling ‘cast your net over on the right'...oh, what the hell,” and does it anyway. He is surprised to be the recipient of 153 fish, shocked, in fact...and then he sees it’s Jesus (I think the “naked” thing where Peter jumps into the water because he's naked is allegorical to the shame of Adam and Eve when they were seen naked). Now he’s REALLY confused.

Then Jesus asks him “do you love me?” three times and you know Peter is thinking, “DUH! I done told you twice!” Maybe he has already caught on to this “three times” thing and he’s thinking, “Do you HAVE to rub it in about me denying you?” But then what Jesus tells him is also a surprise...but the wealth in that surprise is yet to be seen.

This is always a "reader's aspect" to this story that attracts me for the same reason that I enjoy Hitchcock movies. You know what is in store for Peter, good and bad, but HE doesn't know yet. (It's very reminiscent of that scene in "The Birds" where you see the birds perching on the jungle gym but Tippi Hedren doesn't see them behind her while she's smoking a cigarette. You know what the birds are up to but Tippi doesn't know they're there.) There's no resolution in the story, only a forboding sense of what will happen...but only to the reader, not the subject of the story. There is no resolution in this story, only a sense of what is yet to come.

This "non-ending" is a beginning, as are the "non-endings" we get in our own life story. Maybe THAT is the true meaning of this story!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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