by Adam J. Wehrley
“I am going fishing.” … “We will go with you.” John 21:3
I don’t spend enough time fishing, I’d like to. When I was younger I had some summer jobs driving skiff and seining for fisheries agencies here and in Alaska, but I’ve never made sports fishing enough of a priority. I regret it.
I spent 14 years in Alaska, but didn’t catch my first halibut until two months after I returned to Oregon on my way to South America, where I spent too little time picking mangos and mandarins.
I’ve decided I need to spend more time with my barbecue this summer. My priority for the fall is to fill my freezer with berries and venison. I’ve been managing more backyard campfires and some afternoon trips to the beach.
And, I have a long term goal to plant and tend fruit trees, like the first Adam did in Eden.
I realize I let the urgency of life get in the way of the life I’d like to live. I let it push out peaceful times with friends and family, or alone with God in His creation. I think we were built for these things and I’ve neglected them.
I once thrived on conflict, urgency and adventure, but lately it’s just made me feel thin and tired.
As a kid I spent a lot more time working outside than my children do, raising animals for fair, helping on farms, doing chores around my grandma’s barn, picking berries for pie. I need to fix their situation, before they miss the beauty of what’s around us in the Northwest.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul urged his readers to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Paul knew this was not always possible. He was often at the center of conflict, never settled down, was imprisoned and tortured for the Gospel he preached.
Paul, many of his followers and all but one of the other apostles were eventually executed for preaching that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. The authorities of Paul’s day believed that those who follow Christ as king would not bow to others.
Wherever Christ’s teachings were preached, His followers condemned injustice, greed and sinful indulgence. They taught peace between God and man, mercy and forgiveness to neighbors and strangers alike. The Roman Empire slaughtered thousands, but Christians preached on.
Peace was answered with violence.
The Apostle Peter was a fisherman. His brother, Andrew and best friends John and James were fishermen too, they all worked together.
Christ called them off their boats to become fishers of men and spread the good news of the Kingdom of God.
They traveled with Him for three years. They saw Him heal lepers, bless children and preach forgiveness to prostitutes. They saw Him use a whip to drive out those who profaned the temple, who cheated worshippers for profit. They listened to Him condemn the hypocrisy of religious leaders.
Yet, they abandoned Him at His arrest. Peter denied Him as He was tried for blasphemy and watched from afar as He was executed for rebellion.
Peter failed his friend and teacher, but when he heard of the resurrection, Peter was the first to enter the empty tomb. It was Easter that changed Peter, though he should have known better already.
In the weeks after Christ’s resurrection, after He appeared to many and sent the apostles to Galilee, Peter stood up among the disciples and announced “I am going fishing.” John 21:3.
I have heard preachers say this was hopelessness, or backsliding or another abandonment of Christ. The Bible doesn’t say so.
Peter was a fisherman, he went fishing. The other apostles joined him. They fished all night and caught nothing.
At dawn, Christ appeared on the shore, told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish they nearly sank.
They had to drag the net to land. As soon as he recognized Christ, Peter leapt into the sea and swam to shore, leaving all the fish for the others to bring in.
By the time Peter reached the shore, Christ had a fire going, with His own fish cooking.
I have had some expertly prepared salmon and halibut in my life, but I’ve got to believe Jesus could grill better than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s a fishing/barbecuing miracle! How do we miss this?
I’ve understood Christ as the Savior on the Cross and the God of glory, righteousness and eternity, but somehow I’ve been missing Christ as the King of fishermen, Lord of family feasts and picnics by the sea.
Christ didn’t reprimand the apostles for fishing; He helped. He started the fire and baked some bread.
I find a lot of peace and hope in this, that in our times of distress and confusion, Christ can bring peace, friendship and a good meal. He cares about those things.
The Gospel of John ends with this story, and Christ’s message to Peter as they walked along the beach after breakfast.
Jesus told Peter that he too would be killed for preaching the Gospel, that he would follow Christ to the cross. He told the fisherman to be a leader of the church, to care for and guide those who follow Christ.
Jesus calls us to preach forgiveness and live at peace, but knows that the world is often at war with that message.
Christ is my Lord, my God, my Savior and King. His death on the cross canceled the debt of all our sin and rebellion.
Yet, when He descended from Heaven, He was greeted by shepherds; His first miracle was turning water into wine, and His last was cooking fish for His friends, friends who had abandoned Him at His death.
He calls us each to follow Him to the cross, to know the life He gives through His resurrection. On the way, He washes our feet, makes the fruit ripen and gives us bread and meat to eat along the way.
There is something holy in the peace and glory and humility of all that Christ is; something that is always a little beyond our grasp; something I long to know better this Easter season as we praise the resurrection, as the trees blossom and the salmon run. I want to know the King of the fishermen, farmers and shepherds better.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29.