Gone Fishing

The brooding mind of Peter matches the darkness as he flings the net into the shadowy waters of the night. In his mind self-condemnation is nudged on by the accusing voices of demons. “You have denied Jesus. Sure you have repented, but this time you have gone too far. There is no repentance.”

His brothers and comrades from the last three years work alongside him, but Peter is alone. No one tries to break into his solitude with words of comfort. The conversation ebbs and flows with the work. “What now?” Where is the kingdom He promised? I thought we were going to sit on thrones? Peter works, encased in his own silent misery.

They row from favorite spot to favorite spot in the blackness of the Galilee and cast their nets, looking for anything tangible that would quell their questionings.

The faint orange glow in the eastern sky casts eerie shadows on the rocks of the shore. The night is almost spent, the day is coming, but they have caught nothing. Time after time they have cast the nets, and yet the dark empty waters mock them. Is this not symbolic of their future?

On the distant shore an unseen figure stands in the shadow against the orange glow of the rising sun. Through the dark hours of the night He has watched over this precious cargo for they are His church of the future. He has listened to their talk, their confusion and their doubts. Cynical Nathaniel, doubting Thomas, loving John, excitable Mark, gentle Barthomolew, but mostly he watches impetuous Peter. He knows the heart of this man, he feels his agony and self-condemnation.

As the boat comes to the shore, the form of a stranger emerges. "Children, have you caught anything?" They should have recognized the tender salutation, but they are engulfed in their misery. “No,” someone replies, “Nothing! There are no fish to be caught.” Voices mutter, “Somehow they have all disappeared, vanished. Like our hopes, we had such high hopes.”

“Before you quit, try on the right side!” What? Try again? We’ve been at this all night! Didn’t you hear what we said? There are no fish to be caught! Everyone knows there are no fish this time of the morning."

That voice, those words—so familiar. It’s not so much authority, but something that stirs their flagging zeal and a cleansing tide washes over their discouragement. OK, one more try. With one more half-hearted heave, they throw the net out on the right side.

It slowly sinks into the shallow water, then there is that first tug, that first hit, another, then another, then the net is sinking, the water boiling with the churning of flashing silver bodies. So many fish! They gawk in silent wonder.

John the beloved, ever observant, turns and whispers. “Peter! It’s Jesus! It’s the Lord!” There is no vacillation this time, no hesitation, no questioning. Peter dives into the water, arms reaching, stroking, legs kicking, never taking his eyes off that silhouette on the shore. In moments this dripping figure of a man, standing before his beloved Master, gazing into those smiling eyes, searching their depths. This is no awkward moment for there is no pride, this is the new Peter, who has been baptized with the baptism of repentance. He stands sopping before his Lord, washed of any self-assurance, ready to be forgiven. Ready to be a fisherman of men.

Friend, are you fishing and catching nothing? Why not make one more cast! Cast on the right side, there are fish there, the Master said so.

Based on John 21:1–22

June 01, 2006 / Perspective