rewind: back to the sea | John 21.1-4
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21.1-4 | ESV
Fast forward (or is it rewind? – and you thought we were done)…
Could be days, could be weeks. But now we’re no longer with the disciples behind barricaded doors in Jerusalem. No, the scene of the next Jesus manifestation was on the wide open waters of the imperially tagged “Tiberias Sea” (but we know it as the Sea of Galilee – talk about a vast pool of proof!).
And this is how it happened.
They were together, a bunch of them – Simon “I’m The Rock and I’m Listening” Peter, along with “Think Twice” Thomas, “Gift of God” Nathanael from Cana (the “Sticks”) of Galilee, Zebedee’s (“the Giver’s”) two sons, and at least two others (which would make this a party of seven). Peter has evidently had enough of waiting for Jesus to pop in again and decides to go back to what he knows. “I’m getting back to fishing, guys!” “Wait for us,” they all chimed in, “we’ll join you.” Back to Galilee. Back out on the lake. Back in the boat. Just like old times. And just like old times, they worked it all the night long and came up with…not. one. thing. MAV
Is it just me, or did it feel like the Gospel of John concluded in the last chapter with that grand finale sounding flourish in stating his purpose? So why this final chapter? Some scholars go so far as to infer chapter 21 is a clear later addition to John’s Gospel considering the clear ending of chapter 20.
Clearly they’ve never seen a Peter Jackson film.
Thank God for the extended edition we have before us, in that case, because there are treasures to be fished out of these final scenes.
First among them is another glorious view of the humanity of these first disciples – with resulting insight into our own. How marvelous that Peter returns to Galilee not out of obedience to Jesus’ post resurrection instruction to “go to Galilee because I will appear to you there,” but because he appears to be tired of waiting for Jesus to show. Or perhaps they all returned to Galilee in obedience to Jesus’ instruction, but then Peter tires of waiting and motions to his friends and former partners, “I’m headed back out to fish.”
Whichever way it happened, Peter is now back out on the lake, doing what he knew best: fishing – and catching nothing. The temptation to spiritualize or allegorize is almost irresistible all through John 21. So I’m not even going to try not to.
This is us.
Everyone one of us.
We can spend a lifetime waiting for God to show (okay, in the story it’s just days or weeks at most, but it always seems like so much more at the time) – and how much easier is it to simply go back to what we know?
And how often, when we do, do we find ourselves coming up empty-handed, no matter how hard or long we work it?
Oh yes, this is us.
This is so us.
This is us at our perpetually rewinding best…exchanging present suspending uncertainties of waiting for God to show for the more “down to earth” realities of our past that are, at least, familiar territory.
So, what is your own rewind version of “let’s go fishing”? How does your “rewind” experience compare with Peter’s?
Lord, as I rewind (over and over) in my life, exchanging present uncertainties of faith for the familiarity of the well-worn ruts of the past, thank you for waiting for me to come up empty – again – so that you can fill my nets with something much better. Through Jesus.