Jesus Eating Fish After Resurrection
I am sure that on any visit to the seaside you have seen people eating fish suppers al fresco. Involuntarily sharing them with seagulls on occasions, and indeed sometimes receiving unwelcome extra doses of sauce on their chips. One of the things that Jesus did to convince his disciples that He really had risen from the dead – was – believe it or not – to share a fish supper with them. The disciples had gone out fishing probably for a mixture of reasons including the need to find food, the need to do something familiar and practical and also the need to earn their living. Although sceptics today suggest this story to be fanciful and difficult to believe, it accurately reflects the practice of night fishing on the Sea of Galilee at that time and even to this day. Night time was the best time for fishing. Using torches, the fishermen moved from one place to another, spying fish and netting or spearing them singly. However, quite often, men would fish all night and catch nothing or hardly anything at all. A recent description of this kind of fishing told how even today one fisherman will walk along the beach while the other in the boat 100 yards off shore will cast the net into the sea. The fisherman on the beach are able to see the movement of a shoal of fish and shout to the fisherman in the boat to cast his net to the front or back or to the right or left. That is what Jesus did.
Another detail worth noting to show the genuiness of the Gospel story was how Peter working without his outer dress robe on, put it on in order to go and meet Jesus. In Judaism, each meeting with another person had a spiritual significance and so you could not meet someone without being properly dressed. There was a local friendly insult in West Lothian where I worked for many a year. At the end of a meeting or conversation someone would say. “I’ll see you when you are better dressed”.
Note that it was John, the beloved disciple who was first to recognise Jesus - ‘It is the Lord’ and tell Peter just as it was he who outran Peter to the empty tomb and realised what had happened before anyone else was quick enough to understand. Spiritual intelligence is a special faculty and gift. It is not the same as the brain power which does science, maths or languages, or is good at engineering or needlework. Some people have spiritual intelligence and they are sensitive to God and to Jesus Christ and to the things of the Holy Spirit and true Christianity. We are all like sheep says the Bible. Even Jesus calls us his flock. It is not such a flattering description. Sheep go hither and thither. As we do every day. But do you ever stop and say. ‘It is the Lord’? Do you recognise Jesus Christ in your life and sojourn? If he was standing right next to you would you know it was him? Do you see him in people you meet? We miss the many splendoured thing. We should remember that not all Jesus’ disciples were gifted with spiritual intelligence. Doubting Thomas wasn’t. That did not exclude him from being a disciple. Jesus calls all sorts of people to serve him in many different kinds of ways.
The extraordinary scene which followed is actually difficult for us 21st century people to understand. The net was so full of fish that they counted them out, probably to share for sale, 153 in all. Jesus already had been preparing a fire and had some fish and bread to which he added some of the new catch. We are not told where Jesus got the bread and fish he had with him. Was there a waterside fry-up kiosk? Opened maybe by a retired Roman centurion? That was a fish supper in those days, fish and bread, rather than fish and chips. After all that Jesus had been through, here He was sharing a fish supper with his disciples. It is a bit surprising. Why did he do this? To affirm his humanity and love for them. To provide a meal to eat. He didn’t ask them to pray for 3 hours with him. Just to enjoy food and conversation. After the greatest event in human history – there they were having a picnic on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This is humble Christianity. Muslims hate this sort of thing. It is demeaning to their god Allah. Orthodox Jews find it fanciful but they do not hate it.
There was one problem with Jesus’ appearances after His resurrection. Those who had not seen him themselves were inclined to suggest that he was a disincarnate spirit, or just a vision or even a hallucination. Some 20th century psychologists and indeed some theologians, Anglican bishops and Church of Scotland ministers certainly tried to explain away Jesus’ resurrection appearances in those terms. But the full Christian testimony of the first apostles was that it was the actual same Jesus of Nazareth who rose from the dead. They saw Him, touched, Him, talked to Him and ate and drank with Him. And yet – it seems that Jesus was not bound by space and time the way you are I are. He seems to have been able to metamorphose, or, Star Trek like, to be able to ‘beam himself up’ or ‘beam himself down’. And therein is a clue. If the science fiction writers can foresee human capacity to be able to do this – then Jesus was doing the same thing after His resurrection. You would expect the Son of God to be able to do such a thing. Moreover, we now see with our own eyes disabled people experimentally able to move prosthetic limbs by the power of their own thought waves. Jesus’ resurrection proves that we are more than visible physical beings. He makes the causal link between our life and eternal life, between what we can see with our naked eyes and what we recognise with our spiritual intelligence. Jesus proves these things to be true. That was also why he provided fish suppers for his disciples. But he was not bound by his once physical body any more and that was the difference. We assume that he did not need to go to the bathroom, as it were. The food that he ate would change in composition. But remember that that had happened in the feeding of the 5000 when a very small amount of food was multiplied into enough for a large number. Changing the atomic structure of things was possible for Jesus – that was how he healed people with deformities and withered limbs, and blindness. Jesus operated at that level. Open-minded scientists would accept these arguments as being possible and even plausible.
The whole point about Jesus was that he really was different from you and I and he was not limited as we are neither before His birth, during his life or after His resurrection. John’s Gospel makes a heroic effort to prove that Jesus was no disincarnate spirit, vision, ghost or hallucination. He was the same person although living a spiritually enhanced existence. And that is how we think of Him as risen and ascended. It is the same Jesus – the same yesterday, today and for ever who is the living Lord. The promise to us is that we shall also be like Him. It is an amazing, great and wonderful promise and you would think that it would move and change and transform our lives. And yet – we are not that bothered or impressed at all. We have too many other interests, concerns and responsibilities. Christianity does not touch us very much. Commitment to this Risen Jesus is not something we are too exercised about – as long as he is there when we need Him – and as long as he graciously guarantees us our salvation.
The generosity of the catch of fish also tells us something. Jesus was saying to the disciples that they did not need to worry that he would look after them and provide for them all their days. He would do so and they would never be in want. “The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want” has also become “The Lord’s my fisherman, I’ll not want” in other words “The Lord is my provider, I’ll never want”. They did not need to go back to the former employment as fishermen. Jesus would more than supply them with all they would ever need. And that has been the assurance with which so many have embarked on Christian service ever since. On the faith that God would provide everything needed. That is how many Christian people have lived, avoiding doing what is wrong, even if they never became rich, knowing that God would look after them.
The American model of giving is on a different scale. When Robert Schuller, an American evangelist had a vision five decades ago for a huge glass church to be built in California he prayed to God for guidance as to how to find the $6,000,000 necessary. He said that he received the answer, ‘Ask 6 millionaires for $1 million each’. He did and he got them. The Crystal Cathedral was built. In England twelve or so years ago a Methodist woman called Andrea Webster said that she had a vision to create a Biblical Disneyland type theme park for Yorkshire. She wanted 1,000,000 Christians to give her £144 each to raise the £144,000,000 required to build this Christian theme park. The appeal failed spectacularly. Ark Alive does not exist. Church giving in Scotland is nothing so imaginative or so heroic. Ours is often retentive, grudging, uneasy and hypocritical.
Eating a fish supper after resurrection! It seems a wonderful cliché (trope, as media luminaries have it) – understandable and acceptable in Scotland. Something so ordinary and simple that people do in Girvan and Rothesay, Troon, Ayr, Largs and Anstruther - and yet – something so completely able to prove that Jesus had risen from the dead. It’s in the Bible because it happened that way. The technical details are accurate even for fishing in the Sea of Galilee today. More importantly, however, is the truth that this same Jesus is risen for you and me and is the same for us as he was for his disciples then. The pioneer of our faith and salvation, Jesus deserves the best of our worship and service all our days. If you are not a Christian and if you are not a real Christian, make a change in your life now here this morning in Church. You can take Jesus into your heart and life. You can honour and help him all your days. The choice is yours to receive or walk away from, to take seriously or to forget. Jesus is risen from the dead for ever and for us. Do not neglect so great a salvation.