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John 21:4-14
 
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
 
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (ESV)
No Fish Story
Tuesday After All Saints
3 November 2015
Some years ago while visiting Winchester Cathedral in England, I was amazed to find out that among the chapels of the cathedral there was one called "Fishermen's Chapel," which is the burial place of Izaak Walton, who died in 1683. Walton was the author of The Compleat Angler and a friend of John Donne, the famous English divine and one of my favorite poets. The chapel features the image of an angler. The picture of Jesus as a fisherman is one that is quite attractive. The quiet harmony and artistry of the fly fisherman using fluid motions to set his fly upon the still waters of a silent pond is a pleasant scene. Of course, Jesus of Nazareth was not Himself a fisherman, but He offered splendid advice to those who were (Jn 21:6). He made the disciples fishers of men, because He sought to possess us. His apostles were seeking to cast a wide net, drawing in as many as possible. Fishing with nets seems to us to be unsporting and over aggressive. The fish certainly agree. Given the choice, the fish will seek to escape the net's enclosure. No fish chooses to be caught, but the opposite.
 
Our Lord Jesus does not want to give us a sporting chance. Our salvation is not a game. His net is spread wide to encircle as many of us as possible. This is life and death; but in a way that is completely different from the situation of the denizens of the deep, who come to their end on our tables by being caught. We humans are caught to separate us from the dying world and bring us to the table of the Lord, where we are fed upon His body and blood unto life. He feeds us food prepared from the burning embers of His heart (Jn 21:9). Though we attempt to flee and do not seek His embrace, still He aggressively seeks us. He does not just gather us, but condescends to become one of us and to descend into the troubling waves and roiling waters of human existence, by becoming incarnate of Mary. He who made creation becomes a part of it.
 
He becomes fully human, bears the law, suffers ignominious mistreatment, undergoes humiliating death, and burial. And all this He does bearing the sin of the world, indeed is considered sinner of sinners. If the Son of God was crucified and underwent the torments of sin and death, why could we not say He is a sinner or a curse? Martin Luther says, "If it is not absurd to confess and believe that Christ was crucified among thieves, then it is not absurd to say as well that He was a curse and a sinner of sinners." He becomes the sinner of sinners to release sinners from the curse of their sin. He changes places with us in the blessed exchange of His holiness for our filth. If this is how He deals with the fish He has caught in the net of the Word of God, then why would I seek to wriggle free? I am so glad to be caught by the Divine Angler. And that's no fish story.

 

Gregory Nazianzus

"Jesus, who chose the fishermen, also uses a net and changes places with us. Why? Not only that He may gain more of those who love God by His visitation, but also that He might sanctify stations in life. To the Jews He becomes as a Jew to gain the Jews. To those who are under the law he becomes one under the law, that He might redeem those who are under the law. For the weak He is weak, that He might save the weak. He is made all things to all men that He might gain all. Why do I say, 'All things to all men?' For the Savior suffered, which is something that even Paul could not endure to say about himself. For Christ is made not only a Jew, and not only does He take to Himself all monstrous and vile names, but even that which is most monstrous of all, even the very sin and the very curse. Not that He is such, but that He is called so. For how can He be sin, who sets us free from sin? How can He be a curse, who redeems us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10, 13)? It is that He might carry His display of humility even to this extent, and conform us to that humility which is the producer of exaltation. He is made a fisherman. He condescends to all. He casts the net. He endures all things that He might draw up the fish from the depths, that is, He is a Man who is swimming in the unsettled and bitter waves of life."

Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 37.1
 
Prayer
Lord Jesus, You have come among us as one of us. Continue to gather in the children of men with the net of Your Word that many more may come to be gathered into Your kingdom. Lead us to hunger and thirst for the food and drink that You offer the little fish whom You have gathered into the church. Amen.
 
For Lutherans for Life, that the voice defending innocent life would be heard in our culture
 
For Walter Friend, that he would be strengthened in his body as he recovers from cancer surgery and chemotherapy
 
For the people and pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Tomball, Texas, that the Lord would keep them steadfast in the life-giving Word
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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