In John 21 there is a story about a fishing trip some of the disciples and followers of Jesus went on in the days following his death. They had fished all day and caught nothing, until Jesus appeared telling them where to cast their net. They did as Jesus said, and caught so many fish that they were unable to haul the net into the boat!
This story is so rich and full of encouragement, whether you are a disciple mourning the loss of a friend, as the men in the story were, or a woman in the 21st century who is trying just to survive the day. The first thing that is interesting is the decision to go fishing. These guys had spent a long time following and being devoted to Jesus. They had no doubt learned about love, forgiveness, and literally what it is like to follow Christ. He had told them that the day would come that he would no longer be with them, that he would be sacrificed for them, and that day had come and gone. We can imagine that they were likely heartbroken and felt lost, unsure of what to do now that Jesus was gone and this amazing, challenging and life-changing season of their lives seemed to be over. What was interesting is that they didn’t go out and tell everyone about how Jesus had said this would happen. They didn’t follow Jesus’ example by going to the tallest hill and proclaiming the truths they had learned in their time with him. What these former fishermen and current disciples chose to do was something familiar, surrounded by familiar people and away from anyone who might challenge their beliefs, or worse, try to persecute them as they did their friend Jesus. Aren’t there times that we do the same thing? We know God is calling us to do something, maybe something that seems beyond our abilities or outside of our comfort zone. Maybe we even try to answer that calling for a time, but when things get uncomfortable or scary, we retreat to what is familiar.
Another thing to note is that when these guys chose to seclude themselves, setting aside their calling, Jesus pursued. In Mark 1:17 Jesus had originally called the Disciples while they were fishing, saying “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus coming after them once more is a reminder of his never-ending love for them and his call on their life. It’s like he is saying, “Look guys, I know you are scared and upset, and I’m still here. If you’ll let me, I’ll calm your fears, erase your doubts, and provide for you in amazing and awesome ways.” Jesus didn’t give up on them when they went back to their old ways, he gently reminded them of who they were and who he is. Jesus does the same for us. When we have moments of retreat, fear, sadness or anger, he calls to us and pursues us. I find that when I am struggling, if I seek him, he provides encouragement. It comes in many forms, sometimes in a sweet text from a friend and sometimes in a song on the radio sung by a stranger, but one way or the other Godly encouragement always comes if we are willing to open our eyes and see it.
Finally, the simplest and most exciting truth in this story is that when they did what Jesus said they caught a mother-load of fish. This should not be surprising, and in fact had happened before, but it is still fun to think about. Jesus told them exactly where to put their nets and when they did as he said, they caught more fish than they could haul in their boat. What they ended up doing was dragging their nets (full to the brim with fish) to the shore where Jesus was. Jesus welcomed them, asking them to bring the fish they had caught to him and offered them breakfast. I think this is what Jesus calls us to do as well; go out and fish. The love he has shown us, we should show to others. The truths we find in his Word, we should tell others. Most of all, we should bring others to him. Our friends, coworkers, neighbors need to hear that Jesus lived and died for them. I have to confess that this is something that I am really not good at. It is one thing to write an article behind my computer screen in the comforts of my own home. It is another thing entirely to share my faith with someone who may not want to accept that truth. There have been times where I’ve had the chance to share Jesus’ story, and I have passed on it because I was afraid of their reaction and of what it would do to our relationship, or what might happen if they were offended. This story doesn’t promise that fishing with Jesus will be easy, but it does promise that the outcome will be better than anything you could have ever dreamed of doing on your own.
This exploration of being a better witness started a week or so ago when I was reading in the book of Luke and came across another story, a parable that Jesus told about a rich man and a poor man. I’ll give you the short version. The rich man refused to help the poor man and eventually the poor man went to heaven and the rich man suffered in hell. The rich man asked Abraham to have pity on him but Abraham reminded him that it was too late, he had denied the truth and not lived to honor God. The rich man then asked Abraham to send the poor man back to tell his family so that they would not also suffer and his reply was:
“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, the will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
When I read that verse I stopped in my tracks. My heart broke knowing that as Jesus spoke those words, he knew that he would soon die and be raised from the dead. He loves us so much that he died for us knowing that not all would accept that gift. What may be worse, and what truly struck me, is that those of us who do accept the gift of salvation that Jesus offers are sometimes unwilling to share that awesome gift with others!? God calls us each to do the same thing; our purpose is to father his kingdom by bringing others to him. We should be afraid of the consequences of not sharing Jesus with others, for they are eternal. If our hope is in the Lord, and we have faith that he is for us and not against us, then we should cast our nets with confidence.
God knew long before he spoke those words that I would read them on the exact day that I did.
He knew that he would use it to inspire me to write this article, and he knew that YOU would read it.
He also knows who he will put in each of our paths today, tomorrow, and the next day who need to hear the story of Jesus’ love for them. God has given each of us a story, and that story is our witness and unique key to reaching those we encounter. He equips each of us with unique gifts and anoints us with a specific calling, all for the same purpose: so that others may know him and accept his gift of salvation.
I challenge myself to ask God when and where I should cast my net, and share what he has done for me. Will you join me?