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Praying about Jesus’s miracles: The second miraculous catch of fish

Lynne Baab • Tuesday July 9 2024

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: The second miraculous catch of fish

In Matthew's and Mark’s versions of the day of Jesus’s resurrection, the women at the tomb are told to pass a message on to the other disciples. Jesus wants the disciples to go to Galilee and meet him there. In Matthew, the disciples receive the Great Commission in Galilee. In John, one of the events in Galilee after the resurrection involves a large catch of fish (John 21:4-11).

In the early morning, the disciples are fishing close to the shore and see a man they do not recognize on the shore. He tells them to cast the net to the right side of the boat. They follow his instructions and catch so many fish that they cannot bring the fish into the boat. The “disciple whom Jesus loved” tells Peter, “It is the Lord” (John 21:7). I hope I would have done what Peter did next—throw myself into the water to get to Jesus as quickly as possible.

The other disciples bring the boat to shore, dragging the net full of fish. When they get to shore, they see a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread beside it. Jesus invites them to have breakfast and hands them bread. The gift of bread from Jesus undoubtedly reminds them of the Last Supper. The combination of fish and bread from Jesus goes further back in their memory, reminding them of the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000. I argued in my blog posts about those miracles that Jesus was evoking God as Shepherd in the first one and the God who meets us in the wilderness in the second one.

Meanwhile, Peter hauls in the net of fish, noticing that even though there were 153 fish, the net was not broken. This detail about the net not being broken brings to mind the miraculous catch of fish at the time when Peter, James, and John were called by Jesus to follow him. I wrote about that miraculous catch last week, arguing that Jesus showed them that he knew more than they did about fishing, their area of competence and expertise.

This miraculous catch of fish and the meal with the resurrected Jesus provides a profound teaching moment with few words. Through his actions, Jesus is saying, “Remember that I called you to fish for people, and that calling hasn’t changed now that I have been crucified and resurrected. Remember my provision of bread and fish for large crowds of people. Remember that I care for you like the Shepherd described in Psalm 23, and I am with you in the wilderness settings of your lives. Remember what I taught you on our journeys and in the upper room during my last meal with you. Remember how I have been present with you and shown myself to you. Remember.”

Remembering is a significant theme in the Psalms. Thanksgiving and praise in the Psalms often come after memories of God’s faithfulness are described. “I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old” (Psalm 77:11). “O give thanks to the Lord . . . Remember the wonderful works he has done” (Psalm 105:1, 5). On the beach in Galilee, Jesus invites the disciples to remember their calling and what they learned from him.

Remembering is a mixed bag. Some memories bring to mind a time when God was faithful, and I can easily move into thanks and praise. I also have memories of hard and hurtful interactions and situations. I want to blame someone. I want to wallow in discouragement or regrets. Sometimes, I can bring those sad and painful memories into God’s presence and grieve them with Jesus’s companionship. Not always.

The story of the miraculous catch of fish evokes a multitude of sensory memories: bright early morning light, the sting of cold water when diving into a lake, the feel of sand on our feet, breeze off the water, fish charred by charcoal, that first bite of bread given to us by a friendly hand. The sensory vividness of the story connects us — body, soul, spirit, heart, mind — with Jesus, who invites us to remember our faith journey. He invites us to bring our memories of pain to him so he — the crucified and resurrected one, the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief — can give us companionship and comfort when we feel sad.

Holy Spirit, guide us into memories of our early days as a disciple of Jesus and those moments throughout our lives when we saw Jesus at work and learned from him. Whether our memories are bright or sad, a joy to remember or painful, help us turn to Jesus with our memories. We want to meet Jesus on that beach beside the Sea of Galilee with the disciples, taste his bread, and eat fish fresh from the lake. We long for the vividness of that encounter with him in the bright morning air.

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Next week: Jesus withers a fig tree. Illustration by Dave Baab: Lake Wannacut, north central Washington state.

Previous posts about remembering:

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