Sometimes something happens that changes our lives forever… and there’s no going back to the way things used to be.
When we ponder this, our minds often gravitate to terrible or tragic events that change our lives like an accident or illness, the death of a loved one, a broken relationship or a big big mistake. But, there are also wonderful and uplifting events that change our lives forever as well like meeting the love of our lives, following a dream, changing bad habits or lifestyle, or making a career change.
I suspect that, after Jesus death, and during the startling, amazing, and bewildering 40 days he appeared in his risen form, Jesus’ disciples were trying to figure out… is this a terrible and tragic change or a wonderful and uplifting change?
Either way… their lives were changed forever.
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 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.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to 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 there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)
Notice that these disciples TRIED, in some sense, to go back to the way things were before they met Jesus. They went fishing. I imagine it was somewhat comfortable to return to the life and lifestyle that they knew so well, that they excelled at, that they controlled and mastered.
Of course, their knowledge, excellence, and mastery of fishing was not going to bear fruit. After fishing all night long, they caught nothing. Of course, this is just a single recorded event. Maybe if they kept trying to fish day after day they would have filled their nets from time to time… but would their hearts have been similarly filled and satisfied returning to fish the sea rather than fish for people?
My reading of these Scriptures is that they were going to try like heck to go back to what they knew and mastered rather than mess around with all this trauma and amazement. This is an opportune time for Jesus to appear and reclaim their hearts and loyalty. And what better way to do so than with a miraculous lesson on scarcity and abundance.
The disciples fish all night and catch nothing. But, at Jesus’ suggestion to cast the net on the other side of the boat, they hit an amazing catch of fish. Through the disciples reliance on their own lives, knowledge, and mastery… they come up empty. Through submission to the will of Jesus… they come up full.
Often, we think we can get where we are supposed to go through our own knowledge and mastery. We may even try and keep Jesus in our ‘back pocket’ in case we think we need to get out of a jam. But, Jesus is Lord, and only by aligning our lives with him fully and completely are we able to become the people we were meant to be and fulfill the purposes we were meant to fulfill.
On our own, like the disciples, our efforts are bound to struggle and produce only scarcity. Aligned with, and obedient to, Jesus, our efforts tap into an abundance that was always there waiting.
The thing that changed the disciples lives forever was that they met and followed Jesus. They ceased to be the masters of their own lives. From that moment on, only Jesus would be able to lead them to abundance… there own efforts apart from Jesus would only ever lead to scarcity.
And so it is with us today. As we look for where Jesus is present in our lives… it is there we will find abundance, fulfillment, and purpose. Apart from him, working it out on our own, we face endless long nights of fishing but no fish, working but no results, effort but no satisfaction, life but no purpose.