Why were there 153 fish?

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Three times, Jesus asked Peter: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Let’s  join in a word of  prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, our loving Saviour, by your presence in our lives, you touch us, you teach us, and you renew us.  We continue to celebrate your resurrection and to worship You.  Guide our time together this morning that we may not be overwhelmed by trivial details as we discover your grace and mercy in your presence with us. Loving Lord Jesus Christ, hear our prayer for the sake of your name.  Amen.

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David:0414521661

It is so easy to get caught up in trivial messages and interpretations of scripture and miss the point.

We find in John 21:11, that: ‘Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish.’   

Have you ever wondered why there were 153 fish? I must admit that I haven’t. But others have.

Cyril of Alexandria in the 5th century said that the 100 represented the fullness of the Gentiles, the 50 symbolized the remnant of Israel and three of course was there for the Trinity.

Augustine’s theory, also in the 5th century, was a little more complicated. He said, there are 10 commandments and 7 is the perfect number of grace and that totals 17. If you add all the numbers from 1 to 17 together in a series, you know 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 all the way up to 17 you’ll get 153. And not only that but if you were to arrange them with 17 fish in the first row, and 16 in the next row, and 15 in the next row, all the way down to a row of 1 you get a perfect triangle which represents the Trinity.

A third 5th Century scholar, Jerome, suggested that there were 153 different types of fish in the sea and it was symbolic of the church reaching all the people in the world. 

Perhaps it’s mentioned in the Gospel simply because John counted 153 fish in the net. What do you think?  (Adapted from Brett Blair, http://www.Sermons.com, from the sermon “Live for Today” by Denn Guptill.)

You see we can get so caught up in really trivial stuff and miss the point.  That the disciples needed to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ, and toss the net on the other side of the boat.  In the same way, we need to be obedient to Christ, today.

When Jesus appeared to the Disciples in the upper room, after his resurrection, he was passing on the baton of Christian faith.  Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”   Jesus never wants us to be startled by his presence in our lives.  Our Saviour wants us to eagerly accept his call to live our faith and share the Good News of Salvation.  And not get caught up in the trivial, overlooking the heart of the Gospel message.

That baton of the race of life eternal has been passed down from generation to generation from Jesus Christ himself, to the disciples, to the patriarchs of the faith, to the families where faith is nurtured from parents to children, to their children.  Faith in Jesus Christ who was dead but is now alive, and is with us forever.

After receiving the baton from Christ Jesus, it appears that  Simon Peter became fearful of their future, and tried  to return to what he knew best.  He  said, “I’m going fishing.”  The other Apostles agreed,  “We’ll come, too.”  So they returned to Galilee and went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.  After which, Jesus affirmed his care for them and his authority, and called them back to what was important.

Jesus told them to toss the net on the over side.  They finally agreed, and as they recognised it was Jesus, Peter rushed to be with him.  I  can imagine a flood of memories filled his head.  During their last supper before his suffering, Jesus warned Peter, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”   Then Jesus prophesied, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Lk 22:31–34 NIV)

Just as was prophesied, filled with fear, three times Peter denied knowing Jesus.  Despite his best intentions.  And like Peter, with the best of intentions, we often fail too. 

No Christian engages with Word and Sacrament with the intention to ignore Christ Jesus, and follow after the trivial matters of life.  No Christian enters a life with Christ to rebel against his plan at some critical moment.  But, being human, we so often do.

After we’ve turned back, like Peter, we repent, regain our focus on Jesus Christ, and live again with confidence that we are following his plan for our lives.  Because God forgives us, accepts us, and through our faith in Jesus Christ he gives us the right to be called his children.

Toward the end of their time together here in the world,  Jesus asked three times if Peter loved him.  After each response from Peter, Jesus guides Peter to stay with the main thing.  “Feed my lambs” and “Take care of my sheep”.  Jesus ends with the same words that he first spoke to Peter when they met at the lake of Galilee “follow me”.  

Like Peter, as modern Disciples of Christ Jesus, we are called not to lose sight of the most important things.  Not to be caught up in the less important things. 

That we continue to strive to share the wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ with each other and with the next generation.  By our everyday actions, words and attitudes.  We can trust that God’s plan will prevail, but we do need to keep our attention on the main thing with a hopeful heart – the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

From his letters to us, we recognise that Peter never again lost his attention to Christ Jesus.  Peter begins his second letter with the words, ‘Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:  May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’ (2 Pe 1:1–2 NRSV)

We have received the same precious faith as the Apostles, grounded in the person, the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ.   The most important person and the most important message.

Paul discovered these same most important truths.  After being blinded, then seeing the light, Paul was baptised, and engaged with the Christian life with the passion of an Apostle, and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul later wrote, ‘I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  (1 Cor 15:1–4 NIV)

As a Worshipping Community, we have a mission and as  individual members of our Worshipping Community, Jesus Christ wants us to further his mission.  To keep our actions, attitudes and words active and obedient to Christ Jesus. Rather than counting fish.

As a worshipping community, we have a calling from our Saviour to be active in each other’s lives.  To hold consistent in his plan for the Mid North Coast.  To fulfil our vision of “Inspiring people to LIVE a purposeful LIFE, growing TOGETHER in JESUS CHRIST”.  And to assist our District in fulfilling its vision of “Going, Growing and Enabling mission for Christ Jesus’.

Christ-filled hope gives us a clear picture of our vision, and energises us to fulfil our mission. The Holy Spirit gives us strength to make the best decisions about what’s important, and helps us to work together as God’s children.  And so we pray that the Holy Spirit will fill our lives and our hearts with a passion for Christ Jesus, to the glory of God our Father. 

May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, the most important person in our lives.   AMEN.

Rev David Thompson

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