What’s so important about eating fish?

John 21:1-14

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 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.

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. 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, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 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. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Wild Daffodils | London, England | April 2023

My 5th grade classmate had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every Friday. He sighed about this one day, “peanut butter again. But I hate fish.” He was from a Roman Catholic family who observed the practice of not eating meat on Friday. And since he hated fish it was peanut butter and jelly for him.

We would go to Al’s on Fridays when I worked in a furniture store. They had great fried fish. And we loved fried fish. Today it’s grilled salmon. It’s a go-to favorite for Diane and me.

The fact that a fish breakfast made it into the Bible interests me. John makes a point of Jesus providing fish for his disciples here. But I don’t think it is a matter of religions observations or traditions of not eating meat on Fridays. Luke also records Jesus eating fish on another occasion:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

This fish-eating (or rather the recording of it) is meant to show that Jesus is not an apparition. He’s not a ghost. He is real. He has a real body. Thomas can touch his hands and side. Jesus can eat fish.

I don’t think it is a matter of Jesus’ disciples being more gullible or ready to believe in ghosts than we are today. Even though there are mysterious happenings like UFOs, we tend to get to the bottom of things like that. We’ll not easily be fooled. I don’t think the disciples would have been any different. Humans have invented ways of deceiving others since the fall into sin. Jacob tricked his father into thinking he was Esau so he could steal his brother’s birthright and blessing. Out of fear of Achish king of Gath, David pretended to be insane in order to avoid the king’s punishment (1 Samuel 21).

God must want us to know that Jesus’ resurrection was real and not a slick trick. With this in mind, perhaps Isaiah’s vision is more real than allegorical:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
    the covering that is cast over all peoples,
    the veil that is spread over all nations.
    He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:6-9

Jesus’ resurrection, God’s promises, heaven’s hope, and our future joy in the life of the world to come is as real as the fish the disciples caught and Jesus enjoyed with them that day.

Once Again…

  1. Why did he appear at this time to these people?
  2. What was the impact in their lives?
  3. What do I learn from these accounts?
  4. What am I going to do about it?

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