Links Daily Devotional

At the Sea

It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (John 21:11, NIV)

The wonder of the Galilee in our time is that you can look out across its expanse today even as Jesus and the disciples did all those years ago. What you see on the other side is small, held distant by the blue, dwarfed by the mountains beyond.

Some places on earth are perhaps best meant to make us feel small. Pastor John Piper says this of the Grand Canyon. Do you need a recipe for renewal? You’ll find it standing on that gaping edge: one part awe, one part humility.

Most of us don’t live in such a place, though, as the disciples did along the shores of Israel’s northern lake (for it is not truly a sea, but one in name only). Not many are comfortable living in a place where the land wins. Fewer work there. But several of Jesus’ close followers were fishermen. Daily they set out onto a lake that could turn fiercely or serve up the gnawing disappointment of an empty net.

Jesus famously encountered his disciples at the sea. Here he called them to a greater task, to be “fishers of men.” Here he showed them the wonder of his power, causing them to ask in stunned bewilderment, “Who is this man that even the wind and waves obey him?”

But it was also the setting of Galilee that enveloped the denouement of Jesus’ earthly ministry, when he met seven of the disciples here after his resurrection. In his absence, they had taken to the sea again. Some suggest this was an exercise in faithlessness. More likely it was an action spurred by hunger, or the boredom of young men. All night they toiled, casting their nets again and again. They caught nothing.

When morning broke, a man stood on the distant shore and called out to them. It was Jesus, though they did not at first recognize him. In an exchange of cries, he learned that they had no fish for their effort, so he called out: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” This was an odd instruction. The steering oar was on the right side of the boat; no one ever thought to fish there. But maybe because the idea was just that quirky, they did what they were told. The net jumped to life!

Here, we might say, was Jesus’ last earthly miracle, just as the wedding at Cana was his first. In reading either account, the wonder is hard to set aside. This was a man whom the disciples called “Lord” with pure reason. He showed them things they had never seen before, things only associated with the one sent from God.

What do you call Jesus? What has he shown you? These are the critical questions of any person’s life, whether we admit to it or not. We must reckon with this man on his terms—terms of power and perfection, but also of gentleness and deep love. This can be as unnerving as a night on the dark, silent sea. But turn your affections and obedience to him, and you will find life to be more beautiful than a teeming catch of fish in the sunshine of the morning!

Jeff Hopper
December 4, 2014
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