1 Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. This is how it happened: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two other disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter told them, “I’m going fishing.”
They said, “We’ll go with you.” They set out in a boat, but throughout the night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus.
5 Jesus called to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
6 He said, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”
So they did, and there were so many fish that they couldn’t haul in the net.
Nearly every sermon I’ve ever heard on this passage starts with the idea that the disciples are frustrated, confused, and unsure. Jesus was crucified, they knew that much for certain. And now the eleven understand that he’s been raised – they’ve even seen him – but they don’t seem like they yet know what to do with the information. It’s unclear what the next step in the mission ought to be. So, as the preacher usually tells it, Simon Peter decides he’s going back to fishing. After all, it’s the thing he knows best.
The preacher is usually incredulous – you’ve been through all this with Jesus – the teaching, the miracles, the crucifixion, the Resurrection – and you’re just going to go back to fishing ?! What was the point?
There is another way to read this, though. And it’s with this thought in mind: everyone’s gotta eat.
So what if, instead of seeing Peter’s return to the water as him turning his back on Jesus, we read it instead as Peter caring for the people Jesus had given him charge over?
When we think about things that way, suddenly Peter’s action appears in a much different light – not of faithlessness but faithfulness. He’s catching food to feed his family – his family being all those who counted themselves followers of Jesus.
We are often frustrated when we are in a season of life where we don’t know what to do, or when the next step seems a bit uncertain. What this story reminds me is that we’re not expected to figure it out right this minute. There is value in just continuing to do the things we know. There is value in caring for people in all the practical ways we already understand.
Sometimes, when we don’t know what to do, it’s ok to just keep doing the things we do best. Sometimes, faithfulness looks like going fishing so your people can eat tonight.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you ever felt like you were just sitting still? Maybe you’re in a moment now where the next steps for what God is calling you to do or be in your life seem unclear. Perhaps the most faithful thing you can do today is to keep fishing – that is, to keep caring for the people in your life in the best way you know how until God makes the way forward a bit more obvious to you. Are you patient enough to keep fishing while you wait?
Prayer: God, remind me that I don’t have to have it all figured out right this minute. While I wait for your direction, remind me that it’s enough to focus on the things you’ve given me to do to take care of the people in my life. Amen.