Are we seeking fish, or the maker of those fish?
I'm going to retell this story in John 21 with some creative liberties so you can get into it.
Peter felt so defeated. The savior they had believed in had been cut down like all of the other heroes that promised to lead the uprising. Peter had to keep reminding himself that Jesus was different in a big way. He had appeared to them after his death. But it was just two times and they were far in between so it was easy to think they'd still be stuck here and things were just going to go back to the way they used to be.
So Peter did his best to believe. But he got so depressed sometimes. Tonight as he lay down he just couldn't shake the memory of when he denied knowing Jesus right outside where he was on trial. This was the hardest part for him to let go of since the crucifixion. He had thought he would never do something like that to Jesus who had been his friend, but his true self had come through. And in neither of the times Jesus had shown up since he resurrected did Peter get a chance to say how sorry he was. Peter would probably do anything to rectify that relationship again.
He used to look for a messiah because the messiah would bring freedom from their oppression. And he would make things right with the economy and their basic rights, and justice in the courts. It would just make life a lot better for everyone. Plus the Romans deserved a beat down.
But this messiah was different. As Peter thought about how Jesus, this powerful rabbi had offered to be Peter's intimate friend. No one of that stature had offered or wanted to get close to a simple fisherman like him. But this amazing man, Jesus, did.
He got up from bed. He just had to get this off of his mind. He would go fishing. He snuck over to John's house to see if he was awake and wanted to go. He peaked in the window and heard the voices of not only John but also Andrew, and a few others who Jesus had been friends with.
Peter wondered if they longed for their savior because it would solve their financial, judicial, or hunger needs, or if they actually longed for their friend again like he did.
"Psst!" They all looked over at Peter. "Let's hit the sea."
They had been in the boat all night and had caught nothing. It felt like Peter had gone out to get Jesus off of his mind but not even a single fish would come to distract him. They all definitely could use a good catch right now, for the market, and just for their own families which were hungry. Things sure hadn't been made easier on their economics by following Jesus.
Everything John and the other guys said just annoyed Peter right now. It felt like they were just about the business of catching fish and fighting about the best way to do it. They sounded so shallow- they just wanted stupid fish, as if that's all that mattered. But all that Peter really wanted was a chance to be with Jesus again. It wrecked him. Peter didn't say much, resting in the front of the boat, so stuck in his head still.
The sky was lightening over the beach. Peter sat at the front of the boat, still fuming. He turned around to see how close they were to shore. There was a black speck on the sand. It moved and stood up. It was a man. He yelled, "Have you caught any fish?!"
"Oh great,"Peter thought. "He's just as hungry as we are. Probably has some sob story."
"No!" Peter yelled back, angrily. "Nothing the whole night, okay?!"
The man was not phased, and he shouted again,"Put your net in on the right side of the boat!"
The friends in the boat all looked at each other, confused. John shook his head at Andrew holding the net as if to say he didn't know who this character was. But they had the nets already almost pulled in from the last cast, so why not. So they tossed the nets out on the right, the bobbers bumping over the edge of the boat. The weights sunk down creating vortexes in the water. They're probably brushing the bottom by now.
But then the nets started moving. Moving enough that they probably had something. The men started to pull. John was struggling to pull it in. It was actually hard for him, a seasoned fisherman. But then he stopped, and let go, letting the others bear the weight of pulling it in, and John looked at the shore. The words, "It is the Lord," slipped out of his mouth.
Peter swung around immediately knocking his elbow on the wood, and focused on the man on the shore. It really might be! Peter stumbled to his feet. Scrambled to put his clothes back on, didn't even bother with his sandals, and jumped into the water, swimming with all he had to get to shore. The others could have their fish. Peter wanted his friend back.
I was on a church zoom call with like 10 other people as I had huge decisions on my mind. Decisions that would effect the whole rest of my life, and there were significant fears regarding them. I had struggled with God for answers. It felt like he was pretty much silent during my time of asking.
And then the facilitator asked, 'has anybody heard anything from God during this time in Quarantine?' After maybe one person shared and then after an awkward silence I admitted I had been asking a lot of questions. And maybe it was God who was leading me to the worldly answers I was gathering, but I just felt like I wasn't hearing from Him.
A young woman on the call spoke up and said she had been in a similar situation back in college. She had a lot of questions about career path and who to marry. And at the pinnacle of her stress she felt she did get an answer to her prayer. It went something like this. "You have been seeking answers, but I want you to seek me."
She, and I, had been looking for fish. And Jesus could provide fish for us, but more than anything, he just wants us to seek him.
Maybe Peter knew the difference.
If you are free to, say the prayer you've been asking God for, and then follow it up with, "But I want you more, Lord."
Go ahead, my friend, do it now in these 12 seconds of silence.
What are your other prayers? When you pray them add after each, "But I want you more."
When you are stressed, whisper under your breath, "But I want you more."
For if we have Him, all other things in our story have purpose, and the decisions he leads us to may not always give us fish, but they will write us into His story, and we will be beside Him. And that is a much greater story than my little vision of the Pleasant-ville I've been manufacturing.
Whether we have a difficult marriage, or a handicapped child, or a lonely single life, or a really difficult job, our mission is less about how can I seek my own happiness, and more about How can I be with God and let him direct me.