16th April – Deane
It was my last night in Jerusalem. I had been in Israel for two weeks and at the end of my tour I stayed on for two nights in an Airbnb within the old city walls. It was dusk as I strolled out of the Damascus Gate on the northern wall and into modern city life more familiar to us. I wanted to find a place to eat and to sit quietly and reflect upon this amazing experience.
I found it. A restaurant called Happy Fish. It seemed the perfect place. I was seated at an outdoor table on a bridge over a busy shopping mall. The fading light had a warm glow and the air was mild. At this time tomorrow Shabbat will begin, these shops will all be closed and I will have flown away, I thought. From the menu I chose a side salad and Saint Peter’s Fish from the Sea of Galilee. It’s the nickname given to this local freshwater fish, usually grilled and served whole. As the kitchen prepared the dead but happy fish, wait staff poured wine and brought small bowls and plates of appetisers to my table. So much to taste.
Now my thoughts turn to another occasion when extravagance was unspared. It happened on the lake Galilee. All sorts of very strange things were happening in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus had died, no doubt about that. He’d told his disciples that this would happen. He’d actually told them that he would come back to life again. That’s hard to believe, they’d thought. That things would pan out this way they could hardly have imagined.
Peter and half a dozen others were back in the Galilee. I can imagine Peter feeling like he just wanted a bit of normality back in his life, something everyday and familiar. So he told them he was going out in the boat to fish. We’ll come along, they’d told him.
Mind you, Jesus had warned them to expect such despairing thoughts as this: “You’re all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it’s my fault. There’s a Scripture that says, I will strike the shepherd; The sheep will go helter-skelter. “But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.” (Mark 14:27 – The Message)
They spent the whole night in the boat and caught no fish. Bummer! Then Jesus turned up on the shore and called out to them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. They didn’t recognise him, but tried the idea anyway. The net was soon so full of fish they weren’t able to haul it into the boat.
Then John saw that it was Jesus. Peter looked up startled in the moment of recognition and quickly waded to shore. Jesus called again to invite them to share fish and some bread he was already cooking there on a fire of burning coals. He invited them to bring in more fish. So Peter went back and pulled the net into the shallows. John wrote that they counted 153 fish. Happy fish? Well, I don’t know. Though these fish did look happy, just like the one on my plate!
Easter has been different this year. Who would have thought we’d be feeling a bit strange about what is happening to us and in the world around us?
As we reflect on the strangeness and feel what we’re feeling I am reminded of this absolutely rock solid written record of one of a number of extraordinary appearances and actions Jesus made following his resurrection. It’s in this way that God ushered in the forevermore, unsurpassed, transformative renewal that is his gift to us. Hope in the present and a glimpse of what is to come. ‘Happy’ does not come close to describing what this really means, when I think about it.