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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Friday, September 17, 2010

The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad. ~A.K. Best
One of the most poignant moments in the gospels comes after Jesus' resurrection. The lads have reverted to form & gone fishing. Fishing is what they know. Fishing is what they do. It is a familiar activity & they are good enough at it to have earned their living from it for most of their lives. It hasn't yet sunk in that things have changed forever & that they will never just be fishermen again. I wonder if they missed it?

Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea anyway. They fished all night & caught absolutely nothing. Not a snail, not an eel, not the tiniest of little minnows. Nothing makes a professional fisherman crosser than not being able to catch anything. And people, we are not talking about sitting quietly under the stars with a fishing rod, puffing peaceably on a pipe. That's not how it works ~ as my son, who is a pro fisherman, will tell you. Nope, this is hard yakka.

Want a lesson of sorts on pro fishing? For starters the men would have been rowing because it would give more control than being under sail. Back rowing allows you to hold a boat steady; shipping the oars allows for drift ~ two things not possible under sail without a lot of unnecessary fuss & bother & a lose sail cracking about their heads is not something any fishing crew needs to be bothering about. The largest vessel I've ever rowed was 16' & built specifically for rowing. A vessel large enough to hold 12 or so men would have had to have been about 26' long [7' wide] & required a 5 man crew: 4 rowers plus a helmsman & was not specifically built for rowing. It would have had a fore & aft deck, mast & sail. Rowing this would have required sheer brawn. If I've counted right there were 7 men on board ~ 5 crew & 2 to cast the nets. The nets were made of flax in a circle with a diameter of 20' & weighted with lead weights around the rim. Throwing one of these isn't easy. It requires strength & a certain knack in the flick of the wrists. Strong wrists are needed! It requires long practise to master because the net needs to be at full stretch when it hits the water. It is then allowed to sink to the bottom [hopefully over lots of fish]. As it is pulled up the lead weights force the net closed to trap any fish. The net is hauled up hand over hand by the long rope attached to the centre. Trust me, this is not an activity for woos' & doing it over & over again all night long is sheer dogged perseverance. Apart from the fact the word *cast* is used, to drop a drag net would have required a second boat.

Each cast probably required about 20 minutes. Let's be generous. And when it was hauled up ~ empty ~ it would still require all the other bits & pieces to be pulled free of the net: sticks, weed, old sandals so that it would open properly on the next cast. The net is then gathered up in a particular way for the next cast. No~one is getting a break here, folks. The helmsman's job is to hold the boat steady against drift, current & wind. The rowers have to ship the oars & stay out of the way while adjusting the boat's balance for the throwers.

Now the guys weren't having much luck so the odds are pretty good they changed fishing locations. They may have rowed. They may have shaken out the sail [which would then need battening down again] depending on the wind & where they wanted to go. Now they probably ended up on the northern edge of the lake because they were fishing not too far from shore & during winter the large *musht* fish gather in the shallows where warm water feeds in from the springs of the Eremos hills. Musht have a dorsal fin like a comb & grow between 1 1/2 & 2 feet long & can weigh up to 3 1/2 pounds. Big fish is what they ended up catching. Big fish, not the little sardines & not barbels.

Anyway dawn's breaking & they don't have even a tiddler to show for their night's work. I can pretty much guarantee they were in the foulest of foul moods when some chappie on the shoreline strikes up this inane conversation wanting to know what they've caught. Ever been on the receiving end after a casual inquiry to an empty handed fisherman? Yep. Not pretty, is it? Then to add insult to injury he offers advice!!!

Chuck the net out the other side.

Duh! I bet those guys were thinking. Like we haven't tried that.

Anyway to keep him happy they do just that & Peter finally has an Epiphany. He hurtles into the water to get to Jesus just as fast as he can.

I confess to having a fellow feeling with Peter. He suffered from foot~in~mouth. He lost the plot a bit. He dreamed big & sometimes those dreams ran away with him. He had moments that probably made him cringe until the day he died but he had a big heart too & he loved the Lord.

So here's Jesus cooking breakfast for his *children* [ the word paidia is used which suggests a familiar relationship] when He asks Peter rather casually, Do you love me?

Now I read this in English for years & years & years & I confess I thought it was a bit heartless of the Lord to be rubbing Peter's nose in his lapse like this. We all do things we regret & wish we could undo. And Peter is cringing. You can hear it in his response. Lord, you know I love you.

And then someone gave me the Greek translation!

Jesus asks, "Do you agapas me?" Do you love me as I love you, with the love of God.

Peter is brutally honest. He has been humbled to his very bones by the crowing of a cock & his denial of his Lord.

"Yes, Lord, you know I philo you." Peter will admit to a brotherly love but he's no longer a braggart & is not prepared to commit himself further. Never~the~less he is asked to feed the lambs.

Again Jesus asks, "Do you agapas me?" Can't you just feel the struggle in Peter's heart? He wants to love as Jesus loves but he has learnt his lesson well. He will only admit to philo. A third time Jesus asks, & Peter is grieved in his heart that Jesus asks a third time but in the Greek there is the most wonderful shift in emphasis.

The third time Jesus does not ask for that which Peter is unable to give, what he will not or cannot commit to. Instead Jesus asks for that which Peter has already freely admitted.

"Simon, son of Jonah, do you pheleis me?"

"Lord, you know everything. You know I have phileo for you."

Jesus accepted Peter where he was but he could also see what Peter would one day become, crucified for Jesus' sake having fulfilled the trust given to him to tend the lambs & feed the sheep of the kingdom, dying because he had agape for his Lord & saviour & agape for those entrust to his keeping.


Amanda said...

Not too long ago, I learnt about the agapa and philo love in this scripture... it is so important to search out the Greek and Hebrew when studying a scripture, because often there is a beautiful, deeper message that we would otherwise miss. This scripture, no doubt, didn't make a lot of impact to many people who read it as it is in the English.

I enjoyed your retelling of events... and the final sentiments of the last paragraph... beautiful and inspiring.

joyfulmum said...

I have heard this before but as you have such a gift in writing, I really enjoyed reading this by you:)

seekingmyLord said...

I always enjoy your story-telling.

I learned many years ago that much is lost in the translation to English and this particular exchange between Jesus and Peter was used to explain that. It is one of the main reasons I was determined that the Princess learn Greek along with Latin. I am hoping that later she would like to add Hebrew.

Birbitt said...

The frustration those fishermen must have felt, and then to be told to try the other side and suddenly be full of fish...what an amazing thing to experience.

The Greek studies are always fascinating to me, in Greek there are different words for each meaning of the word and here in English we have to rely on context.