One Hundred and Fifty Three Fishes
Vol: 91 Issue: 2 Thursday, April 2, 2009
Where does one begin to describe that which really can only be felt? How can an ordinary man who lives an ordinary life in an ordinary world find the words to describe an encounter with the Divine?
“I saw where Jesus walked on water?” That just doesn’t convey it.
I mean, all we saw was the surface of the Sea of Galilee. It’s water. You can scoop up some in your hand. The Sea of Galilee has evaporated and refilled many times in two thousand years.
The water of the Sea of Galilee is not the same water Jesus walked on. But at the same time, yes, it certainly was. Most of Israel’s holy sites are like that. One of our merry band of travelers quipped, “If Jesus stumbled over a pebble, somebody probably built a church over it.”
And so it seemed — but they were no less authentic than the place where Jesus walked on water.
“But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No.
And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
OL members Fred Pfieffer and Georgia Miller are standing before the rock upon which Jesus had laid out bread and a fire of coals to cook a meal of fish for His disciples. It was the third time He had appeared to them since His resurrection.
Think of it! That church in the background was built upon that same rock. How do we know that? The same way that people 2000 years from now would know that JFK was assassinated at Dealy Plaza in Dallas. People who were alive at the time pinpointed the spot.
“Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.” (John 21:4-9)
A hundred and fifty-three fish. Why 153 fish? I’ve heard a lot of people try to answer that question. I found one website that came up with ten different possible answers (all wrong.)
At Kibbutz Nof Ginosar on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, we got the answer from a Hebrew Messianic rabbi the rest of the kibbutzim (residents) called “Grandfather.”
“It’s simple,” he said of the question that confounded every scholar I ever met. “Jesus spoke to people in the language they understood. In Hebrew, each letter has a numerical equivalent. In this instance, it meant, “I am Elohim” (God).”
(I’ve since learned it can also mean, “I am the Passover” – a distinction without a difference)
Capernaum was known as Jesus’ second ‘home town’ — He headquartered His Galilee ministry there. It was there, the Bible says, that Jesus cast out an unclean spirit from a man as He taught in the synagogue.
“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.”
“And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:21-24)
Capernaum has been completely excavated, including the synagogue here described by Mark. We read the relevant Scriptures from the place where Jesus taught.
“And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” (Mark:1:29)
In the photo taken inside the synagogue, one can see the door in the center of the shot. If one exited through that door and walked straight for roughly 200 feet, essentially directly across the street, one comes to the ruins in the next photo.
This is the house of Simon and Andrew. (They built a church over it).
But the synagogue where Jesus taught still stands. The proximity to Peter’s house fits the Biblical description. There is no church or other building that stands between the synagogue and Peter’s house.
We walked where Jesus walked.
“And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, his disciples came unto Him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-3)
A skeptic once scored a major debating point against me with this question. “How could a man in the first century stand atop a mountain and teach to ‘multitudes’ in the days before microphones and speakers?”
The Mount of the Beatitudes is a natural amphitheater. When I was in Israel 15 years ago, one could go down into the valley and demonstrate by whispering Matthew 5, which everyone sitting along the edges of the ‘bowl’ could hear.
But as I was teaching from a lecturn at the top of the mountain, (pictured) a nun came out of the nearby church and asked me to be quiet as I was disturbing those praying inside the church. (She seemed quite annoyed with me)
I don’t exactly have a soft and gentle speaking voice, but the church was at least 400 feet away. Jesus would have had little difficulty making Himself heard.
Thank you so much for your prayers. I’m feeling much better and whatever I ate, Gayle didn’t. (We think the culprit was the sliced salmon Alitalia served us on the Rome-JFK flight).
It is a shame that such an magnificent experience was overshadowed by the return trip, but I don’t think it was necessarily a coincidence that things were perfect until we set foot in Rome.
I’m still somewhat wrung out and drained and so today’s OL may not be among my most eloquent. (I started today’s OL at 2:30 this morning and it’s now 8:32 am — there was a lot of backspacing and staring at a blank screen.)
But we’ve a lot to share in the days ahead and hopefully my brain was able to catch the next flight home.
There is a lot of stuff going on in the world — amazing stuff ripped right from the pages of Bible prophecy — so there is much to sort out and make sense from in that regard as well.
It’s going to be an interesting next few weeks. I pray I’m up to the challenge.
(Oh, and praise the Lord for Imodium)