Today’s gospel recounts the wonderful beginning of John’s 21st chapter that takes us from an early morning fishing experience to breakfast on the beach with Jesus. In this post-resurrection story, seven of the disciples were together at the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee, probably still wondering what to do now that the bottom had fallen out of their world. Peter, leaning into all he had known before meeting Jesus, said to the others, “I’m going fishing.” They all jumped at the chance to do something familiar so off they went. Unfortunately, they caught nothing all night. It was at dawn, John records, that Jesus yelled to them to try again with the nets in a new way. In his version, they didn’t quibble with the seemingly ridiculous dictum that just moving the net to the other side of the boat would be a good solution; they just did it. And the rest, as they say, is history: 153 fish in a net that should have torn under the weight of so many but didn’t. Even stopping right there in the story gives a great deal of food for thought.
Something different for our reflection today can be found perhaps in Logion 8 from the Gospel of Thomas, probably the most commonly known text from the Nag Hammadi codex – the treasure trove of manuscripts found in the Egyptian desert in 1945, a Coptic version of what may be some of the earliest teachings of Jesus. This gospel is comprised of 114 sayings (logia) of Jesus and, while at least two-thirds of them overlap the four canonical gospels, some give a different twist to the message Jesus was hoping to impart. Such a message is contained in Logion 8.
Yeshua says, “A true human being can be compared to a wise fisherman who casts his net into the sea and draws it up from below full of small fish. Hidden among them is one large, exceptional fish that he seizes immediately, throwing back all the rest without a second thought. Whoever has ears, let them understand this.
Reflection on both versions of what has been written above might deepen our comprehension of what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples regarding the mission that was now theirs. What new thoughts come to you from these words or your Spirit-filled silence in their presence?