Quite a few of us heard the traditional – or maybe even non-traditional – Father’s Day sermon on June 19, but the most recent sermon that evoked memories of my earthly father was delivered a week earlier. And the minister didn’t even mean for it to do that.
He began the sermon, “Don’t Fish on the Wrong Side of the Boat,” by talking about personal fishing exploits that we might have experienced, and my mind immediately flashed back to that perfect day in the 1960s when Daddy and I found the honey hole of all time on Lake D’Arbonne.
Daddy edged my end of his little green boat into that special spot where, every time my cork hit the water, something began tugging at the end of the line. For what seemed like eons, I just kept pulling out those bream and pulling out those bream and pulling out those bream. Obviously, I was fishing on the right side of the boat that day.
So I could identify immediately with what the preacher was saying. His words made me desire – today – to still fish on the right side of the boat. Of course, as you undoubtedly know, the minister was speaking in a spiritual sense.
The sermon resonated with me so profoundly that I’d like to share its main points with you. The text of the sermon came from John 21 when, after Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to Peter and several other disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
Following Peter’s lead, the disciples decided to go fishing near the shoreline. After fishing for an inordinate amount of time with no results, they heard Jesus calling to them from the shore, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some,” Jesus told them. When they did, the number of fish in the net was so large they were unable to haul it in.
So what had been the problem?
For one thing, the disciples were fishing for the wrong type of fish. Jesus had promised Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19 that if they followed Him, they would become “fishers of men.” So, Jesus’ primary purpose for them was not to build a good life through earthly businesses such as fishing. Instead, it was to win souls for Christ and to build the church.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles had returned to their old life, and using just their own strength, they were unable to accomplish God’s will for them. Peter and Andrew seemed to have forgotten their primary purpose. With Jesus’ help, however, the nets were filled to capacity – and then some.
As with most stories in the Bible, this narrative should lead us to ask questions about our own selves: Are our priorities in order? Why do we throw our nets in the direction we do? Is our primary motivation in our lives Christ? Do we truly allow Him to work in our lives?
As a side note to these observations, while the minister was reading through the narrative, something jumped out at me I had never noticed. Then, in one of those God winks, the preacher almost immediately focused on and explained that same detail.
Jesus cooked some of those 153 fish for breakfast for the disciples. Jesus cooked them a meal. Why had that never sunk in with me before?
I wondered: What must it have been like to eat something that Jesus cooked? Could those have been the very best fish ever? I’m thinking so.
And how humbling it must have been to eat something prepared by the hands that had been pierced for our sins and that had endured the cross.
Those hands still reach out for us today, and they offer us much more than fish.
Sallie Rose Hollis lives in Ruston and retired from Louisiana Tech as an associate professor of journalism and the assistant director of the News Bureau. She can be contacted at email@example.com.